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No Research Ops? Big Problems!
From no ReOps team, to a ReOps team, and back to no ReOps team
If you’re a UX Research or Research Ops leader trying to develop your practice, you’ve found your people. Podcast episodes drop (nearly) every Tuesday, and an article every other Friday.
Today, I’m switching it up and sharing a midweek article. I dive into a problem that I’m currently trying to solve. A new podcast episode drops on Friday.
Two months ago, three of my UXR team members were laid off. 😢 Two of these brilliant folks leaned operational (Research Ops & Insights Program Manager).
Why It Matters
We lost all our operational might in a single day.
The operational work didn’t disappear. We still have research happening across the company, and my team needs to ensure continuity.
The Big Question
How do you run a scaled-up operations practice with no ReOps people?
Phase 1: Keep The Lights On
Part of the brilliance of operations folks is their systems thinking, attention to detail, and intricate processes. Removing the person(s) at the centre of these operational hubs means it’s a scramble to keep things moving.
You might ask:
Wait a minute: why was it a scramble? Don’t you know what work they were doing and how they executed programs?
Despite being close to projects in those programs, some information isn’t immediately apparent. Here are some of the questions that I was asking myself:
“Where is the data from this automated workflow stored? I know where to see the workflow outputs, but where’s the rest of the information?”
“What the heck broke that dashboard?!”
“Who is our connect for topping up incentives?”
“Does changing this Zap break the entire seat provisioning process?”
Trust me — there are dozens of such questions to answer, even with detailed documentation.
So, Phase 1 of our new Ops world became about keeping the lights on.
Here’s what I told my team:
We won't create new processes, try new tooling, or pursue any fancy ideas for a few weeks.
Just. Keep. Things. Moving.
UXRs took ownership of recruitment and incentives processes. 💰
I handled seat provisioning and vendor renewals for our research tools. 🪑
Our market research partners completed our customer panel refresh. ❤️
The entire team hopped in to handle questions and requests from the wider company. 🙋🏾♀️
It worked, but it’s not sustainable. After those initial weeks, we needed to shift to long-term mode.
Phase 2: Align and Conquer
Phase 2 is where I find myself today.
Long-term, one thing is clear: I can’t copy + paste the workflows and tasks handled by our former teammates and divide them across our UXRs.
UX research and Research Ops are different roles.
Applying a specialist's exact approach and process to a group of Ops generalists assumes that we’ll dedicate equal time and resources to operational work.
We need a fresh approach that enables our researchers to contribute a small chunk of their time to operational work. We’re looking to conquer this challenge together.
I have three guiding principles for dividing up operational work:
Researchers can (within reason) pick where they want to contribute to operational work. Selecting your area of focus = greater buy-in.
We need at least two UXRs assigned to any tool or process. This enables coverage for time off and busy work periods.
Researchers should expect to spend only 2-3 hours per week on regular operational work.
Time will tell if these guidelines enable solid coverage. 🤞🏾
Our team has picked focus areas. ✅ We have three or more people covering most areas, with the majority of UXRs involved in at least two spaces.
We’re adapting documentation to ensure that everyone knows exactly how to contribute to their focus area.
Finally, we’re getting into a rhythm of running this new iteration of Ops without our Ops folks.
I don’t have major lessons to share just yet. Sometimes, it’s helpful to simply outline our current state and learn how others are tackling this problem.
Over to You (for real, please share your experience)
Have you gone from no Ops team, to an Ops team, to no Ops team?
How did you handle the transition?
What did you learn?
What would you do differently?
If you have advice to share, please reply or comment.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week! 👋🏾
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