The Downside of Moving from UX Research to Research Ops

In my last post, I wrote about my seemingly endless work projects and tasks. It can be difficult to prioritize work as a Research Ops team of one.

What I didn’t share is one factor that contributes to this overabundance of work: being a former researcher.

Experience as a UX researcher can complicate your Research Ops work.

How This Plays Out

Research Ops is not a UX research role. ReOps is about service delivery — creating the systems, artifacts, and resources that support research.

The Research Ops framework outlines the many components of this function. Every ReOps team plans and executes this work differently, but no matter the setup, several aspects of this work require collaboration with user research:

  • Research method guides should line up with how research happens within the company

  • Templates require an understanding of the associated research method

  • UX research training should be run by somebody with deep knowledge about the material

Research Ops helps to facilitate the delivery of all of these resources, but people with experience in research craft help to make these pieces valuable.

Caught in the Middle

In my ReOps role at Zapier, I’m fortunate to work with talented — and plain awesome — researchers. We’ve collaborated to create research guides, training materials, and even set up an insights program pilot.

But what happens when the person running Research Ops also has experience with UX research? What happens when that person (me!) is a solo practitioner with limited ReOps resources?

I’ll tell you what happens! That person (me!) ends up running some of the UX research components that enable Research Ops work.

For example:

  • I run UXR 101 training sessions

  • I run a UX research rotational program, coaching someone from outside UXR as she levels up her research skills

  • I’m creating materials for a larger scale research training course

I thoroughly enjoy these — and other — projects where I can apply my UX research knowledge and skills. 😎

However, over the last few weeks, I’ve wondered what my work would look like if I didn’t have research experience. 🤔

  • Would I be tempted to run as many projects?

  • How would this impact the workload of our full-time researchers?

  • Which work would I prioritize?

Should Researchers do Research Ops?

Having context about UX research helps me with my Research Ops work. What I’ve failed to do is outline some of the potential downsides.

It’s easy to pull UX research work into ReOps projects when it might be better to collaborate with a researcher instead.

Over to You

What do you think?

Should researchers use their skillset within the Research Ops role? Or should they defer to collaborating with full-time user researchers? Or perhaps something in between?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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