MRA enlisted several researchers attending the Corporate Researchers Conference in Dallas this week to report back summaries & insights from the conference sessions.  This report from Matt Case (FedEx) is on “Research Transformation Takes Hold for Corporate Researchers:  Way of Working, New Toolkit, Synthesis, Hiring” by Ian Lewis, Partner and Director of the Research Impact Consulting Practice at Cambiar Consulting.

If you were in Chicago last year for the first ever MRA CRC then you most likely remember the session Ian presented entitled “The Winds of Change”. This presentation was a great refresher with many new insights based on the 2012 Future of Research Study.

The 4 themes & a nugget or two of Ian’s presentation:

1) Shape of Transformation

  • While only a little over 1/3 of American say the country is headed down the right path, 75% say their department is headed down the right path
  • New players in the industry – Google is seen as a formidable foe
  • An interesting aha was that clients do not want closer partnerships with their suppliers / agencies

2) New Modalities

  • Clients are ahead of suppliers / agencies when it comes to adoption of most new methodologies and ways of collecting data.
  • 49% have integrated DIY, 47% have integrated proprietary online panels

3) Navigating the Information River

  • Big data is a part of it.  Each organization has their own information river and you have to navigate it, make it work to your advantage
  • Interesting tidbit – only 20% of corporate researchers indicated they have had suppliers conduct synthesis work
  • About 50% have integrated web analytics, only 24% Big Data.

4)      Developing New Talent: 3 main types of roles

  1. Management consultants – strategic, often found in C-suite
  2. Polymaths – ones who are the drivers and can make sense of the information river, also specialize in synthesis work
  3. Specialists – innovative in using the MR tools

Hiring still favors generalists (57%) and MBAs (55%).

What does the MR profession need?

“An industry-wide initiative involving client companies, agencies, associations and educators is urgently needed to define, attract, educate and hire the right talent."

3 takeaways Ian wanted the audience to leave with:

  1. Transformation is here.
  2. Corporate researchers have to get their hands around Big Data (digital and behavioral information that is so rapidly available today).  If research departments don’t take the lead here, someone else will.
  3. It is time for corporate researchers to look at their structure, team and training to make sure you have the right people in the right spot to make the best decisions.