“Sorry, I can’t make progress. I’m chasing perfection.”

Rethinking time-to-insight in today’s dynamic market


Does "Time to Insight" matter?

We are quite sure that we are preaching to the choir when we talk to Insight Professionals about the importance of “Time to Insight”. Meaningful insight is inextricably tied to the larger context in which it is made, and this makes its relevance strongly time-bound.


As Gartner puts it succinctly, “When the context changes, decision-making can’t keep up”. Effective decision-making in today’s complex, fast-changing business world must be “contextual, agile, and continuous to drive good outcomes”.

Given that this is a fairly well-accepted truth, Gartner goes on to say that “Too many business decisions hinge on time-consuming data and analytical models designed for the status quo”. This is the dichotomy that we explore further here. We’ll start with a favorite example of ours.


The story of X and Y

Let’s say X and Y are two food subscription brands eyeing the healthy eating space. Co-incidentally both these brands start their initial planning and launch in June.


X undertakes a market estimation exercise to understand the appeal of their various menu options across different customer segments. Their approach is to make sure they launch with the ideal menu that will appeal to the largest segment in the market. In theory this is a very robust approach to launch their product line. This is typically an 8 –12-week exercise, and X is ready with their findings in September. Armed with these findings, product development begins and X looks to launching in early November.


Y, on the other hand, does a quick check among a focused set of customers, to understand their motivations around healthy food in their current context and quickly launches with a small 5-item menu. Since Y was very aware of the fact that they launched with only a quick assessment, they built feedback as a critical step into their subscription service to validate their hypothesis and gain learnings into expanding their menu. They launch in August with a small menu and hope to iterate and include more items as they go along!


Meanwhile, X is ready to launch in November as planned, with the ideal menu. There’s just one problem. With Thanksgiving and Xmas around the corner, no one is interested in healthy eating for a while. X needs to now take a call on whether they should continue with their curated menu based on research or go ahead with a completely new menu that is likely to win in the market but has no customer insight to support it. All the investment into robust data-driven decision making gets thrown out the window!


Y, in the meantime, has insight-led iteration built into its processes and is in a better position to continue adding few items temporarily which appeal to a holiday palette without compromising on their health positioning.


Progress or perfection?

This is a hypothetical scenario. But marketers know it cuts close to reality. It evokes a tussle that every insight professional goes through: progress or perfection? It is perhaps as old as that other tussle in the workplace: urgent or important? But this tussle is more challenging for 2 reasons:

  1. We can’t always define the approach that we take towards gaining insight

  2. Data integrity is critical in determining insight quality


So how do we ensure the right approach that gives us robust insights at the right time? Here is where Software Development Methodologies give us a guide we can adapt to consumer insights.


The Insight Journey is a relay of sprints!

The Sprint Approach makes insights lean and focused, and linked to clear outcomes. Your broad goal doesn’t change. But the path to it stays dynamic with clear milestones. What this also does is it makes every insight part of a sequence and not a silo, and they each play a clear role in a stage of the decision-making process. Every insight can now build on what the brand previously knows.


Benefits:

Shifting from the perfection myth to experimentation

In this approach, the outcomes become measurable, bite-sized components. With fear of failure reduced, every initiative is an experiment with a learning. And course correction can happen easily without impacting consumer sentiment.


Insight becomes threaded into decisions

Insight is no longer an extraneous exercise whose use must be based on what it delivers. The company has now woven “insight” into its very fabric of decision-making.


So, what skillsets are involved in a ‘sprint insights’ approach?

  • Rapid experimentation: When you adopt a sprint insights approach, you can test new hypotheses that come up based on user experience or research. This, coupled with new insight expertise, lets you experiment, find what works best, and change course for the better – instead of being wedded to the initial strategy.

  • Tied to an outcome: Every insight initiative must be tied to a clear business outcome.

  • Lean methods: Actively reduce what the research must do (this is counter intuitive to what we're all used to; which is to add more and more complexity to an exercise in the hope that one activity will give us all the answers). The approach now will be to make the exercise as lean as possible and gain focused answers to the pressing question at that point.

  • Getting micro, contextual insight: Shift from thinking about insight as monolithic and all-encompassing to viewing it as a series of small, powerful bites that can increase short-term traction on many levels – that all add up to the long-term goal!

  • Acknowledge imperfect, incomplete information: Decisions are complex and will always be made with incomplete data. So, instead of searching for the perfect equation of variables, a quick route to reasonably robust insights at the right time can make every decision data-driven.

  • Decision style: When you think this way over time, you train your organizational culture to view products as theories, launches as hypotheses, and user feedback as test results. In a dynamic economy, there is no more agile way to think!


Conclusion: “Progress > Perfect”

If companies can adopt a “Progress > perfect” attitude to insights and products, then they will open themselves up to an exciting range of contemporary, easy to use, and highly relevant insight services.


Combining new technology and human storytelling, these insight services can give them the insight they need at that specific journey point to be relevant to users, make progress, and get closer to their goals. It’s time to view quicker ‘time to insight’ as what separates the nimble from the slow in today’s market!

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