Schottler Consulting Social and Market Research Knowledge Centre
Should we outsource our research?
Conducting high quality social or market research is a skilled profession that takes decades to master, so as a general rule there is good merit in hiring a professional company or contractor to design and conduct a research project.
Reflecting this, Schottler Consulting Pty Ltd as a social and market research company would observe that it takes around 5 years to develop research expertise and at least 10-15 years to become expert in the field.
It should also be noted in this context that not all researchers or companies reach these standards, as individual skills and aptitudes will often determine how quickly and expert a person becomes in conducting research.
The other benefit of using an external research company is that the company is independent. As such, stakeholders and research participants may feel less compromised in expressing their true feelings and views. This can lead to more accurate findings that reflect true sentiments and views.
In comparison, having an internal staff member conduct social or market research may lead to stakeholders omitting certain insights - perhaps out of a fear of repercussions from 'telling the truth' or due to fear that confidentiality may be compromised.
A further benefit of hiring an external social or market company is the ability to turn projects around quickly. If an organisation attempts to do research in house, there is potential that it could take a long time.
This is because there is simply a lot of work to be done!
In addition, analysing surveys without statistical software (e.g., using tools like Excel) can be extremely slow (Statistical software can do the analysis 10x as fast, as it's designed to produce data output efficiently).
However, if budgets are constrained, with the range of tools and internet resources available, there is always scope to conduct a small social or market research study internally to assist your agency or company to gain new insights or knowledge.
Tips for success in identifying whether to engage a research company
The following tips may help organisations decide whether they should design and conduct their own social or market research or outsource the research to a company.
1. Skill sets - If staff have never undertaken a research project, it is advisable to outsource a research project to a professional. If some qualitative research skills are available, however, there could be scope for an organisation to design a discussion guide and conduct a small number of interviews and summarise findings.
Similarly, if a survey is desired, a small less complex survey could also be programmed on any one of the popular online survey tools.
However, it is important to be aware that survey design and measurement is a science and skilled researchers with psychology training do not simply 'throw' a 'shopping list' of questions together.
This is also why professional expertise is of value. Measurement validity, reliability, construct design and survey science need to be understood to design a valid and reliable research instrument.
2. Time - If your organisation cannot afford someone to spend up to 3-12 months full time to conduct research, it is often better to employ a professional, as turnaround will be in half the time or less. However, if someone is available to collect data, this can also be a means to reducing research costs.
3. Scale - If your organisation has a large piece of research to complete, it is impractical to do such research in house. We would generally recommend that all large scale surveys contract a researcher, as they have both the skills to design the study and also the capacity to collect, process and analyse the data. After all, which organisation wants to call hundreds or thousands of respondents!
4. Independence and impartiality - If the research topic is sensitive or findings may be negatively impacted or biased through internal conduct, it is typically best to outsource the research to an external research company. This also provides a perception of true independence and credibility in the findings.
5. Need for new insights or innovation - As research consultants are continually exposed to information, many become adept at conceptual thinking and thinking of new and innovative ideas. As such, this can be a good reason to hire an external research company. They may have an ability to see things that the organisation hasn't or to share learnings and insights from other similar research projects.
6. Staff acceptance of findings - If an internal staff member conducts research, there is often potential that other staff will see the findings as 'biased'. This may even occur in spite of the best methodologies. However, if there is little chance of perceived bias, this may be a study that could be conducted internally.