The Future is Scalable - Kate Towsey, Atlassian
When it comes to Research Operations, Kate Towsey is an expert. In addition to her current experience leading the team at Atlassian, she has years of experience working independently for a variety of clients. In her free time, she also started the largest community for professionals in this space. As the field of UX research continues to grow exponentially, scaling effectively will be paramount. Join us to better understand how to scale your growing research team.
Aryel Cianflone: Welcome to this week's episode of Mixed Methods in the second in our series about the future of UX research. If there was one person to ask about ResearchOps, it would be our guest today, Kate Towsey. Kate has been working in this field for years, but what really changed everything was her decision to start a Slack group. What she thought would be just a few practitioners exchanging best practices has actually turned into a worldwide movement.
Aryel Cianflone: I wanted to pick Kate's brain about her journey and what she's found most helpful in setting teams up for success. I believe that understanding how to effectively scale research within an organization is crucial for UXR to continue to grow at the speed and scale that we're currently experiencing. Today's episode is brought to you by Dscout, a remote research platform that helps you learn from more people more impactfully in less time.
Aryel Cianflone: Dscout sets you up to do field work from the office by connecting you with participants via their smart phones. Get qualitative studies completed in a matter of days. Head dscout.com/mm to get started. This is Aryel Cianflone and you're listening to Mixed Methods. Today's episode, the future is scalable. I'm so excited to have Kate Towsey on the show today. And Kate, I thought that we could just start with a brief introduction to you and what you're up to right now.
Kate Towsey: I'm working as the ResearchOps manager at Atlassian based in Sydney. I moved to Sydney 10 months ago now. A whole new home, a whole new role. Moved away from contracting for the last 10 years on research and research operations and actually content strategy right at the beginning. I found myself running around the world as well talking about research operations. My life is a research operations for most of it.
Aryel Cianflone: One thing that I think is so interesting about your career is that you did move from a role that was more focused on user experience research to a role that was more focused on research operations. I was just wondering what was the inspiration for that?
Kate Towsey: It's actually interesting because I started out as a content strategist when I got into research operations. I wasn't a researcher. People are now starting to hire, which is a really great thing, and feeling like they need to find a researcher to do research operations. And in fact, I wasn't a researcher when I started doing operations type stuff, I was a content strategist. All of my team except for one are not researchers, have never been researchers and they're excellent research operations people.
Kate Towsey: I had been working as a content strategist for I guess a few years in London as a consultant. Prior to that I had worked on customer services and technology and redesigning systems for E-commerce which now I realized was a little bit of content strategy and a whole lot of operations. Lisa Reilly and I had worked together on a project for the University of Surrey in the UK. I was there as a content strategist and she was working as a user researcher.
Kate Towsey: And then she invited me when she went to work for Government Digital Service in the UK, GDS. She said, “Do you want to come and help us figure out how we document our research and how we archive it and keep it and know what we know?” I had no idea what that meant at the time but I eventually said, “Yes. Okay, let me come and see what it's all about because that seemed like a very content strategy thing to do.” I got in there and realized quite quickly that I had to do research on these researchers because I really needed to understand what the problem was.
Kate Towsey: The thing is that I had never really engaged all that much with research. This is now 2012. I was working with some of the best researchers around, about 40 of them and I had to very quickly learn from them and kind of test myself out in front of them and trying to research them and figure out what they needed. Ended up doing a good couple of years of research on what do researchers need and what things do researchers make and what is the process that they have in doing research and what journey do these things that they make and need and use at different points.
Kate Towsey: What happens to those things on the way. In the meantime, while I was trying to figure that all out and realized that I had taken on this massive thing, Lisa said to me, “Well, we actually need to use a research lab.” And I said, “So you do know that I've never walked into a lab before?” And she said, “Yeah, but you get shit done. You'll figure it out. Go and have a look at these labs and see what it's all about.”
Kate Towsey: And so off I went and looked at a few really great labs in the UK and then built GDS's first user research lab in 2013. That then became a three year contract in between other contracts where people hired me as a user researcher even though I argued with them and told them I wasn't a user researcher. Eventually no one was hiring me as a content strategist because I was so kind of entrenched in that world that I had to give in and say, well, I do this kind of base level of research and if that's what you're fine with then I can do it for you. That's really where it all began.
Aryel Cianflone: I mean, it's such an interesting place to start, right? To start by researching this profession that you got deeper and deeper into. I'm curious with that project, what were kind of the main takeaways for you. When you were doing all of this research on researchers, what did you find that they needed or what was most effective in terms of organizing what they were learning?
Kate Towsey: The main thing that I was researching at that point was actual documentation or assets they're making. I spent a lot of time hanging out with information security and privacy and learning what the rules in Cabinet Office in the UK. Very strict rules were around keeping data about people. The main thing that I learned there and kind of things that I'm bringing back into my work literally this week, I've now got a digital librarian or researcher who's taking on the role of digital librarian for us to figure out this problem again.
Kate Towsey: Researchers don't make decisions based on reports is my learning and it seems to have been corroborated over the years but there's always an alternative argument. Researchers don't tend to take a report and read it and go, “Oh, this is great. I don't have to do the research. It's been done.” Or, “Oh great,” And you have to do half the research because I can see half it's been done. They might read it and go, “This is interesting, but I don't know this researcher. I don't know how good a researcher they are. I don't know what their sample was.”
Kate Towsey: “I don't know that their discussion guide was accurate to my needs and so on and so forth.” And so there is around this research report sometimes kind of unacknowledged kind of cloud of doubt around... And even if they knew the researcher, they're still not quite sure if the research quite fits their specification. And so if they do know the research or know who did it they might arrange a conversation with that researcher and that empathetic, real, I can hear you, I can understand what you're talking about.
Kate Towsey: That conversation might then make them say, oh, that's really interesting. I could build on that a little bit of insight or whatever. In terms of libraries is that it really changes the game because building a library that just provides PDF reports that have a cloud of doubt for research around it is not necessarily useful. And so what are we actually trying to do with a research library? I think that's a very interesting question that I have opinions on or hypotheses around that we're starting to work on now and see if we can prove them out over the next year at Atlassian.
Aryel Cianflone: And it's so interesting to hear you say that you have hired this digital librarian and even what you just shared because I've definitely found as well that researchers often we start from square one even though there actually is so much good work that's been done both in professional space or industry spaces as well as academic spaces. And so I'm curious what the role of this librarian at your organization will be? Is it just bringing research that's already been done up? Is it kind of tying the wider industry, the wider academic world? What is that role? What is the role of a digital librarian?
Kate Towsey: Well, for us we are as with a lot of things in the space figuring it out. It's kind of a funny thing because I'm always saying, oh, I'm figuring it out and I might've been working on operational type things since 2013, six years now, coming up for seven. But I haven't run a team. I haven't built up a research operations team in an organization like I'm doing now which is really why I took on the role that at Atlassian. Well, two reasons. One was to work with Lisa again. I guess three.
Kate Towsey: Two was just Australia and the sunshine seemed like of great alternative as a South African to England which had been my home for more than a decade. Number three was it really is my sandpit. It is where I make mistakes and I have been making mistakes and where I then get to learn from those mistakes and share those back out to anyone who's interested to perhaps not make the same mistakes so make different ones and hopefully share those ones back to me so I don't have to do the same thing.
Kate Towsey: Back to your question about a librarian. Georgie is our new librarian. She's a researcher dedicating a portion of her time to us over the next year, well, all of her time over the next year or so and possibly more to helping us solve the problem. This week actually the OPS team has met in San Francisco to really look at what is our next financial year in Australia. Our financial year starts on the 1st of July and what are we doing to meet the new, very exciting research strategy we've got from Lisa.
Kate Towsey: It has been with Georgie saying, well, she's going to go and do a discovery like I did when I was at GDS because I think I know a whole bunch about it but what does she find out and what do the researchers at Atlassian need? We now are very different to government. It's a distributed team. It's structured differently. Maybe there are all sorts of things that I would never thought about. And similarly with Atlassian again to access the library. What do they think that they need from it?
Kate Towsey: My niggling feeling is that they're probably not going to know what they need from it, but let's ask them and find out. I've got a couple of months of discovery coming up on that and then also auditing and going through how have people been documenting the research they've been doing so far? What does it look like? What kinds of questions are people asking in our support channel? When they come to our help research Slack channel, what are they asking for?
Kate Towsey: A bunch of desk research before we get to any point where I throw in my kind of sense of knowing and go, I know about this. I've done years of research on this like so many years ago and I know it all instead of doing that really, diving back in again to the question, what do we need to make?
Aryel Cianflone: I'm so in love with the idea of a digital library and with so many organizations, again, there is just so much knowledge and lately I've been kind of learning this lesson over and over as I take on new projects and really kind of try to dive backwards first and see what we already know not only from a research perspective but also what data analysis projects have been done that could inform this or what other work exists beyond the parameters of my particular company that could inform this.
Aryel Cianflone: There really is just so, so much value. And also I think there is a legitimacy that it brings to your work because it's interesting hearing what you're saying about researchers kind of doubting these projects that they come into contact with because when that happens to us as individual researchers with our product teams or something like that, it's really hurtful. And so it's interesting that we even do that to ourselves.
Aryel Cianflone: I really believe in the role of a digital librarian or some sort of role like that or even an individual practice of kind of being a digital librarian to kind of add that legitimacy to your work for everyone that you work with. I think it's such a cool idea. Sorry, go ahead Kate.
Kate Towsey: I wanted to add in there, there are some people doing some really interesting work in the space already and Georgie for instance she's going to be getting in touch with everybody to find out what others have learned. It's people like Erin at Microsoft they've been working on a library for five or more years I think and have a significant work done there. Brigette Metzler who leads the research operations community now. She's got an entire team in Australian government working on a library for them.
Kate Towsey: There are people doing some really interesting work in this. What I found interesting about it is that it's at the end of the continuum of a research project in a sense. You've done your research recruitment and as a operations you've hopefully supplied spaces for the research to happen with a virtual or in person. You've provided spaces for the data, the raw assets, the AV, the audiovisual content or the physical assets or whatever it might be to be stored safely.
Kate Towsey: And then you provide a space with their report to be stored or whatever kind of format it takes to acknowledge at least a log that this research happened and it was done by this person. And for me that's one of my hypotheses is that's the most important piece because then that gives the research to the log that we have done five projects on JIRA say for instance in the last year and these are the people who have done it and what have they learned?
Kate Towsey: Now, our model of research now is probably going to get away with some of that because we've got a researcher working on JIRA. But how does that become helpful to other people across the organization to acknowledge that there is so much research going on on the product and then who they should be able to speak to. I'm sort of going off track on there and I want to come back to something that Brigette brought up at some point and thought it was interesting was almost having a meta-researcher in the library because they end up with a superpower.
Kate Towsey: That the librarian is seeing all the reports coming through from across the organization and while everybody else is focused on their own campfire, they're like the god of the campfires or the goddess of the campfires. They can see every single campfire. That's a very very interesting case to be where if they've got a researcher's mind or researcher training hopefully.
Kate Towsey: They can then be able to look through this and say, hey, there's some interesting stuff coming in from our quantity mile survey squad or we've got some interesting stuff coming in from support that's been analyzed and so on and so forth and really there's something that lines up as a narrative here that we might be able to take notice of. It's kind of interesting talking to you about that in terms of mixed methods where you are then able to look across the mixed methods that are coming into the library and find out if there's any kind of consistent story that's with a new insight that's worth looking at.
Aryel Cianflone: Yeah, definitely. Kate, I'm interested you have this digital librarian, but you're also talking about growing a ResearchOps team. I'm wondering what does your ideal ResearchOps team look like in terms of the roles and the responsibilities.
Kate Towsey: It's a great question because we are right at the apex of FY-20 planning. At the moment we're now five people. Someone has gone back to research. Unfortunately for us, but we will get a replacement soon. But very nice for her. The team at the moment is me as a research operations manager and it's been a really good learning curve for me, learning what is a ResearchOps manager. I think I can speak for Lisa. We continue to learn how does a ResearchOps manager work with a research leader with her as head of research and insights.
Kate Towsey: There's a lot of learning there for me personally in my role. And then I have Serit and Vanessa leading on research recruitment and their job is to go involve and find participants. But also if we ever get the time because we are not running around and finding the participants to really design an experience for the participants. Ben Cuban in the UK did some really nice research on that I guess a few years ago now. What do they need to know at various points in their journey to feel comfortable with the process.
Kate Towsey: And how does that help the researcher to have an even better research session because their participant is relaxed and comfortable and knows how the data will be used and where it will go and all these kinds of things aligned up and they know they're going to get their thank you gift at the end. They're working on that. And then we have Teresa in technology lead role and her job is to look at our full technology stack across research recruitment because it's actually quite a lot of technology that goes into that and it's not working well it makes the recruiter's lives very difficult.
Kate Towsey: And very much for the survey team, what is our quantitative tooling stack from our survey tools through to our analysis tool and even into our customer database as Atlassian? And how does this data move from tool to tool? It's a really big piece of work. Her role is also very much working on with our legal team and we've now very very nicely got some resource from legal to really work with us which is such a blessing. I didn't even ask for it. It came down from heaven.
Kate Towsey: Such a resource is going to work very closely with the Zita to figure out what is our governance plan around research data and really tidy up on what we're doing at the moment. Then I've got a Georgie who's just come in as to work on the research library. Then there's a two roles that I've got open and I'm kind of hoping for some headcount at some point. The one I'm very very excited about and that is events and communications. This is someone who will organize all of our internal and external events, our summits, but also our team onsites and offsites and our team meetings and things that we do as a team together.
Kate Towsey: And when I say as a team, not just operations but within the entire research and insights team. We're very much close and part of that team. We're embedded in it really. But also looking at our communications, so blogging internally and externally. We don't do any blogging externally and I think it's a real shame because we're working on so many things that are potentially interesting to people. Making sure that we've got conference sponsorships in place that we are excited about and also that we're all speaking at conferences and it isn't Lisa and I.
Kate Towsey: But that there are really incredibly smart researchers and ops people are getting out there and sharing what they're doing. The next piece of that which I'm even more excited about if I could get it right is I'm looking and working with our state management team, our workplace experience team. We're really getting customer experience out on the walls and into our spaces and not just secure a couple of pictures with quotes, which is great, but something possibly a little bit more creative or interactive.
Kate Towsey: Something that really engages people in how our customers experience our products. That could be around accessibility requirements or anything really. Not a lot but I have heard of companies and seen a couple of tech companies who have these kind of immersive experience spaces that make you a little closer to the customer than just a research report or a quote on the wall or something. I'm really excited. When I can get that role in I think it's going to push how our research becomes impactful forward quite a lot.
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Aryel Cianflone: Bring your own participants onboard or handpicked from their hundred thousand person scout book. To start connecting with more people more impactfully, head to dscout.com/mm. Hearing you talk about the different roles on your team, it just sounds like you are so effectively setting up your team to have huge impact at scale.
Kate Towsey: Yes. There is one addition. I guess there's one caveat to that and one addition. There's a lot of paper cuts in the world. I think in all our lives we can talk about paper cuts and there's a lot it can potentially sink you in research operations. I was saying the other day when I was talking it's at Strive in Toronto that moving inefficiency from researchers to research operations is not a great way to do operations. It is where we've been for the last 10 months because there has been a such a radical amount of growth in my team from me 10 months ago to now five of us, six and then and then five.
Kate Towsey: Even in that itself is sort of managing what are we supposed to be doing here and the team that the research team itself growing and things like that. But you have to find time as a team to design your services otherwise you're just being, you just taking one efficiency to another team and it's not the way to do things. I say that because if you don't watch out for paper cuts you can end up sinking underneath them and never get to the point where you design your operations.
Kate Towsey: I'm hoping to hire in someone junior who can come in and take on a lot of those bits of admin like booking room spaces and ordering cakes and condolence cards and celebration things and booking dinners for teams and all these little bits and pieces that can come through. The other thing for the comms person would be also team branding. Give our teams logos and give stickers and bunting and whatever other things that we can do to make it known what we're doing and what is produced by us.
Aryel Cianflone: I love the term paper cuts because I feel like so much of the inefficiency is either poorly designed systems or also just context switching. I feel like with research there are so many tasks that need to get done and a lot of which, based on what you just said about the research operations team that you're trying to set up, it sounds like you have kind of moved from the researcher to the research operations team. But those contexts which can be so costly where you're moving from working on your discussion guide to having to respond to a bunch of emails with participants.
Aryel Cianflone: If you're doing your own scheduling or send off a couple incentives it seems like it's not a big deal but I think in the end those little paper cuts so to speak can end up being really really costly and slow down the productivity of the team. Another question I think that comes to mind for me is, what do you see as kind of the mission of research operations? How do you determine whether you are successful as a research operations team?
Kate Towsey: It's such an interesting question. Rosenfeld media recently did a survey on DesignOps and ResearchOps. There was one result in there. I'm not probably going to quote numbers specifically, I'll get them wrong. But it was specific to research operations and it was a question around how do you measure your success. Of the people who seem to have had teams there was a very low percentage that have figured it out which indicates I think that it's a new space. It's not brand new.
Kate Towsey: There are teams just to be clear that have been doing operations for a long time at booking.com that had an operations team focused on research for six years and Microsoft is winning by a long mile over 20 years. And not just one person doing something, but big teams of people doing things in significant lab spaces and things like that. Although 2018 seems like the kind of year possibly that research operations rose, there is a lot of precedents.
Kate Towsey: How do we measure our success as a team? I was chatting with Serit who leads the recruitment team yesterday and saying it's really interesting because you can get in a position just as I was saying you can move the inefficiency from researchers to ResearchOps and you've just moved the inefficiency. And yes, you might've gotten rid of that kind of context switching for the researcher, but unless you've moved that inefficiency to a bigger team who can handle them and stick on one context, you've also just moved the switching of context.
Kate Towsey: And what can also happen is that, I'm hoping I express this correctly, you become inservice to researchers where you just end up running around like becoming the PA of researchers and that's really not our aim eventually. It's not necessarily going to help anyone and you don't have to have a massive team to do that. Basically give every single researcher some amount of personal assistance time. And so a lot of what we're looking at at the moment with a team of five looking after 20 researchers or 19, wherever we are right now, we keep growing.
Kate Towsey: That ratio I think is about right. But it's much more about cutting the pathways so that the researchers can walk the path so they can get their recruitment done but we're not necessarily holding their hand. Or maybe we are holding the hand, but we're not doing it for them. In a sense where we've been the last 10 months like don't worry, we will just deliver your participants to you. It was an enormous task and I realized that it was just not possible with the amount of people we had to deliver that. We're now saying, what parts of this do we have to do for you and what can you do on your own?
Kate Towsey: But we're going to make it easy for you to do those things for yourself because we'll make sure that the vendors have money. You don't have to worry about procurement. We'll make sure that you know exactly where the consent forms are. We'll make sure that all these things are set out and are easy for you to walk the path on your own. In that case, success looks like that researchers feel that there's less friction in doing their work, but they are still doing some of the organization just because it's impossible to offer it any other way.
Aryel Cianflone: And Kate, I feel like you kind of walked me through the positions that you feel are most useful to have in a research operations team. I'm wondering in terms of kind of setting up researchers to be in this reduced friction environment or really allowing researchers to scale, these research teams to kind of scale themselves. I'm wondering if there are systems or programs that you have found to be really useful or successful.
Kate Towsey: I think that you'll probably get more out of me if you ask me that question in a year's time. We're moving into a whole new strategy, something exciting at Atlassian which I can't talk about. As a team we've had a very interesting three days here in San Francisco to look at what does the strategy mean to research operations and how do we deliver on it. And so we're looking at things like menu cards for the various types of research. What do you need when this discovery is happening?
Kate Towsey: How much time do we need to prepare for discovery versus preparing for a cadence of usability testing? We went to the Exploratorium in San Francisco this week. Georgie organized this genius idea to go and spend some time touring the Exploratorium. Anyone who doesn't know the Exploratorium, I now know, is this amazing science interactive museum in San Francisco. Really worth your visit if you're curious about presenting knowledge and experience. It's amazing for researchers to go to.
Kate Towsey: The operations manager of the building took us around and showed us his operations for the Exploratorium which feels very kind of off center for a research operations team. But there were things that he shared aside from the fact that they used JIRA that were interesting to us. This is talking about programs and systems. They have this thing it's called Atlassian e-maintenance ticket and pipe bursts in the building and they've got the system. It's really cool. They showed us this whole screen and they see all the pipes and what's going on with them.
Kate Towsey: A ticket comes out of a machine literally like receipt and it will say this is what's happened and this is the tools that you need to take to that site. You must have a hammer, you must have wrench and you must have a towel or whatever the story might be and this is who you need to phone and this is the story. And so you get this kind of like little menu card basically of how to approach the problem. I love that.
Kate Towsey: We looked at that and thought if we had something like that for the methods that we're going to be using as researchers and certainly the methods will be providing operations to then helping delivers as operations. That becomes really interesting in terms of working with a program manager who now gets to understand this is the menu card for discovery and then also this is how much it's going to cost most likely.
Kate Towsey: It helps me to plan forward financially and say, well, we are planning on having 3 discoveries or 10 discoveries and 6 usability cadences which means that it should cost X amount of money and we're going to need this amount of resource in terms of people and participants and so on and so forth and spaces to deliver on this quarter by quarter. That's a system that we're looking at putting in place and working on at the moment. Also with Georgie's discovery project researching the researchers to discover what do these menu cards look like?
Aryel Cianflone: It's so interesting when you find these really really great inspirational analogy opportunities. But it actually is this really interesting way to think about an approach or a way for research operations to set up the research team for success and themselves. Kate, something else that I wanted to ask you about when it comes to research operations is you've obviously become so well known for starting a research operations community and I was wondering what inspired you to start that community?
Kate Towsey: Sure. I had spent a long time working on research infrastructure and support or something like that. I can't remember now. It was some job title like that. I remember hating it because I was like, support? I'm not support. I felt like I might be the only person in the world that really cared about this. For some reason I really care about this. I still to this day cannot understand why I'm so passionate about this work but there you go. I felt quite lonely. I just kind of felt like this doesn't seem to anyone else out there that's doing the kind of work that I'm doing.
Kate Towsey: But over time, particularly with putting blogs on the GDS user research blog which became really well known, people would get in touch and some really interesting people from the US government, from companies like Etsy and so on and so forth just to say, hey, I've been reading your stuff about audiovisual data and storage and I just wanted to have a chat. There were handful of people that I got to meet over time and I'd have these individual conversations and have very similar conversations over and over.
Kate Towsey: I started to feel that there were at least a handful of us that were really interested in this and why did we not meet more regularly together? I set up the Slack channel thinking that it would be me and them because we'd spoken about me flying to the states for us to meet and actually kind of map out what this operation thing was. That didn't seem viable for various reasons or that it was ever going to happen. I set up the Slack and figured it will be me and these five people in there.
Kate Towsey: Within a couple of weeks there were 200 people in there and not just hanging out but really enthusiastic and really caring about the topic which was really surprising. Of those there was a kind of a small crew, I think three or four of us who gathered people I knew in the UK and then some of these people I had known already. We devised this idea of doing workshops just in five spaces in all five countries to figure out what do researchers need from operations and what does this thing mean. It grew to a lot more than that.
Kate Towsey: In the end we had 17 countries take part and I think it was 37 cities. And then we took that data and made a framework out of it. It was really based on what do researchers say are their biggest concerns at the moment. And then also just having years experience working, knowing where the areas of weakness were in operations. I no longer run the research operations community. The only reason for that is that I found and discovered that it just kept growing and growing and it's still growing to this day.
Kate Towsey: It's now 2,500 people or something like that in the space of a year which is mega. That's half the size of Atlassian, that number of people. The amount of work that goes into maintaining a community like that with any dignity is enormous. And I don't know how Brigette and Tim are carrying on with it. It's really quite something.
Aryel Cianflone: Just kind of going back for a second to what you were saying about all of the workshops and the huge amount of work that you put into this ResearchOps community and then this framework that came out of it. I'm curious, I guess for people who aren't as familiar with the framework, what kind of some of the top learnings were and what the result of creating this framework was?
Kate Towsey: It was interesting for me because without wanting to sound obnoxious, a lot of it came through and I was like, yeah, this is the stuff I've been working on for years anyway. But there was some interesting thing that came through was this real need for guides and templates which going back to we're talking about this less friction. Frictionless is probably not going to happen. That would be boring anyway. But a less friction environment for researchers to work in came across as what they were looking for.
Kate Towsey: That was interesting and not necessarily surprising but yeah, give me guidelines. Tell me where to go and find the consent form. Help me know that the consent form is right. Train me on what it means to be a GDPR compliant researcher. Give me the tools and the knowledge I need to be the best researcher I can be. Make it easy for me. The other important and interesting thing that came out of that was really this notion of team care.
Kate Towsey: We would provide opportunities for learning, opportunities for engaging with people in industry and inspiration like distinguished speakers or book clubs or get togethers or training like I'm at this moment looking at how do I provide data security training to our research team. What does that look like? And things like that that can help support researchers in growing their skills. And then also things like, I've spoken quite a lot about this I think is so important, is things like counseling in place.
Kate Towsey: If you're doing challenging research or you're going into the field where you might them into something that is uncomfortable, we have got and it's known that you've got access to a counselor that you can debrief with or spend time with and that's already organized and paid for. Things like that are really important and I wasn't expecting that. I'd never thought about that in the terms of operations.
Aryel Cianflone: Is that framework available just to anyone? I mean, it sounds like it's so useful for example what you just shared about counseling. I've never considered that, but it makes so much sense. I'm curious if that's a document that's available to the wider audience or if that's something that's specifically just for the ResearchOps community.
Kate Towsey: It is available on Medium. I think actually now, which is kind of amazing, if you Google ResearchOps framework, possibly my name at the end just because that's how it is at the moment. But try and go for the ResearchOps framework and see if that pops up. You should find it and there's a PDF download and there's access to The Mural. Mural the company have given the ResearchOps community and therefore in some ways me as well free access to Mural to host that, which is very nice of them.
Kate Towsey: And so you can look at it on The Mural and you can download it as a PDF. I think there's a Dropbox link for that that I set up at some point. It's available to everybody and it always makes me very happy when I walk into someone's office and see it on the wall. Someone sends me a photograph of it next to their desk or says to me, gosh, this has really helped me explain to my program manager or my head of research or my head of design or whoever it might be what operations looks like and that it is a multi-skilled, multi-person job. It cannot be done by one person.
Aryel Cianflone: It sounds like such a powerful resource, especially just because of the thought and the time and the energy and the experience that was put into creating it. I can only imagine that it's super valuable and I'm excited to kind of dive into that deeper myself as well. As we wrap up, my last question is really, for individuals who are working at organizations that either have no research operations teams or are trying to figure out how to grow a research operations team, I wonder if you have any advice for them.
Kate Towsey: Sure. I have an entire day of advice. I've just run a workshop called Mr Trump's one-on-one kind of from the ground up. Where do you start? It's easy to run around and be like, well, it's a multi-person, multi-skilled job. And that's like, that's nice, but where do you start? I've been very blessed in that I work with Lisa who brought me in because she believes in operations and she was the person who set me on this path. I get the support that I need and I don't have to fight very very hard for it.
Kate Towsey: I need to prove points and I need to have my numbers together but not everybody has that and I appreciate that. Where to start? Start with one person. I am leaning in and tested this with various colleagues in industry who are running teams that if you've got five researchers, one ops person is a really good idea. And again, not to move the inefficiency and the paper cuts from five researchers to one person because that's just overloading one person. But to give them a space to set up systems that make the running of the operations efficient and then they manage that.
Kate Towsey: That might be cutting the pathway for researchers to work on their own, if that analogy makes sense. It was interesting because, as I mentioned, as a team we are five people now to say 20 researchers. You can look that we're one to five. A little bit more even and we're still feeling squeezed a little bit and some stun to even look at this ratio or this algorithm and say, well, is it that you need slightly more in the beginning and you get to a certain point where then it's one ops person to five researchers.
Kate Towsey: But to start out with you need slightly more than that to actually get yourself off the ground and get all the systems in place because it's not just about delivering the services, it's about building the systems to deliver the service and that takes a lot of time. Where to start? More to your question. You start with your one person but make sure that you focus them on a maximum of three things that your team really needs and give them the time to design in the services and your researchers will still be looking after themselves.
Kate Towsey: They'll still be possibly recruiting their own participants. But hopefully this person can work on making sure that there is finances in place so they're not having to deal with procurement every three months and figure it all out because it's changed in three months or whatever the story might be. That's a great place to start. And if your team grows, given another ops person as soon as it gets a little bit bigger so that as your research team is scaling your ops team are scaling along with it.
Aryel Cianflone: Thanks for listening today. If you want to continue the conversation, join us in the Slack group for a Q&A with Kate next week. You can find details on Twitter. If you aren't already a member of the Slack group, you can request an invite under the community tab on our website, mixed-methods.org. Follow us on Medium and Twitter to stay up to date with the latest UXR trends. Special thanks to Danny Fuller, our audio engineer and composer and Laura Leavitt, our designer. See you next time.