Having celebrated 17 years of accessing reality in market research recently, three of our most experienced team members, Jeanette Kaye (Deputy MD), Esme Barrow-Williams and Nicola Vyas (both Research Directors), reflect on the developments in market research, as well as within HRW in all those years, and how we’ve always moved forward, whilst still preserving our heritage.
Q. Technology has advanced over the last 17 years. How has this changed the way you conduct research projects?
Nicola: Over the last few years, there have been some fairly significant advances in the way that we conduct research, both, in terms of data collection and how we deliver research results; but when I think back just a little further, I can remember a time when many of our clients were sceptical about quantitative online surveys. It seems unfathomable now that anyone would question an online approach, but even 12 years ago, we were running paper-based and online studies in parallel so that results could be compared, and the validity of online research could be tested.
Now we’re much more open to new technologies and are using a lot of innovative tools such as Google Glass, Fast Association Tests, Eye tracking, Facial Coding and even neuroscience. I think there is far more openness to technology now and a real appetite to try something new and take a bit of a risk with the research approaches we use.
Q. How has the way you work with clients changed over the last 17 years?
Esme: I remember going to a BHBIA winter seminar where one of the speakers brought out an old OHP (overhead projector for those Gen Y amongst you!) and some acetates, and it was so impactful to see how much things have changed since then. In the very old days, it would use OHPs for presenting and it was a case of posting (!) presentations to clients for review, whereas now, it’s an easy back and forth via email / Skype / WebEx / messenger – take your pick. I think the biggest and most important change is the level of collaboration with all stakeholders involved, which really enriches the process. Whether it’s working as an Agency of Record, running more agile ‘sprint’ projects or working on co-collaboration with clients, comms and PR, HCPs and patients – it’s all about the partnership, and I think that’s a very positive thing for everyone.
Q. How has the type of research changed?
Esme: It’s almost impossible to imagine that when HRW started, the iPhone was yet to be in existence. Mobile has exploded since then, as has social media and this has launched us into a world of super massive data. Big data doesn’t quite cut it! So, the types of research we conduct are more intertwined with social media listening, digital tracing and UX consultancy, than I think we could ever have envisaged. The way in which we communicate has changed so much (and across so many markets) that it’s only natural that we need to understand online user experience and emerging markets far more – and this across the wide range of therapies and topics we’ve always worked on – so that hasn’t become any less varied.
Q. How have these changes impacted on how you work?
Jeanette: Working much more closely with our clients as partners, as previously mentioned, and not just providers of market research, has meant our skill sets have grown a huge amount over the past years. It’s much more about strategic thinking now, and that’s a good thing – we’re more heavily involved in brand strategies with our clients, we get to know what they need by building long-term partnerships and can be a useful source of advice and challenge to help our clients optimise their plans. We are all acutely aware of the need to provide added value and this has led to the creation of our OR:BIT (Oncology Research : Business Intelligence Team) and Shift (our team of behavioural science experts) teams, where the focus is on oncology expertise and the application of behavioural science to look at how we change behaviour. We’re getting closer to being able to predict future behaviour – rather than just measuring “liking”, we are now able to look at likely behaviours and what we can do to shape those, which is hugely satisfying for us and for our clients.
Q. We’ve talked a lot about the changes you’ve seen at HRW, but what hasn’t changed? What’s the one thing that has remained constant?
Nicola: When I joined HRW there were only a handful of people packed into a very small office. Right from the start, there was a real family feel to the company and a sense that working together allowed us to deliver our absolute best. Even though we’re a much larger organisation now, with four client service hubs (Wallingford, London, Basel and Manhattan), that same family feeling is still there. HRW is now an extremely professional company but with a set of family values that I think we can all be proud of.
Q. The company has grown a lot over the past 17 years – how have you dealt with that global growth?
Jeanette: In short, we have made sure that our company values remain at the core of who we are and what we do and have recruited people not only for their excellent research skills but also for their values and their approach to life in general. Whilst we have the 4 client service hubs as Nicola mentioned, we are clear that we are one agency working towards the same goals – our project teams span all our client service hubs for example. At the same time, there needs to be an identity for each location. From the days of being able to communicate so easily with a company of only six people, we now use all the different forms of technology to communicate with each other, and our clients, using video technology wherever possible to maintain the personal touch. I’m sure everyone reading this will agree that speed of delivery has changed a lot over the past few years in particular, which means having bright, talented and engaged people working together to distill vast amounts of information and deliver it in a concise way, has become even more important. One thing remains the same, and that’s the quality of the research and the value it brings – whatever else may change over the next few years, that will remain at the heart of our work and our culture.
By Nicola Vyas, Esme Barrow-Williams and Jeanette Kaye