Our proud HRW Innovation Challenge winners take you through their simple but smart contribution to our business, that bagged them the big prize in our regular internal competition…

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the qual research process has a lot of moving parts. Think of it like a Rube Goldberg machine – each step in the journey, no matter how seemingly small, is essential to reaching the end result… and the way in which we complete each part of the process irretrievably impacts on the next.

Some steps in this process can feel less exciting than others and can take up a lot of our time as we aim to keep the machine ticking along- particularly large, multi-market projects; and particularly for the Research Executives who are largely responsible for the minutiae of project admin. However, at HRW we do not all accept the premise that such tasks necessarily need to be time-consuming!

We believe that if something is taking hours to complete, then it could be the case that we haven’t worked out the most efficient way to do it yet. This was certainly the driving force behind our winning team’s Content Analysis Template Macro, developed for the HRW Innovation Challenge last December.

This challenge takes place twice a year and gives everyone at HRW the opportunity to submit ideas of all shapes and sizes, that represent innovation in our processes, deliverables, and people management. From wellbeing to work experience, all ideas are welcome and winning suggestions put into action.

When my team members Bethan Crisp (Research Executive), Richard Hutchings (Research Manager) and I got together in November, naming ourselves ‘Crisp Thinking’, our ethos of simplicity and clarity took us back to basics. We asked ourselves,” What aspects of our job detract from the parts we love?”, and the obvious answer came back: admin and paperwork!

There was one task that stood out: the creation of content analysis templates. This key step in the research process helps us capture consistent analysis and focus on our objectives of interest – replicating the process accurately across countries. They serve a valuable and underappreciated role in clarifying how we want to think about the answers we receive and split respondent groups but can take a considerable amount of time to develop (particularly considering they are never even seen by our clients!).

Our aim in refreshing this particular cog in the machine led us to, firstly, (being good researchers) assess the burden represented by the task. We conducted a short internal survey to assess the time spent on creating these templates, and the attitudes towards them among our peers. The result? Content analysis templates were called out as a key “time-consuming irritation”, and we learnt that on average it took two hours to complete one template; that 42 had been written in the past month; meaning that 84 hours had been devoted to creating these templates in the last month alone.

So, we decided to do something about this. We worked together to develop a simple, easy-to-use solution: A Content Analysis Template Macro for Microsoft word. This macro would automate the most monotonous parts of the template creation, whilst still allowing flexibility to tailor how to analyse specific questions or respondent types. Since the macro was designed for Microsoft word, it would also mean that the entire HRW team could use this function without having to install any new software. With the decision made, the marvellously talented Richard set about coding the macro.

With our shiny new macro built, Bethan was assigned the task to test it, and we found that the macro quartered the amount of time spent on each template, as they now only took around 30 minutes to complete. This would mean that we could save on average 63 hours of time per month – to be spent on the more valuable and rewarding aspects of research. What a fantastic result, achieved through a simple, but incredibly effective idea!

We didn’t stop here though, as we wanted to truly understand how valuable this could be to the entire team. Back with our researcher-hats firmly in place, we asked all our peers three simple questions:

  • On a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is not at all positive and 10 is extremely positive) how positive would it be if CA templates took you 30 minutes instead of two hours?
  • What would you spend the time doing instead?
  • How could this be beneficial to you/to the project team?

The team rated the macro as extremely positive (9.2/10) due to its time saving potential and felt that they could spend this recovered time “on tasks that either teach me more skills and techniques, or which contribute more directly to research outputs – such as supporting material development, analysis or debrief writing”.

The value of the template as perceived by the team was also recognised by the company as a whole: and our innovative idea won the Internal Innovation Challenge Award for the inaugural HRW Innovation Challenge 2017. Who would have thought that by taking a step back and thinking about how to make an existing process more efficient would bag us an award? This was fantastic news and thanks to its simplicity, ‘Crisp Thinking’ were able to roll-out this innovation immediately.

Since then, we’ve been able to utilise the macro on countless studies, which has resulted in extraordinary time savings and increased efficiency, with benefits for the entire company: and in particular, the more junior members of research teams, who are able to concentrate more on developing their other research skills and honing their passions.


By Olivia Brickman

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