Where does research start, insight begin and strategy end?

“Rupes, make sure you get insight in your job title soon, you’ll be worth a lot more” said Luis to me at his leaving do, 11 years ago. I had only just landed my first client-side role as a Research Manager when Luis said this to me, but it still sticks in my mind. Since then I’ve had research, insight, planning and strategy in my job title at one time or another. Sometimes I have had two of those words in my job title at the same time.

What is the difference? Are these just wanky job titles that mean the same thing? Should companies’ value /pay one of these job titles more than another? Should professionals in these job titles line up along a supply chain or work collaboratively as equals?

For me:  amazing research or analysis produces insights, and amazing insights become SMART strategies

A good researcher/ analytics professional

  • Is amazing at data capture and analysis. They use primary and secondary sources (Qual &/or Quant)

However, an AMAZING researcher/ analytics professional

  • Is as above +
  • When possible uses multiple sources of data
  • Attempts to find new news insights
  • Attempts for the insight to be a source of competitive advantage
  • Curates actionable recommendation from the above

A good insight professional

  • Is as above

However, an AMAZING insight professional

  • Is as above +
  • Markets the killer insights
  • Ensures the actionable recommendations are SMART & considered

A good strategy professional

  • Is as above +

However, an AMAZING strategy professional

  • Is as above +
  • Provides implementation plans
  • Supports & facilitates implementors
  • IMPORTANTLY – Fully understands strong data capture methods and analytics as per definitions of amazing researcher/analytics/insight professional

As you can see from the above, the definitions overlap. There is one phrase that I think glues it all together and that is ‘actionable recommendations’.

To create actionable recommendations, I usually start with models like ‘SMART & Ohmae’s 3Cs’ (others might also be relevant). These allow me to really appreciate the change that I am attempting to illicit. However, this is not as easy as it might first look. Understanding your organisations capabilities (operational, cultural, financial etc) whilst appreciating wider factors takes time and effort. You will need the help of others to truly achieve this. Therefore, this may be the reason why organisations split these job roles up. Strategy professionals are the ones that should look to bring that context to the party. However, how many strategy professionals really do this? I see a lot doing the insight bit and calling themselves strategy when actually they need to be focused on bringing that context and developing implementation plans.

This confusion in job title is also apparent among researchers/analysts & insight professionals. Is this confusion something we live with or should we be more proud of our role so we can be more effective?

The bigger point I want to make is that whichever job title you have, you need to fall into the ‘amazing’ category. Therefore, you need to understand all three trades.

Let’s be honest many organisations value/pay strategy professionals more than the other two. Organisations may also give the strategy professionals all the glory. How should those that feed them feel; jealous, hard done by, underappreciated? In football, how does a defender feel when the striker is the highest paid player and grabs headlines? They celebrate as a team and the striker humbly shares the success. Sometimes a defender scores a goal themselves and their stock increases. When a striker tracks back to defend his/her stock also increases. So, whatever is in your job title aim to track back and/or score ‘actionable recommendation’ goals and increase your stock.

For me, it’s not a production line of jobs, it’s a collaborative effort that produces great work that illicit change. Let’s hope others outside of these disciplines agree and therefore value/pay each job title equally.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Luis Fernandes says:

    Interesting read Rupes. I agree with your general perspective.

    However, my intent in the comment to you was not to denigrate any roles in particular, but rather bring 3 points to your attention:

    1- The value we create evolves over time (and is more rewarded hopefully) but may not be reflected in our job titles. At Expedia we use “business titles” alongside Job titles to reflect just that.

    2- Not all results are considered equal in value. We can “increase our stock” by absorbing new skills and developing newly acquired ones. Sometimes by even taking risks in trying something we never did before. In turn, our scope of role changes and so do the descriptors we use to explain what we do. Is it wrong to adapt them accordingly if it reflects what we do better?

    3- You talk about the value brought in existing employment. Quid when you are applying for a new job and want to set a perceived value to your prospect employer? My comment was a result of a small scale A/B test I did when I was applying for specific positions. Like companies do, packaging that perceived value with the right descriptors is important, to generate sufficient interest and trigger response. Is it wrong to apply marketing principles to ourselves in that situation?

    PS: Flattered you remember this!
    PPS: I have now a bit more grey hair and a few additional wrinkles, you have been kind 😉


  2. Kay Kotak says:

    Good observations Rupesh, and I’d like to add a few of my own, having worked at agency side and many client side organisations in my research career.
    Yes, there are definitely blurred lines between research, insight and strategy and whilst they do morph into one another, they are viewed differently by different organisations. So, my main point is that your job title is mostly created by your employer – some prefer Researcher and some prefer Insight professional. Good idea from Luis/Expedia to have business titles as well.
    My other point is that out in the market, when you’re looking for a job, Insight is increasingly viewed more holistically, as both, analytics and research, but primarily as analytics. So, it can confuse prospective employers & employees, if research is not in the title or somewhere in your main description.
    Yes, a researcher is good at quant analysis, but probably can’t do SQL or SAS. Some of our skills are softer skills e.g. story-telling, and we’re most important to any strategy planning, but not all strategists can design research. You can of course up-skill from one to the other, but to me, research, analytics and strategy are each slightly different and nuanced.
    So, as is the case in our profession, it is all about the detail, detail, detail in your job description. The job title may open a few more doors, but the detail will get you through the door.


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