Mid-Weeknotes SE02E19, 20 & 20.5

Cows’ in Lake Dulverton, Oatlands by Kooper Tasmania (artists Folko Kooper and Maureen Craig), a photo taken by me on a day trip to Oatlands a couple of weekends ago.

As with most of my weeknotes these days, these weeknotes are structured around the 8 Pillars of User Research — I use these to help me keep the scope of my role knowable, to me, and others. I use the Pace Layers Matrix to structure my research operations strategy in my everyday work.

What did you do?

Apologies for the lack of weeknotes last week folks! Bumper issue today, mid-week instead. I’m taking a long weekend this week and so this is coming to you mid-week :)

Environment

A couple of weeks back, Delivery Manager, Kate McAlister put together a research syncing session with three of the teams working on October deadlines with significant dependencies and overlaps. That’s been useful for uncovering if collaboration was possible, and for surfacing blockers in research participant recruitment. It was incredibly important for ReOps because it allowed me to clearly see that we have got to the point where we have so many teams doing user research, that there is little clarity about the steps we are taking in ReOps each week.

When I started at the end of March 2021, I knew of 4 teams doing user research, and now, 7 months later, we have 21 actively doing user research. So, while part of that lack of transparency has been transitioning from one method of work management to another, a big part of it is about getting communication just right across an increasingly broad group. We’re trialling a weekly round-up for people on our radar as doing or being involved in user research. It serves as an internal version of this weeknote, but with links.

The round-up also helped me focus on researchers’ needs during meetings rather than covering where I was up to. The difference was noticeable this week, so for me, I call it a win.

Goes to show that a) little things can create ripples and b) as I’ve always said, ReOps is more social than it is technical.

Finally, for the environment pillar, this week, Taking Farmers to Markets had their quarterly planning. Ruth Ellison, Bill, and I ran three Research+Ops clinics, each of which varied in scope. The first one was more aligned to going over each teams’ needs over the next quarter. The second included a couple of teams new to user research wanting to know about the disciplines, and the third was much smaller, so we went over some particular challenges coming up in the next quarter. We’ll gather some feedback this coming week to see how we can improve on this for the next quarterly planning, or for regular clinic hours.

Scope

Scope is about how research happens, who does it, and how we bring our insights together. Last week Bruce, who leads the Service Design CoP session ran a session where Libby Heasman presented on Storytelling. Several of the researchers have bought themselves a pack of her deck of storytelling cards, used to help prompt us tell better stories. Looking forward to seeing how these are used within research practices at work.

As Jordan noted in his weeknotes, a few weeks back, the Capability team (in which I reside 50% of the time) published the first version of the Service Delivery Handbook. We all pitched in to do some user research on this first iteration, with Ruth leading the way, of course, and so last week included a couple of sessions on synthesis of that research which we will use to iterate and evolve the handbook. The Research+ Ops handbook will be a part of the Service Delivery Handbook, and Bill has been working on the links and structure of that layer of the handbook. Looking forward to being able to focus on that again soon, as this should help release us from the ‘small ‘o’ ops work that is a feature of the beginning of any research operations set up (the writing out of processes — for recruitment, governance etc, methods, bringing together of tools, templates, and guides).

Organisational context

It was a big, busy week in terms of organisational context. As I’ll note below, we have finally made the move to start a research participant panel. The panel is one of 4 strategies to improve the way we manage research participant recruitment, and a big push for this is to manage our engagement across the board better as a department. Going through this process has meant engaging with communications teams from across the department, regulatory teams, the legal team, the web team, and social media team. We also talked with folks from across the department who are interested in more coordinated approaches to engagement. This is going to be important as our user research engagement increases alongside other transformational work.

People

As we go through the process of looking at what a research operations team might look like, we’ve put together three job descriptions (mine, an information architect role, and a support role for the recruitment and admin pillar, and the tools pillar). Hoping we can formalise these roles within job families within the department and submit them to the APSC for consideration. These have been put together from our own understanding of the roles of research operations, and using the information found within the APS Career Pathfinder Tool in beta under the Digital Professions work by the DTA.

Recruitment and admin

As our demand for user research increases, we are seeking to better coordinate our communication with our industry partners and our exporters. One way we can do this, is by having a panel of people who want to take part in research. Having a panel will help us manage participant experience, and help us make the best use of everyone’s time. While it has been something we’ve been thinking through and getting foundations in place for the past few months, this week, the sign up form went live. Many thanks to Caroline Martin, the Web and Design Team, Violet Rish, Lyndal Fleming, Gabby Quirk, Julian Fleetwood, Adrian Yee, the Regulatory teams, and the Trade Reform Comms team for all your work on this.

So far, we have added an alert to the Trade Reform website, which takes viewers to the Trade Reform Research Panel register where exporters can sign up to take part in research.

Through October and November, we will be getting in touch with our industry partners via our regulatory teams to let them know about this initiative, and we’ll be encouraging staff across Trade Reform to share about it on social media.

We’ll also be working with stakeholders across the department to put in place more scaled systems of tracking our engagement.

Data and knowledge management

Ruth and I have a weekly catch-up with the end-to-end team in the Taking Farmers to Markets (TFTM) program (part of the Trade Reform agenda) so that we can discuss how we bring all the TFTM research together to tell the whole story. We discussed several blockers inhibiting our ability to do that easily. One of which being no place to bring research data together where it can be tagged and made sense of easily. We had had this work on our increment plan for the PRISM Platform project, and will shift it to the beginning of the project so we can sort this as soon as possible.

One of the first things you can do if you know you are going to put in place some kind of library of finalised research artefacts (user journeys, blueprints, reports etc) is to give researchers a ‘back page’ to add to their artefact. This simple but effective idea was something John, the architect and developer of the Customer Insights Library in my previous team wanted to implement, and which of course, was one of the first things we put in place here at DAWE. This ensures anyone seeing the artefact knows in perpetuity who did the work, why, how, when, and what they are allowed to do with it. This week, I added a reminder about that, as we need to start making sure we are ready to go once the project starts!

In Australia, as a researcher, you are responsible under the NHMRC Statement on the ethical conduct in human research to make sure your work is shared with the right folks. The statement (element 4) actively supports the sharing and reuse of research data and research artefacts. The back page is effectively a researcher’s checklist on that for the research artefacts.

We received two requests for research this week — one on our payments systems (currently chasing up), and one on energy efficiency from digital transformation (nothing found there within the scope of our work). We love receiving requests for research! We can’t always fulfil them, but they are opportunities for us to increase our pool of research to put in the library.

We have a weekly catch-up with the BIIS Research Practice team, and this week, we took a brief look at the draft taxonomy for our PRISM Groups (research data) and PRISM Library.

Governance

This week, we had a chat to the Legal team about making a consistent policy around incentives for user research. There are actually varied approaches happening throughout the department, and so we want to get together researchers from across the department to discuss why we might not want to pay incentives to research participants, and why we might want to do that. The answer seems to be more ethical than legislative, so this should prove to be an interesting chat, and we look forward to creating clarity and a department wide policy.

Tools and infrastructure

We are planning two projects on tools — one for considering our needs with respect to whiteboarding tools, and one with respect to platforms for evaluative research and web analytics. Both of these projects involve user research, to gather user needs, then a product feature review, a cost review, a security and privacy assessment, and then do a proposal for the future management of these tools.

What are you thinking about?

A couple of personal things this week:

Firstly, the French translation team in the ResearchOps Community translated my article on the pace layers matrix. It is the second translation for the ResearchOps French publication, and was personally very humbling that someone would want to spend that time over my words and ideas. Translating is an incredible skill, and I’m so grateful to Clara Maj-Richard for her efforts on it on behalf of the community. We look forward to some original French voices in the publication soon too!

The other was a lovely impromptu meeting of some ResearchOps Leads (and one Research Lead) in the community just getting started with putting their ResearchOps function in place. Everyone was looking at participant recruitment, and so it was a wonderful early morning chat for me. We wrote some notes as we went, and I summarised what we learned from each other in a tweet thread.

researcher, counter of things, PhD student, public servant…into user research, information architecture, ontology, data. Intensely optimistic.