Blog Posts
February 28, 2023

How the best Researchers leverage cross-functional partnerships to drive Research impact

Cross-functional partners can play an important role in Research. We dive into each cross-functional partnership you may encounter, what you can gain from them, and how to leverage them to drive Research impact.

“Research does not happen in a silo,” said Kaela Tuttle-Royer, a Research Ops Leader, in a recent AMA. “While at Spotify, I saw what it means for ReOps to expand into other functions. We had data scientists, designers, product managers, and engineering managers all touching research.”

Cross-functional partnerships, if utilized correctly, can make research more impactful, effective, and efficient. And when you put effort into building strong cross-functional partnerships, you can ensure research is being done in safe, consistent, and compliant ways.

In this blog, we’re going to discuss how to utilize your cross-functional partners, how to build strong relationships between specific teams, how to increase collaboration, and more.

Important first step: Do your research

Before you begin utilizing your cross-functional partners, you should consider building for them. As Kaela mentioned, it often won’t just be User Researchers conducting and interacting with research. To account for this, you should build processes, educational materials, templates, and tools that can be understood and easily used by researchers and non-researchers alike.

One of the best ways to build for cross-functional teams is to understand their language. Kaela recommends starting with two questions:

  1. How do we share knowledge?
  2. How do we create a glossary to understand each other’s language?

Learning the language of your cross-functional partners also means you can share insights quickly and in meaningful ways. That way, more people will be able to see the impact of research and use research to influence what they are working on.

Now, focus on increasing understanding of research

Akshay Verma, before joining Duolingo as a Staff User Experience Researcher, was the first User Researcher at Gong. He found himself between customer service, sales, customer success, and product marketing. This was both great and challenging. “There was no way to track and know what everyone is saying and learning.”

To get these teams to collaborate more, it was important for Akshay to cultivate a shared understanding of research. In his 2022 AMA, he shared some ways to do this:

  • Start with disciplines closely tied to research such as product and design.
  • Find reliable people on each team who you can trust and lean on.
  • Create spaces and times for members of different teams to come together and share common insights.
  • When you have multiple research teams (pricing, marketing, user, etc.) you can create a joint research roadmap to provide a combined initiative, connect the dots, and triangulate different sources of research and data.

How to utilize cross-functional partnerships through discipline groups

What are discipline groups? Groups made up of a few members of each team. These members should understand research as well as what’s going on within the company. When choosing people to be in your discipline groups, Kaela recommends picking people who will escalate the voices of and advocate for the members of their team.

Once you have your groups assembled, bring them together. “Give them a seat at the table and allow them to talk to each other,” said Kaela. Here are some things you can do during these gatherings:

  • Check your processes and priorities.
  • Get feedback.
  • Share insights.
  • Disseminate your solutions down through the representatives from each team.

“With discipline groups, everyone will benefit from each other in a symbiotic way and that’s when the magic can happen,” said Kaela.

Advice for building partnerships with specific teams

With all partnerships, communication is key, said Kaela. When you’re determining what insights to share with which team, first ask your partners:

  • What they want to get from research
  • What are their goals and priorities

Then you can use that information to inform what you share and how you share it.

Sales and customer success

  1. Conduct a survey to determine if these partners have engaged with research.
  2. Using their answers, figure out what would make them more likely to engage with research.
  3. Give them a seat at the table.
  4. Share bite-size insights that they can actually use.

Design Ops

During a webinar, some of the founding Airbnb Research Ops team members discussed partnering with DesignOps. Here’s what they shared:

  • Generate alignment between design process, product process, and research process. “One of the great things that you can do with Design Ops is to align on the product development process,” said Joey Encarnacion, Senior Research Operations Manager at Twitch.
  • Think of Research Ops as the bridge between Design Ops, designers, and researchers. This will help reduce friction, shared Tim Toy, Senior Research Operations Program Manager at Adobe.
  • Meet with members of the Design Ops team at least once a month. Use this time to connect over similar problems, workshop issues you’re experiencing, and dive into each other’s thought processes, said Eva Frieden, Research Operations at HelloFresh.

When it comes to cross-functional partnerships, your end goal is this: You and your cross-functional teams are motivated to help each other, and your success depends on one another. “That’s where you’ll see the magic happen,” said Kaela.

Enable strong cross-functional partnerships with Rally

Rally’s User Research CRM enables you to safely and effective involve your cross-functional partners in research. Find out how you can use Rally to allow non-researchers and important cross-functional partners to responsibly take part in User Research. If you want to learn more, join our waitlist!

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Spend more time researching with Rally

Rally’s User Research CRM enables you to do better research in less time. Find out how you can use Rally to allow non-researchers and important cross-functional partners to responsibly take part in User Research. Explore Rally now by setting up a demo.