This guidance note on How to commission research details guidance on how to commission research. A brief summary of the main points is included below -
The one minute summary
1. Correctly identify what you need, why you need it, how you are likely to be able to get it - i.e. the five W’s – why, what, who, what;
- To be successful you need to know what your research questions are, and why you want the research done
- Don’t just take someone’s word for it that this research really needs to be done
- Once you have the key research questions – ask yourself how they are best answered. If you don’t know, ask someone who does
- Ask yourself if the information or research already exists to answer the questions, or whether you will, need some primary research or information gathering yourself
2. What makes for high quality research?
- Its robust, objective, its well written, and above all transparent
- Transparent means - the conclusions are supported by the evidence
3. Getting the best from consultants
- A clear brief is essential – hint – #1 correctly identify what you need
- Get specialised help for designing your brief and selecting consultants
- Build quality into the brief – specifically establish quality standards
- Look for technical competence for all tasks individually. Look at the track record of consultants
- Bulk the invoices near the end of the deliverables – you will have much more leverage
- Formal, written correspondence with consultants, including the raising of issues about poor performance and tracking responses
4. Common pitfalls
- “I didn’t get what I wanted…” but you probably got what you asked for – or to be more blunt, you didn’t ask for anything specific. This is the most common complaint people have about consultancy outputs – it is almost invariably due to one, or a combination of - a) ot being clear yourself about the research – i.e. the five W’s – why, what, who, what; and b) not being able to clearly express needs and desired outcomes in the brief
- “The brief was vague” – the brief let the consultants decide what to do and how to do it, and this wasn’t agreed with you, or you didn’t check if this met your needs. You didn’t get anyone with technical experience to help you write the brief. In other words… a lot of this is in the brief – put the work in early on.
- “The report is too long” – then you should have specified a length
- “The report is too technical” – perhaps you need to specify that as well as a technical report, you need an easy-to-read executive summary
Download the full guidance note on How to commission research.