Consumer Market Research Techniques: A Primer For IT Professionals

Ted-Schadler by Ted Schadler

Employees are people, too.They just don't look like you. At least most of them don't. To understand what your workforce needs from technology and from you, you have to walk a mile in their shoes.

That's hard to do -- not to mention darn uncomfortable at times! But it is possible to get to know your workforce by grouping them by who they are and what they need from you. There are three techniques that consumer market researchers have developed over the last 40 years to do just that:

  1. Surveys to analyze and segment the workforce. This is step one and something that we'll drill into more detail on over the next few blog posts. Asking good questions, making sure everybody's represented, doing analysis that helps you answer your key questions, this is where the best analysis begins. You'll come up with segments like "technology enthusiasts" and "road warriors."

  2. Focus groups to bring the segments to life. Once the segments are identified, you can invite 5 or 6 people to come in and talk about what they do and what they need from technology. This gives you the "why" and the "how" to go along with the "what" that the survey and segmentation provide. With focus groups, a road warrior starts to look like a real person.

  3. Personas to put a face on each segment.The last step is to give each segment a name, background, and face to turn it into a character that everybody can identify with. Instead of road warriors, it's Phil, a guy with a $50 haircut and couple of kids, driving a BMW, and talking non-stop on his BlackBerry. Personas make it easier for everybody to understand who you're talking about.

But it all starts with knowing what questions you need to answer (see this post for an introduction to that).

We'll take up the topic of how to write good survey questions and reach enough of the right employees (meaning a representative sample) in subsequent posts.

Questions, comments, topics of interest? Please share.