By John Forsyth

Why is it that some of researchers’ best ideas never get used by the client, and yet clients often feel they lack the insights they need, no matter how much research and analytics they commission? John Forsyth talks to three in-house heads of insight about where the problem – and the solution – might lie.

You might think the last thing the research industry needs is another layer of management with another set of job titles … and another reminder to be a bit more like a consultancy.

Yet often there is a disconnect between what a business wants to achieve, the research and analytics they use to help them get there, and the way researchers’ findings are deployed by the client who commissioned them.

That missing link could well be insights translation – a person or a process that makes sure everyone in the chain has the same understanding and is working towards the same, achievable goals, even though they might speak different languages.

Insights translation has nothing to do with foreign languages. Nor is it just about turning the output of research and analytics teams into a ‘to do’ list for businesses, although that’s part of it.

Rather, insights translation is about gaining a deep understanding of a business’s – or a particular part of it – needs or opportunities, then determining what kind of research or analytics, if any, could help bring that about.

An insights translator, working between the end business and agency partners, can ensure that not only does the research and analytics insights match the need and meet the brief, but also makes economic sense for the business and can be executed with the business’s resources and capabilities.

Immersive experience

At GE Healthcare, insights translators are known as business partners – senior people who work with the cross functional business unit team – region or product group. Their role is to translate business objectives into a research plan, translate the results back into business insights and actions and, crucially, help drive those actions.

Nirmala Santiapillai now works with GE Power, but until recently was GE Healthcare’s head of global customer & market insights. She says business partners tend to have consulting or strategic market experience, which enables them to operate across analytics, marketing research and competitive analysis, working with specialists in each area.

John Forsyth is an editorial board member of Research World. He is a partner at New York-based Forsyth Insights, and has 30 years’ experience in insights and analytics, including building and leading the global marketing insights & analytics practice at McKinsey and Co.


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