5 Superpowers of Influential Insights Teams

5 Superpowers of Influential Insights Teams

By Lisa R. Courtade, Executive Director of Insights & Analytics at Organon and MRII Board Member

Here Lisa shares about her presentation at the recent insights Association CRC Chicago Conference, where she spoke with Jackie Chan, Head of Research, Business Messaging at Meta, and Terrae Schroeder, Head of Insights & Analytics Head of Insights & Analytics at Heartland Food Products Group.

I took the stage along with Jackie Chan and Terrae Schroeder, my co-leads of the Insights Association Business Impact Committee, on the closing day of CRC in Chicago this past month. We donned our capes to share early insights from the Insights Business Maturity Model Survey in a presentation called the “5 Superpowers of Influential Insights Teams.”

The study, which measures the degree to which Consumer Insight (CI) functions contribute materially to their organizations’ success, builds upon and updates the foundational work first introduced by BCG in 2008 and updated by BCG, Cambiar and Yale Center for Consumer Studies in 2015. We shared insights from the first 149 completed surveys in the U.S. and U.K. from members of the Insights Association (IA) and Market Research Society (MRS) (non-members will be included in the final report).  Only corporate teams, both consumer insight professionals (“CI”) plus stakeholders and senior management (collectively “Partners”), who work for companies whose primary business is not market research and analytics were invited to participate in the study.

Significant growth in the maturity of customer insights teams has been evidenced since the 2015 study which classified teams into four distinct stages:

  • Traditional/Emerging – CI functions that act primarily as order takers from their stakeholders.
  • Business Contributors – Commercial functions that have more of a strategic focus and offer thought leadership.
  • Strategic Insight Partners – Focused, strategic, trusted advisors, operating across the business.
  • Sources of Competitive Advantage – Corporate leaders focused on foresight and innovation from an enterprise perspective.

In 2015 only 20% of CI teams were found to be in Stages 3 and 4. While final analysis of maturity scores will enable the industry to definitively track progress, early results presented at CRC suggested that as many as two-thirds of respondents have reached Stage 3! Given that all early respondents are members of IA and MRS, organizations actively engaged in advancing insight impact, the level of maturity may likely exceed the industry average. Caveats in hand, we took up our roles as superheroes, and sought to identify the superpowers that set us apart.

Superpower #1:  Strategic Partnership

Top performing teams are viewed as strategic partners to the business. Compared to only 20% in 2015, two-thirds of early respondents—both CI professionals and their business partners—viewed CI as a strategic partner. These teams provide more than just a service, they build, maintain and nurture lasting and reciprocal alliances with key business teams, integrating themselves into the business and delivering insights that drive performance.

Superpower #2:  Voice in Decision Making

Top performing teams do more than simply report insights and recommendations, they facilitate decision making and may even have an equal role in decision making with business partners. Interestingly, among early responders, Business Partners more frequently (66%) saw their CI teams taking this role compared to their CI colleagues (55%). If these trends hold, the results suggest that CI teams have a bigger opportunity than perhaps they are taking. This is further supported by the 42% of participants sharing that CI needs to build stronger consultative skills with stakeholders.   

Superpower #3:  Impact KPIs that Matter

There is a clear separation of teams that deliver on the metrics that matter. Business partners elevate CI teams whom they see contributing materially to financial performance, putting the organization on a faster growth trajectory, and creating competitive advantage for the organization. Teams who routinely identify the business needs and deliver results that address these gaps distinguish themselves from those that deliver studies and data.

Superpower #4: Measuring Impact

In 2015, measuring ROI emerged as a major driver of CI Maturity, but only 31% of CI functions did so at that time. The good news in 2023 is that 57% of respondents reported measuring business impact. The reward for these organizations is that their business partners reported that CI investments deliver a high ROI, 96%, vs only 68% for those that don’t. While more than half of participants shared that measuring the impact and ROI of insights investments is difficult. For those that do, their efforts are rewarded by the confidence and satisfaction of their business partners.

Superpower #5:  Communicate Impact Regularly

Significant progress has been made in measuring the business impact of CI. However, only 15% of those CI functions that measure their impact also regularly communicate that impact to key stakeholders and business leaders. This is a huge risk and an opportunity for CI. If no one knows what they’ve done, then how can they engender the support and resources they require?

Attracting Support

A little more than half of the early participants lamented that in order to realize the full potential of their insights function, they needed the support of senior leadership in their organizations. While many respondents were happy to report that they have senior leader sponsorship, we heard clearly at CRC that in the context of global conflict, economic uncertainty, and increased pressures on businesses, all corporate insights and analytics teams feel the pressure of reduced resources and increased demand. In the face of these challenges, this study illustrates that there are superpowers that all teams can tap into to attract the support they need to create competitive advantage for their organizations and save the day!  

It’s Not Too Late

Corporate teams still have an opportunity to participate in this study and understand how their team is performing, simply go to https://survey.jibunu.com/Cambiar_0001/index.aspx?L=4&ncs=3

As a bonus, corporate CI teams can create a unique link for their organization and with a minimum of five team members and internal stakeholders, and receive their own unique maturity score. Individual and company responses are completely confidential and will not be shared publicly.

Thanks to sponsors of this important study: Insights Association, Cambiar, GRBN, MRS, The Research Society, jibunu and AXYZ analytics.

Resources for corporate teams looking for tools and tips on measuring business impact can be found on the Insights Association Resources Page at Business Impact of Insights (insightsassociation.org).

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