3 ResearchOps Questions for Daniel Fandra, Somia Customer Experience | by Writing@TeamReOps | researchops-community | May, 2023


A ResearchOps Member Spotlight — ReOps in an agency environment, treating vendors as team members, and a ‘vlogger mode’ approach for bringing overseas clients to the homes of participants.

A portrait of Daniel, paired with a research ops logo.

Our ResearchOps community is made up of members with diverse backgrounds, working on varied operations in their organizations, with dreams of advancing researchers’ craft even further. By spotlighting individual members, we grow awareness of common challenges and new strategies to think bigger about ResearchOps.

3 questions for Daniel:

1. How did you get started in ResearchOps? What background do you bring to your current role?

Hi! My name is Daniel. I am a Research Ops in Somia Customer Experience, a Research and Service Design Consultancy based in Indonesia and Singapore.

I started my career back in the early days of university. I worked as a surveyor–recruiting respondents for surveys at one of the biggest malls in Jakarta. During my final year of university, I worked as a freelance notetaker.

Later, I was promoted to manage quality checks, project management, and research at a market research agency for almost 5 years. As a project manager, I discovered the joy of managing research projects and interacting with all the stakeholders internally and externally in the project.

After that, I pursued my career as a Research Ops at one of the biggest e-commerce companies in Indonesia. It was how I met UX Research. Not long after, I left the company to join Somia CX. Now, it’s been 4 years since I joined Somia CX and managed the Research Operations as a team of one.

As a Research Ops, I primarily focused on planning, monitoring, managing, and collaborating with internal teams and third parties in all projects of Somia Customer Experience. One of the charms of my work is it transforms me to be a good facilitator for my internal team and external teams such as clients, partners, and vendors.

One of the hardest challenges as a Research Ops in an agency was to navigate around multiple projects as each project has its own challenges. We need to be strategic with the time management between projects and daily tasks. We also need to be able to jump around and catch up with a few different things.

2. Which aspects of ResearchOps have you focused on, and what advice do you have for people getting started on the same?

I focus on how I can make sure all the project work flows are efficient and effective since we collaborate with various stakeholders, eg: team members, clients, partners, third party vendors (interpreter, recruitment team, transcriber, local fixer), and research participants. I need to come up with a standardized way of work and quality of work that can be applicable to all the projects within our company.

One of the highlights of my work is how I learn to engage and develop a partnership with our vendors. I learned to treat them as team members rather than external parties so we got to collaborate better and establish project ownership together.

In Somia CX, we have 3 ways of conducting research, eg: in person, remote research, or hybrid. All of the methods have their own risks and benefits in our research and project. Here are some of the challenges I encountered:

  1. How can we help our interpreter deliver a smooth interpretation during our interview sessions?
    We have a simultaneous interpreter who works behind the scenes to support overseas clients to understand and capture the local nuances during the research sessions. The interpreter translates Indonesian into English in real-time. To deliver a smooth interpretation, we always ensure the audio quality is checked before we run the session.
  2. Since every project has different goals and objectives, we collaborate with various parties to ensure the smooth running of the research. That’s why we need to come up with a standard to make sure that all the vendors that collaborate with us are able to meet our standard.
  3. Our clients lived in various countries. The time zone difference becomes one of the challenges as we are based in Indonesia and usually ahead of our clients’ timezone. Late-night briefing calls are usual for us. On top of that, we sometimes also need to arrange the research sessions to accommodate the time difference so the clients can observe the session.
  4. And last but not least, how can we facilitate the clients who have travel limitations to take part in the research sessions more interactively?
    Last year, we came up with a creative way to ensure the clients can observe the shadowing that we did. Our consultants became the eye and the ears of the clients. Unlike regular remote interview setup with laptop or computer, this time, our consultants went on Vlogger mode.
    The setup was quite tricky but we managed to come up with the solution so our clients can observe and ‘tag along’ the research participants naturally.

My project highlight from last year would be managing home appliances research projects during the pandemic. Since the products were not digital, the methods we did were a little bit different. We did some participant shadowing, diary study, and in-depth interviews. Here came the challenge, our clients were not able to travel to tag along our consultants yet they wished to be immersed in the research sessions.

After trial and error, we came up with this solution. We would not be using a regular interview setup. Our consultants who got to visit the participants’ home would be the eye and the ears of the clients. And, at the same time, our clients would also get to tune in and see what happened on the field real time.

But how?

We went on Vlogger mode.

A participant talks through what’s in their freezer in their home, while an interviewer holds a clipboard and a second person holds the ‘vlogger’ device to point the camera.

Please check this short explanation at our Instagram

Image of the ‘vlogger’ setup: Call out text says “Zoom broadcast with LIVE interpetation. Our clients observed via Zoom and accompanied by our interpreter who translated the session real time”
  • Self modification tripod
  • Smartphone
  • Clip on
Image of the ‘vlogger’ setup: Call out text says: A. Camera #1 (Action Cam) Document the session offline. B. Camera #2 (Smartphone) Broadcast the session on zooom. C. Mic for Smartphone, Zoom’s audio input, placed near the respondents respondents when talking. D. Powerpack, the power supply for the Smartphone & Action cam.

Let me break it down:

  • We prepared a smartphone to connect with the streaming platform as the main visual for our clients, this smartphone was attached to a tripod that we modified from an action-cam tripod.
  • The moderator would handheld the smartphone. As for the audio, we prepared a headset with a mic to capture audio from the field.
  • The notetaker took notes while joining the streaming.
  • The interpreter also joined the streaming to translate the sessions from Indonesian to English to help our clients keep up with the sessions.

My advice for people who want to start a career in Research Ops

  • Always try to come up with creative solutions and always experiments.
  • Most people thought the pilot study was only valuable for the researchers, but for me, I find it valuable too as we also got to test out the setup. A research study won’t have smooth sailing if not supported by a proper setup.
  • Network! Meet up with research peeps and get inspired from them.
  • Communication. We are the expert, bringing more value to the clients by filling them in with local context and stories so they can capture the local nuances better.

3. What would you like to see as the next big thing for ResearchOps in your organization?

One of the challenges for me being a Research Ops is being tied to multiple projects at the same time. This makes me dwell a lot in day-to-day tasks and struggling to see the bigger picture. To some extent, these tasks can be overwhelming, resulting in us missing some crucial milestones.

Hence, based on the condition above, we are planning to implement some improvement of our work flow in the project from the beginning of project commission to project hand over to the consultants, recruitment and fieldwork preparation, fieldwork days, deliverables collection and project documentation. The aim is to streamline the Research Ops scope and consultants’.

Personally I want to learn more from the Research Ops Community. I know that the Research Operations folks in Indonesia are still quite rare, not all the companies have their own Research Ops. Most Research Ops are part of in-house department in start ups and are tied to UX or Design Department.

What ResearchOps outcomes have you not put a lot of work into yet — but get you fired up and dreaming?

Being a Research Ops requires us to have knowledge not only on a tactical level but also on a strategic level. Since we Research Ops ought to know research methods, recruitment profiling, timelines, communicating between the consultants and vendors, etc, which all of these are beneficial to make a project run smoothly or not. Thus, I imagined that Research Ops can be a good Project Manager, since we know about the nitty gritty details in running a project.

I’m actively exploring how I can better streamline my workflow and also with the help of supportive project management tools that can bring a good impact to my daily work. I would imagine that I as a project manager can have a “helicopter view” of multiple projects, backed with supportive tools where I can see all of the milestones and activities.

The UX Research & Service Design industries in Indonesia are still growing. As one of the practitioners and specialists in this field We are aiming to introduce UX Research and Service Design to wider industries so more and more companies can develop excellent products and services. I believe that ResearchOps can take up more roles and contribute greatly to these industries.

In Indonesia, Somia CX initiated the UX community (UXID) back in 2014 and in 2018 we initiated the Service Design community (SDID). With the help of members and volunteers, we held community events such as the UXID conference in 2014 & 2018, Jakarta Service Jam (2020–2023) and Service Design Conference (2019). Please check our website https://uxid.org & https://servicedesign.id

Image of community gathered on beach in a group portrait.

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