Plan for each phase, each sprint and update the plan

A research plan can be one of the outputs of a design sprint, when there is one.  If not, it’s still helpful to write one as soon as possible. To be accessible to both team and stakeholders, it can be a brief document: two sides of A4 can suffice, the first with headings and bullet points, the second a schedule of activities. The process of editing it down to such a short format can help to deepen understanding and prepare for questions that might arise.

Schedule of research activities to synchronise with sprint cycle

A time plan of research activities synchronised to sprint cycle and linking to JIRA tickets.

A schedule of research activities from another project synchronised to Gov Digital Services’ stages of development

Bitesize chunks of information and graphics are more accessible than prose heavy paragraphs, and though editing can take as much time as writing, the effort isn’t wasted on the audience.

The research plan is the first deliverable – but what’s it for ?

It helps with:-

  • “Setting out your stall ” (a metaphor for stating position, approach, intentions)
  • Outlining the: scale of the programme, research activities, number of participants, key contacts etc.
  • Scoping resources
  • Anticipating challenges
  • Publicising the research schedule and relevant milestones
  • Reassuring everyone that research is underway and fit for purpose

Consulting or seeking input from team, stakeholders and even users, when writing a plan helps to:-

  • Stimulate and enrich thinking
  • Make the process an exercise in participatory design
  • Raise awareness of research
  • Obtain resource
  • Pave the way for results making an impact
Conference delegates

Conferences offer opportunities to research

To keep ahead it’s worth thinking about starting lengthy tasks as the plan’s being written,
tasks such as:-

  • Establishing a “lite” contact and CRM programme for onboarding, administering and tracking research participants
  • Obtaining budget for remuneration and expenses
  • Defining policies e.g. confidentiality, data protection
  • Working on the questions and artefacts that’ll be used for the first sessions

Another consideration is when to update the research plan. The Gov.UK defines four stages of service development:-

  • Discovery
  • Alpha
  • Beta (private and public)
  • Live

Revising the plan before each is helpful as the research requirement evolves from being formative to summative.

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