Feb 032009

You’ve heaved a sigh of relief now that the research has been contracted out; time now to get on with all the other things on your plate!

Imagine you commissioned builders to build your house extension; would you leave them to it?

More likely you’d want to check how things are going, maybe even adjust things a little as you go along.
You need to keep tabs on the research project, so you know it’s going along the right lines, keeping to time and budget, and to respond to queries and problems as they arise.

You may be able to share this overseeing responsibility with someone else in your organisation, or on your project board. Here are five things that need to be done.

1.    Be available

Particularly at the start, your researchers will need access to you or someone in your organisation, to provide background information, and essentials like client lists, details of programmes you run, provide feedback on their draft questionnaire, etc.

Later your involvement is likely to diminish, though there should always be someone available to respond.

2.    Make your contributions

However much you want the researchers to take the work off your hands, there are bound to be tasks which have to be done by someone in your organisation. If the researchers are to keep to their timescale, they depend on you to provided lists, and give feedback on their plans and drafts quickly. Delays at your end will introduce delays in their work.

3.    Formal review

Unless you have commissioned a very small piece of research, you have probably built in some formal checkpoints. These are likely to be milestone events such as completion of a stakeholder workshop, or completion of key chunks of work such as gathering data.

You may have scheduled meetings to review progress, perhaps requesting a verbal or written progress report.

These milestones are often tied into payment schedules, making them straightforward to monitor on both sides.

4.    Informal contact

If you set up a good relationship with your researchers, they will feel encouraged to keep in touch with you. This is time well spent, since it means that if things do go off-course you’ll hear sooner rather than later.

If you are unavailable for more than a few days it’s a good idea to give your researchers another contact.

5.    Troubleshoot

If you or the researchers feel there’s a challenge to be tacked with the research that is beyond their remit, you will need to make time to have an input, and perhaps make a decision.

The bottom line: Being available, ensuring your organisation makes its contribution, keeping formal and informal checks on progress, and troubleshooting will ensure your research runs smoothly, and that you don’t get any nasty surprises at the end.

© May Johnstone, 2008, Project Perspectives.co.uk. Please feel free to circulate this article provided it is used in its entirety, including this acknowledgement.

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