Reasons Not to Outsource Report Writing

My team really values delegating various aspects of the research process. We even have a half-day training seminar on how to do it better.

Yes, it’s important to outsource parts of projects to allow you to focus on important elements (or things that are interesting to you), but you run the risk of dispersing the ownership across too many people. If no one has ownership, then usable insights will be overlooked.

I do market research because I want to provide meaningful data to decision makers. But I find that many misinterpret the delegation directive and end up relegating themselves to a project manager role. (NB: I have the utmost respect for project managers as it is something I often struggle with.)

A project manager gets from A to B. But a researcher should be concerned about discovering what “B” is.

No more critical is this mistake than in the reporting phase of a project. I recently was asked to write a report for a study I had no involvement in. But I was assured that this wouldn’t take very long because “all of the PowerPoint slides had been populated with data and QC’d.” I accepted, but it soon became very clear that at no point was much thought put into the development of the report. The slides were comprised of simple “data dumps” — one slide per question — with poorly thought out slides.

I asked for more time, read the original project proposal, developed a deeper understanding of the topic, got excited about writing a good report, then constructed a report that I thought would be worthy of the client’s review. In other words, I was asked to put words to the data before anyone had providing meaning to the data.

In short, it’s very difficult to outsource the insights of a study. Understanding what is useful requires the researcher to roll up their sleeves, grab some coffee (or your upper of choice), and compare the client’s needs to the data.

I highly encourage other researchers out there who work on a team with an operational philosophy to report writing to reject that norm. Every part of the report writing process is driven by insights and treating a report like a car on an assembly line is misguided.

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