Last week I spent some time running workshops with Market Insight professionals from across a broad spectrum of organisations. These professionals came from mostly in-house research and analysis teams, and the majority of them seemed to be facing a similar set of challenges.
On the one hand they find themselves competing with other internal service groups also claiming that they offer their business insight - from finance to HR and IT, many teams are now positioning themselves as self-styled gurus. On the other, with the advent of cloud-based commodity services like Survey Monkey, the "stuff" of market insight - particularly market research studies - has become commoditised with an inevitable result: headline prices have plummeted (often to zero) and so the value in such exercises now is increasingly questioned - either implicitly or explicitly.
Now it's all well and good for a Market Insight professional to argue that just bunging out a survey on a free web tool isn't "proper research", but it's a moot point when their clients can't see the value proposition.
Any of this sound familiar? To me it sounds very similar to a journey that many of us in IT have been on over the past decade. Commoditisation and utilitisation of services that were once provided as a monopoly internal service. Internal service providers now as a result operating in a vacuum. Existential crisis. (Maybe it's just me that's had that last stage...)
How do you respond to finding yourself in a competitive market? Well, you can stand in a corner and pretend it's not happening, but unless your retirement is really close, that's something of a career-limiting move.
The best alternative, surely, is to get competitive. And that means becoming much more client-focused, to think about your overall client proposition, to be clear about articulating the value proposition you offer everywhere and regularly, and most of all to stop thinking that your clients will just come to you because they have no alternative.
IT people have been living this challenge for over a decade now. We should be helping other service departments in organisations to come to terms with what internal competitive services look like. And we should also be leading conversations about what support services should look like in the digital era, because they sure as anything aren't like those of the decades before.