Skip to main contentIBM Design Research

Plan for success

A research plan is a document owned by the entire team that specifies what research will be conducted and how it will inform the team’s work. Limit a plan’s objectives to remove ambiguity and increase alignment. Research plans are not static, so remember to adjust as you learn.

Creating your plan

Start by defining your learning objectives, hypotheses, and assumptions as a team. Once your research plan is established, the Guide will create corresponding research protocols. A research protocol includes all of the steps needed to conduct the research activity. Protocols are specific to a single research activity, such as a contextual inquiry, a usability test, or a user interview.

Set expectations

Clearly describe how the research plan relates to both business and user outcomes. Your research plan should inform or validate your Hills. Rely on your Guide. Be explicit about what your team plans to learn or test. Always share your research plans and protocols across the larger team. This will help you gain alignment and drives action quicker.

This includes explaining in your research plan:

  • learning objectives
  • participants screening
  • methodologies and techniques for data collection, synthesis, and analysis
  • budget for conducting the research
  • success metrics
  • artifacts and deliverables

Get Started

Practice reflection

Embrace critique from the larger design research community. Share your plans and deliverables to get feedback on your methodology choices, research insights, and planning process.

When collecting feedback, ask these types of questions:

  • Were the original research objectives clear?
  • Did this research integrate with previously conducted research?
  • How strong is the analysis?
  • How actionable were the insights?
  • What from the research was most memorable?
  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of the research Playback?

Assess, revise, and plan next steps

At the end of a research activity, compare your insights against your original objectives. How well do they align? How have you reduced your team’s questions and assumptions about your experience? Are the implications and path forward clear?

The challenge of conducting research in the enterprise setting is speed. You don’t have the luxury of months of ethnographic research. Aim to be nimble. Ask yourself as a team, “What can we build today? What can we do to advance our team’s understanding?”

Where do you come in?

Reflect together on what you’d like to learn.

The Explorer:

  • What can we build to test this assumption?
  • How can I contribute to the research plan?
  • What might I learn from this research?

The Guide:

  • What hypotheses is the experience built on?
  • How well did we answer the objectives?
  • How fast is the team continually learning?
  • How does our experience measure up against the competition?