When Senior User Experience Researcher Sherah Beck joined the CNN Growth Team almost a year ago, she brought years of experience with her from her years at Instacart. She came in ready to put her skills to work to improve the TV experience and mobile experience for the new CNN+ streaming service.
One of the most important experiences (and related skillsets) she brought to CNN was research operations — specifically, launching a research repository, or “repo.”
Sherah shared in our recent conversation, “One of the things that my hiring panel was really interested in was some of the operations work that I had led at Instacart. So they were like, ‘Hey, you have experience with launching something like this. Why don't you just kind of take it on and figure it out?’”
At Instacart, Sherah’s team was originally using Google Drive to share information, and over time it became too much to manage. Even keeping track of all those Google Docs and Google Slides decks in a spreadsheet became unwieldy and impossible to search. At a research conference, she learned that some organizations were solving this problem with repo tools like EnjoyHQ. When she got back to her desk, she created a proposal to get a repo tool for the Instacart user experience team and began her quest to solve the research storage and sharing problem.
So when Sherah came to CNN, she knew full well the value of a repo for a large and dynamic organization, and she was excited to take this on again. What she discovered, however, was that her new lead research role at CNN was not an apples-to-apples comparison to what she did at Instacart. Instacart and CNN operated very differently, and she had some unique challenges to overcome.
The Case for Making the Case Easier
“I'll be in a meeting, and someone will say something, and I'll be like, ‘Actually, I know a lot about this topic, because I've talked to hundreds of users about this, and I know this very detailed slice of information.’ Then they’ll ask, ‘Oh, what research report is that in?’,” Sherah said. “And I’ll respond, ‘Well, I learned a little bit about it from this study, and then a little from that, and then a little from that. So I don't really have the right deck to show you that insight.’ I knew we needed something better than that, that cuts across research studies. So that's where a story would be really valuable.”
Sherah found that there were two main use cases for a CNN research repo:
- A place for researchers to keep all their research stored, tagged, and organized
- A place for stakeholders to find the research they’re looking for
Based on her experience implementing a repo at Instacart, she knew that EnjoyHQ was the ideal solution for both of these use cases.
The researcher use case
“Internally, as researchers, [EnjoyHQ] helps us to organize our projects, to talk the same language, share the same kind of approach,” Sherah said.
“So, we know, ‘Oh, I remember that so-and-so did a diary study. How did they approach it?’ And then we go in and see what our data looks like, what our research plan was like. It replaced the need for Google Docs, to an extent, for where our actual research stuff lived.”
The stakeholder library use case
“If you have insights that you want people to be aware of, it makes more sense to make it as accessible as possible. What we are trying to do with the repo is create those stories that are very easy to search, and ensure that we have a labeling or tagging taxonomy that is consistently used.”
Sherah found this second use case to be the most powerful. As long as she could roll out EnjoyHQ in a way that people were consistently using tags, stakeholders could use it as a research library. One that would help them quickly find what they needed — and discover things they didn’t know they needed: research related to what they were looking for. “Some stakeholders just literally don’t know what they don’t know,” Sherah shared.
Approaching the Repo With Projects and Stories in Mind
When it comes to using EnjoyHQ, Sherah’s team at CNN thinks in terms of “projects” for researchers and “stories” for stakeholders.
Projects include all the details of the research — including how many participants there were, and how long the session was. Stories, on the other hand, eliminate the unnecessary details for stakeholders and present them with key insights.
Sherah’s launch plan
Sherah knew that taking the time to launch EnjoyHQ right, and not rushing the process, would be important for helping people see its true value. Luckily, the people at CNN were used to taking their time.
“At CNN, it's not a startup mentality,” she shared. “It's a large corporation that has been around for decades, and they're used to things moving more slowly. They're used to being more patient and giving the benefit of the doubt.”
Sherah took advantage of the slower-paced environment to roll out EnjoyHQ in thoughtfully planned stages.
First, she did a presentation for the research team. She presented slides on the two use cases for EnjoyHQ, and how the team should organize their research in the new repo. Then she opened up office hours, so every week people could come to talk to her one-on-one, ask questions, and get help putting their projects in EnjoyHQ. She also created a Slack channel, pinned the slide deck to the top, and started sharing all the ways she was using EnjoyHQ.
This first phase with the researchers ended in a months-long beta period. During that time, the researchers were asked to put all their research projects in EnjoyHQ, and the team began creating stories for the stakeholders.
Phase two was all about onboarding the stakeholders. She helped them learn how to use EnjoyHQ to find the information they were looking for — but she also gathered their initial feedback with the purpose of refining the research team’s approach to using the repo before the full, organization-wide launch.
How the Work Paid Off in Spades
With all the research in one spot in EnjoyHQ, it was a huge win for Sherah and her team to be able to show CNN leadership that they could find any information they needed in the new repo.
More importantly for Sherah’s day-to-day work, however, EnjoyHQ is helping her communicate in a more concrete way what she has in her head.
“I have this pain point of convincing stakeholders of things,” she shared. “They don't always listen to you when you speak. But when you have the evidence — and that's what research is — that you can actually point to and say, ‘Here are concrete ways that we observed this,’ that is so powerful.”
“That’s why, beyond the organization of having everything in one place, that ability to show patterns across projects, and not digging up a deck here and there, and all that slog of trying to communicate things that are in your mind and top of mind. That's what EnjoyHQ solves.”
Lessons Learned: If She Were to Do It Again …
While Sherah loves the end result of having EnjoyHQ for CNN’s repo tool, she admits that launching it was a large, slow undertaking. If she were to do it again, she might take a different approach.
“I probably would skip doing the onboarding and all of that, and just go straight to starting to use it with a small group of people, and then expanding from there.”
Interested in more implementation stories? Check out our next webinar!