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How Charles Schwab Used dscout to Align, Scale Their ReOps

A team of research operations pros partnered with dscout to prioritize their processes, using moments collected from the very stakeholders they support internally.

Words by Ben Wiedmaier, Visuals by Jarred Kolar

Amy Rothbaum is a UX researcher and ReOps manager at Charles Schwab. As the team was growing its team to meet demand, Amy partnered with dscout to conduct an internal project with her fellow UXRs to explore working styles and preferences, and to align the operations function on how best to support those needs. She leveraged dscout Diary to do just that.

The Opportunity

Like many growing user research functions, the team at Charles Schwab was thinking about Research Operations (ReOps) and the best ways to support UXRs so they could conduct their work smoothly and efficiently and socialize their findings for stakeholders and key groups. Amy and the team wanted to source contextual feedback before building systems, so as to match need and avoid costly rework.

"There was a lot to do. Still, we had to be thinking about tools, effective tool sets, platforms and spaces, competency, enabling, educating and onboarding researchers and advocacy, defining, sharing and socializing the value of UX Research. The three of us on the ReOps team were swimming in a lot of to-dos."

"So this was our challenge. We had these organizing principles for how to bucket our work, but we were missing priorities. What was most important from these best practices and most relevant to our UX Research team at Schwab? And also, how should I find this out? It came to me, 'I can use my UX Research skills to explore a semi-unknown space.'"

Amy Rothbaum
Charles Schwab

The team had a set of principles grounding their work, but wanted to source priorities from their UX stakeholders. Amy decided that a dscout Diary study offered the right approach.

The Approach

It was important to give UXRs at Schwab the flexibility to submit as much (or as little) as they'd like, through questions that anticipated their responses and were in an accessible format to not disrupt their own busy schedules. Additionally, Amy wanted to partner with dscout's Special Services team to collaborate on the analysis and early synthesis. This would not only offer fresh eyes on critical data, but would give participants more comfort to express their feeling freely, knowing that their colleagues would not be seeing the raw data.

"I chose to conduct a diary study for two key reasons. I wanted to gather input from the team over a series of weeks. A researcher's work ebbs and flows, especially depending on which phase of a research study they are in. Conducting a diary study also enabled me to partner with dscout to analyze the diary study entries."

"I knew I had strong feelings after working on the team as a researcher for several years about where I wanted ReOps to focus its efforts, and I did not want to unintentionally interpret the diary study submissions through that lens. We are not a user research team of one after all."

Amy Rothbaum
Charles Schwab

The Diary study consisted of five smaller activities, spanning basic information about a UXR's practice and approach, their current perceptions of available tools, their upcoming work, and even a drawing activity aimed at uncovering their typical research process. Overall, the study offered the ReOps team a fuller view of their colleagues' habits, preferences, and own starting points—with this, Amy felt confident in the systems her team would build.

The Impact

The ReOps team surfaced many areas of opportunity. One of the stickier themes was UXRs' own commitment to sharpening and growing their practices, both for their own development and to better support their stakeholders. From ReOps, these UXRs were seeking advocacy: to be leaned on for their expertise earlier, and more often throughout the product development lifecycle. This gave Amy and her team a north star as they translated their own principles into a research operations practice and structure.

"This study's findings enabled ReOps to do what I initially set out to do, we could identify where to prioritize our time. I was able to adapt a list of best practices into a series of goals for research ops specific to the needs and challenges of the researchers on our team."

Amy Rothbaum
Charles Schwab

Ben is the product evangelist at dscout, where he spreads the “good news” of contextual research, helps customers understand how to get the most from dscout, and impersonates everyone in the office. He has a doctorate in communication studies from Arizona State University, studying “nonverbal courtship signals”, a.k.a. flirting. No, he doesn’t have dating advice for you.

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