Erin Duncan is part of Intuit—the global technology platform that makes TurboTax, QuickBooks, Mint, Credit Karma, and Mailchimp. She is part of the research and insights team supporting small businesses and their workers, a group experiencing a variety of changes accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As she and her team were building and improving software solutions for these folks to stay afloat, more questions surfaced about the employees of these smaller firms who were also acutely affected. The Intuit QuickBooks team wanted to increase their knowledge of these people, who are often overlooked as just a part of the workforce monolith, and use it to create technology for small businesses with their employees in mind.
Erin, along with her research partners Mark Vachon and Jennifer Price, provided customer context to the product organization to support their roadmap development.
dscout: What was your approach to designing this research?
Erin: What was really important to us is that we wanted to get a sampling that closely matched the demographics and socioeconomics for that profile of the people who work for small businesses and make sure that our sample reflected that.
We chose a Diary study because we wanted to understand these folks over time, and we know everybody's day is a little different, but Mark and I really wanted to understand, "What are the highs and lows of working for a small business?" It was also important that we have a broad representation across the country, dscout was able to offer that for us.
Given the breadth of impact this work could have, how did you coordinate or keep looped-in stakeholders and collaborators?
We had a core team that would meet at the end of each week to debrief on what we learned, things we were seeing in the data, surprises. The engagement was really strong. The quick clips—people loved the intimacy—the directness that came from it.
We also published when we were conducting Live interview sessions and extended invitations for folks to observe. Many of our designers came to those sessions—their designs and concepts were the focus so it made sense—but we also had product managers.
Folks liked accessing the recordings, too, in case they couldn't watch in real-time. The recordings are so critical for stakeholders as they build and refine based on them without any framing from us. It's that initiative and interest that really makes those recordings useful.
The variety of participants and their perspectives was so rich, and so it's me championing what dscout could let us do and who it gave us access to.
The Intuit QuickBooks team has used dscout a few times now. Do you have advice for another team considering using the method?
I think the fact that Diary is unmoderated is great because, although there might be bias in the questions that you're offering—you do your work to prevent that—but your energy (as a researcher) isn't necessarily there to bias it either. It's certainly different than in a moderated interview.
Of course, it was nice to have both types of studies in this single project. We did the diary study and the live session, and it was great that the diary studies were unmoderated, so we could get some of who they are without us... them trying to mirror or respond to our perspective, and then we got to know them a bit better in the live session.
So what has the impact been—what’s next?
What we learned and our success with dscout Diary set off a chain of other adjacent research and product explorations. Directly related to this worker research, several teams have been iterating on solutions to help small business employees who are paid with QuickBooks Payroll.
As far as research, we are just now kicking off a follow-up quant study to help us understand our small business worker findings at scale, providing us another dimension to the story.