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Salesforce Ignite on Research that Delivers High-Level Business Value

Giving stakeholders what they want means developing great value props and meeting expectations. Here's how Salesforce used dscout to do just that. 

Words by Tony Ho Tran, Visuals by Emma McKhann

Salesforce’s Ignite team plays a unique role at the organization.

Rather than primarily working in-house on Salesforce’s own priorities, they focus on using human-centered design, research and strategy for external partners to help them reimagine their businesses around their customers.

“We help Salesforce’s most ambitious clients solve their big existential problems,” says Chris Weber, Ignite’s Innovation Director. “Whether that means figuring out how to reorganize themselves to be nimbler or customer centric, thinking about new businesses and services that they might offer, or how to go after a new kind of customer. Those things are in our wheelhouse.”

When Chris and his team are brought in, they address the needs of higher-level stakeholders in the C-Suite who ask bigger, more strategic questions. To answer these macro issues, this team uses micro methods such as fieldwork to get things done.

To help, they leverage a variety of tools to glean insights and develop solid value propositions while remaining nimble and addressing stakeholder expectations quickly.

Chris Weber is...

…Salesforce Ignite’s Innovation Director and Strategy Lead. He champions customer-driven design and strategy for all of the projects he and his team at Salesforce Ignite takes on.

User research at Salesforce Ignite is...

…lean but robust. Each member of the team often wears different hats depending on the day. “Our group is composed of strategists, designers and researchers, but it's a group that is firmly grounded in the design thinking process—so our roles are a little bit flexible.”

The problem:

One of Salesforce’s partners, a toy company, came to Chris and his team with a problem: they had invested tens of millions of dollars into developing a new technology for their customers—but it wasn’t delivering the results they needed.

They needed to figure out why this was the case, and see how they could improve upon it.

“They were trying to understand where the value was in the technology,” Chris says. “They thought it was primarily a business modeling opportunity. If they could just find new business models, it would help justify this technology’s existence.”

“We did some workshops and ran ideation sessions. As we looked at things, we felt completely ungrounded in our decision-making process.”

The issue: they still didn’t know what their consumer’s needs were. It also didn’t help that the partner had been doing granular research on features rather than value propositions.

“They were A/B testing features,” Chris recalls. “So what we needed was to test value propositions. We needed to know what was resonant with parents, what would make them feel comfortable about adopting technology and bringing it into their homes.”

So even though the client wanted to find a high level of business value in the technology, there wasn’t any grounding in consumer needs and expectations.

“We didn’t have a sense of how to make a decision,” Chris says. “They weren’t doing that kind of testing. They were asking more traditional questions like, ‘Where do you want a button?’ and ‘Which kinds of features do you want to see?’”

He continues, “They’re the wrong questions to be asking, especially in the early phases of product development, if you’re trying to understand what the product is supposed to be doing for your end consumer.”

Chris and his team knew they needed to find the value proposition behind the product. They also needed to finish on a tighter timeline to meet the expectations of their stakeholders.

That’s when they turned to dscout.

If I can say to a client, ‘We surveyed 900 people,’ that checks a couple of boxes and gives us credibility in the room.

Chris Weber

The solution:

To get the high level of business value their partner needed, they needed to work quickly.

“It’s very easy to say, ‘We don’t have time to do consumer research,’ so for our organization, the true value of a platform like dscout is that it has incredible breadth and flexibility. We can do a lot of different things with it and stay within the platform. We can run diary studies, surveys, and one-on-one interviews. We can get instant feedback from people, and then reach back out to them and follow up.... and we can do it all very quickly.”

Luckily, dscout allowed Salesforce Ignite to shorten timelines dramatically in order to deliver on the technology’s high-level business value.

“When I first started consulting, we would allocate a month for the round of research. It would be a week of recruiting and writing your screeners, and maybe another couple of days of following up with people, scheduling, and booking your travel to different cities for representation,” he explains. “Then a week of ethnographic research.”

“It’s really hard to justify that kind of time investment when your stakeholder may not be asking for those ground-level consumer insights—but we need them no matter what. So being able to do it more quickly [with dscout] has been a tremendous value add.”

They also leveraged dscout’s screener tool to use it “as a survey” to better tailor and hone their fieldwork. This helped lend credibility to their process and get stakeholders to buy in.

“If I can say to a client, ‘We surveyed 900 people,’ that checks a couple of boxes and gives us credibility in the room,” Chris says.

With dscout they were also able to conduct interviews, use concept comparisons, and attain diary work all in the same sprint.

Case Study: Dear Diary …

We spoke to [our scouts] in depth and had them do diary studies about their lives.

That’s not just hearing what people say. It’s actually seeing what they do. And there’s a big difference in that. There’s observational value in being able to see what a person does, which is often different than what they say they do.

A diary study also helps you see just a snapshot of their life without you actually being there. It’s kind of the quantum theory that says the act of observation changes the outcome inherently, right? So if you were in a house talking to someone, you’re going to change the way they act. I think it’s a little purer with a phone.

The impact:

In the end, Chris and his team were able to identify the underlying value proposition and opportunities where this product could delight their customers.

“We had this observation that the technology was fairly complex and could only be totally understood by kids in the nine-to-ten-year age range,” he explains. “But that was also exactly when kids moved away from toys they played when they were younger. So we got to this conclusion in a week or two about what we called the ‘abandonment chasm,’ which was exactly when you want to be selling them something.”

Using data attained by their partner, they were able to back up their findings. “And they had that represented in their data as well from thousands of survey responses and things they spent a lot of money and time getting to—but they didn’t have the insight of what to do about it,” he says. “And we did. We got to do something that was quantifiable and backed up by their own research, but we had greater insight on it.”

Tony Ho Tran is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. His articles have appeared in Huff Post, Business Insider, Growthlab, and wherever else fine writing is published.

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