How we embedded research insights into product and business decisions

Lucia, our head of research, talks through building out our research team
By Team member, 25/05/2021
4 minutes read

You might ask, why would somebody get excited about making insurance radically better? And it’s a valid question! Let’s consider life insurance, for example. Life insurance prices were first based on age alone. In the 1970s, basic data points such as gender and smoker status were incorporated, followed by weight, blood pressure and family history in the 80s and 90s.

Today (meaning more than 20 years later!) an ever-increasing supply of data presents an opportunity to switch from socio-economic status pricing to behavioural based pricing. This is a huge opportunity to give more people access to reasonably priced insurance products — making Cuvva an exciting place to be right now. It’s also an incredible opportunity for our growing research team to collaborate on various projects across business, design, content, product, marketing and engineering teams — helping to define exactly what this should look like.

Forming the research team at Cuvva

When forming our research team, we initially started by defining the future scope of the team. What kind of research do we want to engage with? What teams will be the most engaged with research? What do we need the most — UX research, user research, market research, content research? How do we prioritise projects across different teams? Should we have a researcher per product team? How about the other areas? You get the point.

Then we asked ourselves a very different question — how would the research team operate if we could define company strategy?

Meet the strategic research team

It is hard to imagine a company being truly customer-centric if they don’t embed the voice of their users into their decision-making process, which ranges from small design changes to massive strategic decisions. If the goal is to build products that users love, it’s our responsibility to create alignment across disciplines with our users.

We decided to free ourselves from the operational limitations (such as small team size, a pandemic situation which took away the opportunity to conduct research in person), and conventional approach to research (such as the need for specialisation, embedding researchers to product teams, etc). Instead, we allowed ourselves to fundamentally rethink the role of research at Cuvva and created a new approach that fulfils the needs of a fast-growing startup.

We formed an independent unit of researchers focusing on usability, content, and exploration. All researchers are engaged in research triangulation (a result of close collaboration with data scientists), and are free to work across the various disciplines at Cuvva.

Aligning research strategy with product, design, and content research

When we run UX, UI or content research, the outcomes of the projects are focused on improving the individual product experiences. User research teams traditionally focus on an in-depth understanding of users and their interactions (experiences) with the product, which is crucial for designing delightful, enjoyable experiences.

However, we saw an opportunity to go one additional step further and include the results of these user interactions — the business outcomes — as a subject of our research.This means not just looking into the usability of certain bits of the app, but also looking into bigger picture problems that are intertwined with business and business strategy. Think churn, loyalty, trust. This enabled us to generate insights that apply not just to product and design teams, but also to business and marketing teams.

Moving research beyond user experience was the catalyst for becoming a truly user-centric company. At Cuvva, our user’s voice is represented in decision making on every level — from minor usability improvements to influencing our business strategy.

How can this be achieved with limited resources? Consider Jobs-to-be-Done framework

This change in structure was followed by a change in our thinking. We reverse-engineered the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework, the theory for discovering user needs developed by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen and applied it internally to all the interactions with our stakeholders. The secret sauce? The research team treats the teams we collaborate with internally across Cuvva as our users.

Applying the JTBD concept of users “hiring” product to help them to do a job resulted in a realisation that product, content design, product design, marketing teams and business teams are reaching out to researchers (or “hiring researchers” with no pun intended 😏) to help them to do a certain job. Their job is not to read the research reports, or watch the interviews, or swim in the sea of quantitative and qualitative data with us, nor to be entertained with pretty infographics. Their job is to make good decisions.

This was an important shift in our thinking because it freed us from the pressure to follow the standard research “best practices” and unleashed a lot of creativity within the team when it comes to designing, conducting and communicating research.

So, how does it work in practice?

A diagram of the structure of the research team

The structure of the research team at Cuvva

Vertically, our team is structured of usability, content and exploratory researchers who engage with various teams cross-functionally on a horizontal level. They are not embedded to any particular team, rather they bring their expertise to various teams which also supports a very efficient knowledge transfer. Additionally, we continuously conduct strategic research that is helping us to identify our business direction, guide the product teams in their OKRs setting, and proactively explore what features to build next.

Creativity unleashed

This simple realisation was a backbone for our decision to structure our user research team in a way that will allow a small team of researchers to provide strategic direction about which products or features to build next, ensure continuous usability testing and measure users’ comprehension of our communication.

Our team is expanding and therefore we’re on a lookout for talented, creative, open-minded individuals to join us on our mission to make not just insurance, but also approach to research at startups radically better. 🚀

Team member