The Road to a Research Repository Begins with an Inventory

Clipboard in front of a wall of boxes labeled "Research Studies"

About once a week, we hear someone say something along these lines…

“I just started a new job as Research Ops Manager. They’ve never had one before. I need to figure out how to do all the things!”

Building out a research repository is almost always on their list. That’s because it’s one of the first things they’re told when they walk through the door by all the people who were already doing and consuming research.

“We’ve got things stored everywhere. Some is on personal hard drives or in shared drives that only certain people have access to. Some of it is on Confluence, but it’s really hard to find. We also have…”

It can be daunting.

One approach is to say, we’re going to get organized… starting now… and all that past research is just going to languish in isolation wherever it happens to be.

Depending on the volume and relevance of the existing research, that approach might be the right tradeoff. But it doesn’t address the pain that most of the organizations we hear from are experiencing. Rather, they know they are duplicating studies that have already been done. They also know that there are connections waiting to be made, insights waiting to be extracted, if only they could easily look across what’s already out there.

Well, we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to go all in right away with a research repository. It’s much more sustainable to think evolution, not revolution, when it comes to your org’s research practice. There’s an initial step you can take toward a repository that is a lighter lift and provides immediate value on its own—a research inventory.

What is a Research Inventory?

You can think of a research inventory as an intermediate step on the road to your shiny new research repository. A research inventory is a centralized document (or set of documents) that points to existing studies and insights wherever they are currently located, providing enough context to be able to determine the relevance of each item.

A successful inventory of existing research should accomplish the following goals:

  • Log references to all existing studies and insights for your organization. Or, in the spirit of evolution, logging references to the most valuable studies and insights first.
  • Document sufficient context for each study and insight so that people can judge the relevance of each item without having to dig through the details.
  • Provide links to additional details (tools, data, files, etc.) for those who do need to dig in further.

A Simple Template to Inventory Existing Research

To make it easy for you to get started in your organization, we created a simple research inventory template following the guidelines above.

Two sheets of the same inventory template spreadsheet

While a simple inventory won’t have all the positive benefits of a full-fledged repository, even this simple step can have a significant positive impact on the use of research in an organization. When someone has the question, “Have we done any research on…?”, they can turn to this humble spreadsheet for a quick answer and direction to more details.

With a clear, structured picture of your organization’s existing research in hand, you’ll be well-positioned to migrate that data into a centralized research repository, whenever your team is ready for it.

Once you’ve had a chance to get started on your research inventory, let us know how it’s going!


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