• How to involve Swisscom
staff outside our group to gain
other insights (e.g., technical,
design) so we can move beyond
pure user research (e.g., creating
new product ideas) and address
specific questions within the
• How to keep the link with
the operational units and their
management to stay tuned about
what matters strategically to
the company and, consequently,
to identify where our research
should be heading; and
• How to keep differentiating
from other user research units
within our company, given the
growing pressure on costs.
order to differentiate. Ethnography
is our core belief and differentiator. Over the years, we have developed a methodology that enables
us to bring unique insights to our
management in a more efficient
and systematic way.
The takeaway: The heart of any
User Observatory should be field
research: observe and interview
people in their daily contexts.
This creates realistic insights to
which managers can immediately relate.
2. Find ways to create recurring
discussion areas with management in order to focus on what is
strategically relevant. We try to
find lasting or recurring topics
of discussion with the management of the operational units
for example about results of our
longitudinal study, or “products
portfolio roadmaps.” We are also
experimenting with a new format of interaction: the position
paper. This short report provides
an opinion on a strategically relevant topic and is distributed all
over the company.
The takeaway: A longitudinal
study is a differentiator for a user
research unit. It is a great way to
remain continuously connected
with the rest of the company. It
reveals trends. It is, however, a
large investment that needs to
be managed carefully in order
to keep stakeholders interested.
Therefore, pamper and maintain
your sample, but do not hesitate
to stop tracking some behaviors
for a while if you find developments are too slow. If this is
the case, focus instead on the
tracking of other new, exciting
3. Involve others in your
research, and share methods to
increase the potential of your
impact. We are increasingly trying to involve people outside the
User Observatory in our research.
This widens the breadth of our
research insights, as these are no
longer based on just the opinions
of user researchers. It also allows
non–user specialists to truly dive
into and integrate user insights.
We learn about market perspec-
• The Swisscom
in Zurich. With
in 35 locations,
[ 3] Jordan, B., Dalal, B.
Ethnography in the
Methods 18, 4, (2006):
How to Achieve these
Photograph by Yago Veith
Here are 10 basic management
rules of the User Observatory.
Note it is not a static rule set, as
we are always fine-tuning our
approach and seeking inspiration
from the experiences of others
[ 3]. Input is welcome anytime.
1. Stick to your core belief in
September + October 2010