Hopefully this title got your attention. Why, you may ask, am I writing about the death of the very industry that I’ve staked my profession (and my paycheck) on? Well, as the saying goes, with every door that closes, a new one opens, and there is a new door opening for market research.

I’m kicking off a new Forrester Big Idea report on the future of the MR function at client-side companies. As the name implies, this initial report will lay out Forrester’s overall thinking on where MR is headed, and it will serve as a basis for a new stream of research our team will be tackling over the next 12 to 24 months. The premise goes like this:

The market research role is changing rapidly. Not only are traditional, prevailing methodologies challenged by technological innovations and changing consumer behavior, but also the need for traditional market research data is decreasing. In fact, organizations are drowning in data. And all parts of the organization have their own sources of data, from what sales hears from the customer to what customer service fields in calls and email, and let’s not forget about the chatter on the Facebook fan page or other social outlets. Yet the best business decisions are made not through data but through insights: the context that comes from understanding what data means in the bigger picture of the business objectives and market trends.

So market researchers are struggling to reclaim their relevance in a time when data is a commodity, insights are power, and disparate sources of information are producing different versions of the truth. In fact, the role of the market researcher as we know it is going away for good.

This report, and the research that follows it, will take a good look at what the insights department of the future will look like. My hypothesis: This role will be responsible for collecting and analyzing both internal and external sources of data, analyzing it, and presenting a unified view of the truth on customer/consumer wants and needs, as well as the market conditions and health of the brand within that market. In order to do this, leaders of today’s market research departments will need to consider how they can organize their teams, scope their capabilities, and collaborate with internal teams (customer intelligence, anyone?) and external vendors in order to come to the table with relevant insights and recommendations — all based on business objectives.

 The market researcher must start seeing his or her work and setting priorities through the lens of a business strategist. 

Sounds like a big job, eh? Well, that’s why it’s a Big Idea. I’m excited to lead this piece of research and to start talking with those of you who have started taking your organizations down this path, have tools that you think can help enable this shift, or have suggestions on what other thinking I should throw into the mix.

Stay tuned for more over the coming months, and please drop me a line at tbarber at forrester dot com — or on the comments of course — if you’d like to be part of the conversations that shape this research.