Case study

Qualitative research to explore new international markets for OpenAthens

Students having a conversation during a break.

Investigating the needs of currently under-served academics and students

OpenAthens currently provides single sign-on access to online academic resources to 5 million users in over 2,600 organisations across 65 countries.  With an ethos focused on helping people to achieve great things by removing barriers to knowledge, OpenAthens wanted to investigate the possibilities of expanding their services to less well-funded higher education institutions, including, but not limited to, those within developing nations.

Digirati worked closely with OpenAthens and devised a research plan to:

  • Define key research goals and scope of the research
  • Understand the triggers/motivations and workflows of the end-users when conducting online research related to academic work
  • Gain a more nuanced understanding of the end-users, their needs and frustrations relevant to conducting such online research, and how these vary across geographical regions
  • Gain insights to identify opportunities to provide a service to better meet end-user needs in less well-funded higher education institutions
  • Identify countries and academic institutions to include in the research
  • Confirm end-user categories to recruit and recruitment methods
  • Confirm research methods

Working with Digirati was amazing, they quickly understood our business and what we wanted to achieve and turned that into a fantastic research proposal. Once we had agreed the high level focus and outcomes we wanted to achieve Digirati were able to run with the work and produce results far quicker and more robustly than we had have been able to on our own. The final report perfectly hit the agreed brief and has given us exactly what we need for the next stage of our work.

Jake Smallridge

Product Manager, OpenAthens

We recruited and conducted interviews with academics and undergraduates in 19 institutions across 6 different countries remotely. It was a privilege to speak with so many highly motivated people about their research interests and goals, and to gain insights into the important role played by online research in the achievement of these goals. And it was, of course, very useful to gain a detailed understanding of aspects of their workflows that currently block them or slow them down.

Through our analysis of the interview data we were able to:

  • Create meaningful personas representing end-users within specific contexts

  • Produce thematic analysis pinning down core user needs

  • Provide user stories detailing specific aspects of these user needs

  • Create start-to-finish user journeys for each persona, plus their ‘ideal journey’

  • Use Jobs-to-be-Done analysis to connect end-user goals with business opportunities

Our final report presentation also included quotes and video clips of end-users to bring their stories to life.

We had a very valuable session with Digirati. We were looking to gather and assimilate views from around the world. From a broad range of interviews they were able to pull out the key themes and play them back to us effectively, sharing insights and ideas from a valuable new perspective.

Jon Bentley

Commercial Director, OpenAthens

Exciting opportunities for expanding online research access and digital inclusion

The report and presentation was received enthusiastically by our client and led to an animated discussion about possibilities for meeting the needs of currently under-served academics and students. With a clearer and more detailed understanding of what is important to end-users, what they need to achieve, how they attempt to do this, what gets in their way, and the implications not only for the students and academics themselves, but for their wider communities as well, OpenAthens can now focus on strategic, innovative product development that will both expand their own reach and help transform the online research experience for students and academics across the world.

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