Is the case study as we know it, dead?

How are changes in the way people access and share information in a super-connected technology-rich and time-poor world impacting the case study in 2011 and beyond?

How about thinking of a case study as an event rather than 1000 words to be read from start to finish?

For some people case study = three simple paragraphs:

  • Challenge
  • Solution
  • Results

For others they are 35 pages of in-depth analytics plus a spreadsheet or two.
They get called different names:

  • Success stories
  • Case studies
  • ROI case studies
  • Business Value cases studies
  • Customer snapshots
  • White Papers
  • Testimonials

And we keep on creating them while the world changes around us and people run around shouting. “The case study is dead, the case study is dead, my boss has told me that we need to concentrate on some ‘viral social media’.


As a profession it’s not altogether clear that we truly understand how prospective customers ‘consume’ the customer evidence/reference materials we create now.

More importantly we’re not convinced that we know how prospective customers are GOING to WANT to ‘consume’ the customer evidence/reference materials we create, six months from now.

What we do know is this:

Cloud and social tools are changing all parts of our lives, the way we interact with each but more importantly the way we interact with information.

It’s not going to slow down and it’s not going to go away and this change is exponential rather than linear

If we just we just think about how WE get information

There’s never enough time, even though we are more connected than ever before. In fact we’re not Super Connected

We’ve had the capability to access information on the move for the last ten years but it’s only now that 3G and broadband speeds are up to the task for non-geeks

We also have Smartphones and Pads that are now serious business tools used to access information

What do we do with this information?

We dip in and out, we share and we comment.

If we think that someone is going to download a PDF case study and read it in a linear fashion, from start to finish, on a Pad let alone a Smartphone then we are kidding ourselves.

We need to tell customer stories in new ways; it does not mean the old ways are redundant, far from it; we need to embrace new channels, new formats IN ADDITION

The capability to create hybrid case studies has been around for some time; if you just take adobe’s suite of products and how they work together you can think about linked or embedded video or flash.

How about thinking of a case study as an event rather than 1000 words to be read from start to finish.

If I read content on my Kindle I can highlight interesting sections and comment on them, see who else has commented on them and also tweet comments, or that I’ve read something; or post to Facebook.

The reading of something becomes a shared experience and my views on what I’ve read are there for anyone to see, in perpetuity.

So are we all now micro-analysts?

Forget reading, this is experiencing, If if you adopt some new formats, some nice animations in flash or HTML5 what do you expect prospects to do after they have experienced your case study?

Can they share, comment, add notes, contact you, rate your content, disagree with you, put this case study forward for an award?

If they are a salesperson can they build a custom proposal, send a bunch of relevant content to someone, tell you they hate what you’ve created or ask for more case studies ‘just like this’?

Structured customer-approved content is here forever as the uses are scalable so the case study is not dead but what we think of as a case study is open for discussion.

We’d like to know what you think., Add you comment to on the referencegeek blog.