The 5 Maturity Levels of Atomic Research: How Mature Is Your Organization?

By Axel Johnston

For the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to roll out multiple Research Repositories for various companies. I realized during this time that even though each company may be different, they all follow a similar path when it comes to deploying an atomic research method maturely.

I identified 5 phases of maturity.

Each has its own set of pros and drawbacks when it comes to using an atomic research approach. I built a framework that now aids me in better comprehending how developed a firm is and how to use atomic research.

The framework's fundamental elements

The maturity levels of Atomic Research are based on three pillars: people, processes, and impact.


One of the key advantages of Atomic Research is sharing user research findings and insights. Keys are those people who use and contribute to Atomic Research.

  • Shared knowledge: How can the use of Atomic Research assist an organization's self-awareness in terms of user insights?
  • Pro-active notification: How can people be automatically notified when new information pertinent to their area of work is released?
  • Global Use: What percentage of the organization's employees have been informed about the findings?


Atomic Research is also crucial for improving and industrializing user research processes. With this fundamental element, we can see how important Atomic Research is for enhancing company procedures surrounding the discovery.

  • Insights Centralization: Are the findings and user insights quick and easy to find?
  • Research industrialization: To what extent have user research methods been industrialized to scale and speed up?
  • Research Rationalization: Is the company wasting time doing multiple experiments when they could be using past findings instead?


The last key fundamental element is the results of atomic research methodology on the product itself and the company's awareness of the user needs.

  • Cross-based analysis: How researchers are currently using findings from multiple experiments to generate new understandings?
  • Insight-based prioritization: Which features were prioritized thanks to user research findings, and to what degree was the user's requirement considered?
  • Weak signals detection: Can the company identify user needs that were not apparent through siloed experimentation?

The 5 maturity levels of Atomic Research

Phase 1: Rudimentary

Atomic Research has been around for a while and is always at the heart of user research even if it wasn't called this way. The first phase of Atomic Research is what I call the Rudimentary one. Researchers are conducting experimentations after experimentations and collecting data on their own. The name "Rudimentary" reflects the situation. Researchers are using discovery methods and attempting to industrialize them on their own. Most of the time, they store key findings on a single folder located on the global server. Because of the present condition of organizations, the findings insights are not widely distributed. Stakeholders frequently ask for the latest edition of a previous study report.

During this stage, a great deal of attention is paid to the industrialization of user research methods: NDA templates, enhancing user recruitment processes, and so on.

Rudimentary level of Atomic Research

Phase 2: Inception

The second stage of Atomic Research is Inception. People are paying greater attention to the evidence as a result of their increased research. We see video highlights from the different studies, and we see an improvement in terms of shared information.

People are beginning to cross-experiment and use user insights to help them make decisions.

People are more likely to remember the findings of recent studies, so conducting newer research is more rational.

More and more stakeholders are looking at our findings, and some product owners are even beginning to conduct their own research. Or at least, this is now visible.

Many companies begin to think about deploying Atomic Research during this phase.

Inception level of Atomic Research

Phase 3: Emerging

User research is becoming increasingly popular in organizations. The first cross-based insights appear; at this point, teams begin to consider establishing a formal research repository.

This is the stage where we start to see some benefits of atomic research, but they're still limited.

There's also a greater awareness of user needs, and features are being prioritized as a result of user research findings.

But because atomic research is still in its early stages, there are often silos within the organization and findings

Emerging level of Atomic Research

Phase 4: Scale

The research repository has begun to gain traction globally in the organization. Almost every product team has insights and findings inside.

We see more cross-based analysis, and researchers are using findings from multiple experiments to generate new understandings.

Insight-based prioritization is becoming the norm, and user research is playing a key role in decision-making. The organization is beginning to see the benefits of atomic research, and there’s a greater understanding of its potential

Scale level of Atomic Research

Phase 5: Distributed

Atomic Research is now globally used and embedded in the organization's DNA. All product teams are using it, and findings are being cross-referenced constantly.

There's a deep understanding of user needs, and atomic research plays a pivotal role in decision-making. The benefits of atomic research are now fully realized, and the potential for further growth is immense.

Distributed level of Atomic Research

Next steps

I am still improving the framework, so feel free to reach me so we can discuss it, your current stage of maturity, and how you can deploy an atomic research methodology.

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