Research for Agile Professionals with Melissa Eaden

Research for Agile Professionals with Melissa Eaden

Today, leveraging research to build for innovation is no longer a role just for product and UX professionals, but a needed asset for all members of the software development life cycle. But how do you leverage modern research strategies as a tech professional to keep your products ahead of the competitive market?

We sat down with globally renowned tech leader and researcher, Melissa Eaden, to gain new insights into her research processes, as well as learn what benefits attendees can expect at their upcoming Agile Testing Days tutorial, “Research for Technologists.” 

As an established industry leader, why is your tutorial essential for agile professionals? 
In the fast-paced tech world, agile professionals need to understand the competitive domains they are operating in. The days of building unique software are pretty much over. However, domain research can lead to optimization and unique feature offerings that would allow an app to be competitive in the market. 

Research for Technologists” guides participants through understanding their domains, finding competitors and near competitors, and building personas and roles that can help elevate the quality of application and deliver business value.

While much of this research is traditionally gathered by UX and/or Product folks, it’s become increasingly more vital for other members of the development team to have these kinds of skills. It creates a more collaborative environment for development, and a better understanding of market trends and possible innovations of those trends, or better yet, an innovative way to lead the market…Having these skills can make you more aware of the customer facing issues before it gets to the customer.

What is your secret ingredient to translating customer research into successful product implementation with senior leadership? 
Not a huge secret, but the skills are hard ones. Communication followed up by data. When approaching senior leadership…you need a relationship with them, to be succinct, and have data to back up what you are hoping to accomplish. Doing the research or partnering with members of your team to gather data and create a one-page informational email or Slack message is an important skill to have. 

Creating a genuine line of communication to the business leaders in your company takes time, and a certain amount of self-moderation.

One book I often recommend that helped me is “Crucial Conversations.” Not only did I learn how to present vital information first, but I learned to present it in a way that allowed me to be successful in approaching and creating an ongoing conversation with senior leaders. Once this is established, it can build a network of information and grant you access to information at levels of the company you were not previously aware of. This can help tailor other communication, which can lead to a better alignment and trust with senior leadership.

What is your first recommendation for agile technologists beginning their journey in competitive analysis and research? 
Start with a general question you’d like to have answered, then work out from there. This is where going down internet rabbit holes can actually help. I generally begin with a search of the top ten applications for the particular relevant domain of the company I’m working with. I also use other search engines besides Google. This will often surface information due to the difference in search algorithms.

You’ll want access to different articles, lists, customer forums, even your competitor’s applications. Any of this information can be useful and informative. From there, you can narrow your scope and look for something more specific. This approach can also help solve development problems, like how to implement a tool, create a new framework for automation, or build new processes and techniques for engineers to deliver products to the customers more rapidly. 

For those attending your upcoming Agile Testing Days tutorial, are there any recommendations for how attendees can come best prepared to learn? 
Bring your laptop, a notebook, and lots of questions. We’ll go through katas (interactive techniques) that will take you through the research process I utilize every time I have a product or engineering question. We’ll also develop personas and roles based on that research. This should allow for greater insights and understanding of who is using the software you are building.


Melissa, this conversation was incredibly informative! We hope that our readers and larger community will be inspired to start up-skilling their research practices for modern teams, products, and solutions. And even better?

Join other global attendees at Melissa’s hands-on workshop at Agile Testing Days in Chicago on May 22nd and walk away with new strategies to bring back to your teams. Currently, early bird tickets and the AgileTD team is also offering additional ways to save on your upcoming registration. We can’t wait to see you all in-person.


Melissa Eaden has worked for more than a decade with tech companies such as Security Benefit, HomeAway, ThoughtWorks, and now Unity Technologies. Melissa’s previous career in mass media continues to lend itself to her current career endeavors. She enjoys being EditorBoss for the Ministry of Testing, while supporting their community mission for software testers globally. She can be found on Twitter and Slack at @melthetester.


About Tristan Lombard


Tristan believes in bringing value to organizations by building inclusive online communities, transforming rising engineers into software quality stars, and creating continuous opportunities for his customers to impact the product roadmap. Tristan has held past leadership experience building global community programs at Provar, Testim and Sauce Labs. Tristan graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA and a Masters at Columbia University.