October 16, 2007

The First Rule of Engineering  Comments 

Filed under: High Tech Marketing — admin @ 4:03 pm

Early in my marketing career I worked with an engineer at Hewlett Packard that liked to talk about the first rule of engineering being “don’t do something stupid?.  First before you judge the rule literally you have to realize how he used the phrase.  This was not stated as not to try new things or take on risks.  He liked to take on risks and push himself.  The other quality that he had was always thinking beyond scope of his specific area to make sure what he did would fit within the broader context of the product. Although it was often stated somewhat as a joke, I never heard him direct the rule at someone else as an insult.  However, he was always actively questioning to make sure he did not run afoul of this rule. 


In another take on the first rule of engineering, recently Andy Grove of Intel in a speech at City College of New York said “the first tenet of engineering is, Always know what problem you’re working on?. (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1538622,00.html?iid=chix-sphere)


What these two rules have in common is thinking before doing.  The engineer always needs to be actively thinking about what they are doing, not just blindly implementing something.  I like both these rules, because they are based on the analytical and questioning strength of engineers. 


A natural consequence is that engineering needs to be active in product decisions.  They need to be able to ask why a particular feature makes sense.  This is a positive sign that they are actively thinking about the problem, and trying to make sure they are solving the right problem.


I also believe that engineering must keep aware of the technology options available to completing a solution.  It is another way that engineers need to be actively thinking.  They must spend a portion of their time exploring and learning about the new options and methods to solve a problem. 


The rest of the organization needs to be tolerant and supporting of these behaviors.  They are part of having a robust and creative engineering team.


Also note that it does not mean that engineers alone should make all the product decisions.   In my next post I will explore how to balance the engineering and marketing to make good product decisions.


If anyone has there own version of the first rule of engineering that they like to use, please post them as a response.


Rick Denker

Packet Plus, Inc.


October 8, 2007

The #1 Job of Marketing  Comments 

Filed under: High Tech Marketing — admin @ 4:58 pm

For a long time in my career I believed that the most important function of marketing was to bring the knowledge and understanding of the customer into the company.  This is a critical part of marketing.  However I no longer believe that it is the most important. 


I now firmly believe that the #1 job of marketing is to:

Assess the potential of new markets and to plan the entry into the chosen new markets 

This is consistent with my earlier post, The Marketing Wedge http://www.chipdesignmag.com/denker/?p=13.  The key thought of the Marketing Wedge being that market factors are more important than customer factors, and that customer factors are more important than product factors.


New markets are the key to long-term continued growth and innovation.  Some of the reasons for this are:

- New markets offer the largest potential gains in revenue.  The gains from a new feature to an existing customer base, or addressing a new customer in an existing market are generally much smaller in the long-term.


- New leading edge markets also are characterized by change and innovation.  Participating in these markets will increase your own innovation.  If your growth and innovation are sagging, explore whether you have been resting on the laurels of your current markets, or taking on the challenges of new markets.


- Growth does not necessarily continue forever.  Even the best of markets eventually become saturated, then stagnate and decline.


- There is always the threat of change to current markets, potentially forcing you into a mad scramble for new markets.  Some changes can be foreseen, but a disruptive technological change is almost impossible to predict.


Also remember that new markets take time to develop.  You need to start your entry into a new market years before the new revenue is needed.


Too often within established companies the market and channel choices are already set in stone.  Because of this many in the marketing profession do not get exposed to this aspect of marketing.  However, the increasing pace of change in markets, the increasing complexity of the sales channel options, and the broad diversity of customers make ignoring this #1 job more dangerous to your companies’ long-term prosperity. 


An insightful analysis of this management behavior is detailed in the book titled, The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. He explains how rational management decisions can cause management to miss market waves caused by discontinuous changes. 


What this means for marketing is that the old model of “the next bench syndrome? which is very incremental approach is even less likely to apply.  That more risks needs to be taken.  It is hard to predict what you will discover in a new market, so flexibility will be needed for success.  Also sales needs to understand that there will be more testing of the knowledge and capabilities of the sales channels.  They will need to be more flexible too.


If your company has not been flexing this new market muscle, it will more likely than not wake up one day to find it has to take a crash course in finding new markets in order to survive.


Rick Denker

Packet Plus™, Inc.