How do you create a balance between marketing and engineering? First set up the two functions each with a different primary focus. Marketing with a focus on the customer, and engineering with a focus on the technology.
Marketing is responsible for bringing the customer into the product decisions. This may be through many methods including: customer research, customer visits, reviewing support requests, and reviewing sales results. They need to also make sure that they do not become a filter. If certain discussions need a more technical person involved, marketing needs to facilitate that too.
Engineering is responsible for bring technology into product decisions. What is possible, what is the best way to implement it, what will it cost. Engineering needs to make sure they provide good data for making the decisions and guard against the options that they favor the options that they want to build.
The amount of overlap depends on the nature of the product and market. There is significant overlap for most technical products and there is a need for high levels of interaction.
The best at working this relationship often have a foot in both worlds. The marketing people often have a technical degree and experience in engineering. The engineering people have had significant customer interaction.
Once a product plan has been agreed to, there also need to be guidelines on how to proceed in a changing world. Few plans can stay the same for more than six months in our constantly changing world. But there needs to be understanding that keeps the changes from getting out of control.
Marketing must realize that feature changes make engineering less efficient. The cost of context switching is real, and can dramatically affect the productivity of the engineering team. If the feature set changes for each customer, then marketing is not doing their job. If the feature set never changes there is a good chance that marketing is not talking to enough customers.
Engineering must realize that changes in the schedule or feature set, makes the product introduction less optimal. The timing of an introduction is often targeted to a specific event that will get maximum impact such as a trade show. There may also be several events that were done before the event as build up or preparation. Changing the schedule can severely distort these plans and hurt the effectiveness. The changing of the feature set causes the documentation to be modified at a minimum and at the worst can cause a need to re-position the product, which can change all the marketing materials and the marketing strategy.
Packet Plus, Inc.