What is Product Marketing’s role in development?

A colleague asked, “Do you believe Product Marketing could be the bridge between the Engineering and R&D organizations? It seems to me that market requirements are the other piece to incorporate there and Product Marketing could add that to R&D’s specs before working with Engineering to determine what’s feasible and on what time schedule… What do you think?”

It works at the front end
to have an Advanced Development group build prototypes and conceptual specs/models, with specs or requirements added by Product Marketing before giving them to Engineering. But the problems (below) don’t come out until the crunch — when you’re waiting for the next milestone in actual product development.

The problem is that Product Marketing and Engineering
(the department responsible for developing products delivered to customers) have a natural tension: they have to arbitrate between what’s feasible within the time/dollar/featureset constraints; Product Marketing should have the customer deliveries in mind, and should interpret “what the customer wants,” while Engineering is responsible for determining which (and how many) features can be delivered within the cost and time constraints.

As a product is developed, Engineering will naturally come back now and then to renegotiate features vs. schedule (and sometimes $) as they uncover problems (or opportunities) that impact schedule. Product Marketing cannot act as the arbiter for this negotiation — Engineering must participate as a fully-responsible party, determining what can be delivered when. When Product Marketing has all the power in this negotiation, you either get emasculated Engineering, which won’t take any chances because they’re being second-guessed; or you get promises that can’t be kept, because Engineering isn’t really running the development process.

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    About John Levy

    John Levy works with senior managers in mid-sized organizations who are responsible for development and delivery of major software or hardware/software products. He helps them gain confidence that their projects will succeed.

    Development projects can fail in many ways. You need a guide who speaks the language of business and is knowledgeable about technology. John aligns Development with the organization's strategy so it will contribute efficiently to the success of the enterprise.

    John has been consulting for over 20 years. His book on managing high-tech teams, Get Out of the Way, was published in 2010.

    For more information, email him at johnlevyconsulting.com, or call 415 663-1818.
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