Why Marketing and Engineering Don’t Understand One Another

The inner workings of the tension between Marketing and Engineering are similar to the tension between management and tech staff discussed in my last post.  Similar, but different.

Safe to say that the two don’t understand one another, but the twin elements of unpredictability and needing one another are absent.  And there is a new element: Marketing and Engineering each think what the other does is magic.

Let’s take these one at a time:

  • Unpredictability.  Marketing and Engineering don’t trust one another, but that’s not the same as finding the other unpredictable.  “Those weasels from Marketing, they always do this.”  “You know Engineering will throw up their hands.”  We know what the Other is going to do, we just don’t like it.
  • Needing One Another.  Management wishes we believed we need one another, but in fact neither of us is giving the other a paycheck or the wherewithal for a paycheck, except in a very abstract and attenuated sense that makes no impact on our feelings for one another.  Part of the very tension between the two stems from the fact that there is no urgency to try to work with the other side.  We can fold our arms – and do – and wait for steam to come out of their ears.
  • Magic.  Probably the most interesting of these points.  Marketing has no idea of how software or hardware or even physics works.  To them, everything Engineering does is essentially magic (per Arthur Clarke’s Law #3: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  And, on the other side, Engineering has no idea of how to persuade markets to value or like things; the idea of persuasion in Engineering is that you present your listeners with a fact, and, if they are agree, they are persuaded.  The methods that Marketing uses to involve markets emotionally are magic to Engineering.

One consequence of the “magic” problem is that neither side knows how to assess a promise or a caution from the other side: “We don’t think we can make that schedule” (Why not?  Why not just add more magic?), or “We can’t sell that to soccer moms” (Why not?  Just use your Jedi Mind Tricks on them?).

Understanding the source of the tension between the two groups should help us to talk to one another and, hopefully, break through.

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