November 20, 2015

Connecting the Dots Between System Development and Marketing

Olive Guest Blog By: Andy von Stauffenberg, Founder and CEO at VStar Systems

The traditional lifecycle between development and marketing goes something like this: the engineers create a product based on their understanding of a problem found in the market, and once complete, it’s quickly tested, and then thrown over the fence to the sales and marketing team to start selling it. Sometimes this model works out great, and the marketing team has an easy path to reaching the public who will ultimately buy it. Every so often, they run into problems, which will then have to be resolved before the product can be successfully advertised. This usually means that more money than expected has to be invested and the release date is considerably pushed back. 

Changing the design at later phases during development is extremely costly in all resources – for instance, by the time a system goes from the concept phase to the design phase, 70% of the total product cost is already committed; changing anything requires between 3 to 6 times the amount of the committed cost during the concept phase. By the time the system reaches the production and test phase, 95% of the total cost is committed, but changes can require 500 to 1,000 times the initial concept phase cost.1

So why would companies wait for the people who have to sell the product until such a late stage? Marketing and public relations are excellent tools for creating the viral storm required to make money—they know what the customers truly want and what inspires them into action. Othe flip side, engineers are perfectly happy being locked up in their lab all day long and tinkering with the latest SW release. The point here is this: get marketing and public relations teams into the boardroom when the concept is initially discussed! Have them be part of the concept, the design, and the solution. Please note that I am not talking about the VP of Marketing who has been far removed from the day-to-day operations; I’m talking about the people sitting on the phone talking with media and implementing the marketing strategy. This will have several benefits—first, the person who has to sell it has a deep understanding of the system early on, which makes their job of selling it ultimately a lot easier. Second, they can have valuable inputs while changes are still cheap—for instance, the engineers may say, “Lets paint the cover blue,” but the marketing person may know that blue is a bad color for whatever reason and they can respond with, “Red is what you want to make it fly off the shelf.” A change like this is very easy to make if they are part of the development phase, but not so much once the first 10,000 units come off the assembly line. Third, from a morale standpoint, it will bring your entire team a lot closer if they create something great together.

People want to create—it’s in our DNA! So let them play with the engineers! Brainstorming with a diverse group is a lot of fun. The biggest takeaway of this article is this: bring your team together and don’t create artificial silos. You never know where the next million dollar idea will come from.

INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook v.3.2.2