What Engineers Want From Marketers


If you’re a marketer, you already know what drives you nuts about engineers — and vice versa.

Usually, it festers around who calls the shots on new product development.

Marketers, and especially those with packaged goods experience, want earlier involvement.

Engineers usually hear this lament many months (or years) after they begin writing densely technical, often inscrutable requirements. They want informed direction, sooner.

And then the wallop of “service velocity” hit. Gone was cable’s purgatory of “one new product every 18 months,” gated by legacy back-office, conditional-access or guide issues. As Cox chief technology officer Kevin Hart put it during a CTAM Summit session last month: “Now, we’re doing 18 products in one year.”

The tech pieces accelerating product rollouts in cable are unstoppable: Open standards, the migration to all-IP (Internet protocol), and the prying open of back-office components to remove proprietary hogties.

What’s on now are the workforce and cultural changes. And this is where you run into the lingo of “waterfall” vs. “agile” operations.

Primer: “Waterfall” means serial, step-bystep processes. Write a long requirements document. Get it into silicon. Test. Get it to device manufacturers. Test. Link into provisioning and billing systems. After all that, develop training, installation, customer care and — oh yes! — marketing plans.

“Agile” means working collaboratively, across departments and in tandem. An “agile sprint” locks a small team into writing code that puts an existing feature into a companion service. Tech people call this “experience threading.” (My favorite example: Voice mail that comes over as an email transcript.)

Cox, Comcast and others are already retuning the workforce for agility. Cox’s Hart meets all day on Tuesdays with the heads of marketing, product and operations — to review readiness checklists, prioritize resources and liaison with call centers.

What do engineers want from marketers, these days? John Schanz, executive vice president and chief network officer for Comcast, seeks flexibility through the innovation process. “We need a give-and-take between the business, marketing and technology teams, even when you don’t really know exactly where the destination is.”

“Forge really tight partnerships across departments — that’s where the magic is,” CableLabs CEO Phil McKinney said.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at translation-please.com or multichannel.com/blog.