Dermaskinsolution – When you work in communications or tech, it’s hard not to relate to HBO’s hit series Silicon Valley, which chronicles the growth of a fictional data compression startup called Pied Piper. While the first two seasons of the series brilliantly portrayed the tribulations of tech startup culture (through satirical humor and jokes that only developers can understand), the third season expands its audience by s fun of the internal struggle between the engineering and sales teams.
This occasional clash between departments is something almost everyone in tech has experienced. The series also introduced a fictional corporate philosophy based on a compromise between the sales, manufacturing, and engineering departments, which also has roots of truth – provided you replace the word “compromise” with “respect”.
Art imitates corporate life.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s essential to know that at the start of Season 3, the goofy yet self-confident founder Richard Hendrix is replaced by Jack Barker as CEO of his own. Company. Jack is a sales-oriented businessman determined to take the business to the next level. At one point, Jack presents a business philosophy he developed called “The Joint conjoined triangles of success”, which explains the relationship between the sales and engineering departments. Although the visual is entirely made up, and Jack uses it to defend his retrograde business logic, this balanced visual could make sense in the real world. Let me explain.
On the visual, engineering and manufacturing form the upper triangle, which Jack considers a “necessary evil” in business. The lower triangle, comprised of sales and growth, is Jack’s specialty and represents his only focus. In order to unite the conjoined triangles of success into a perfect square, he created a dividing line called a “compromise”. Instead of a synergy between the triangles, as the visual suggests, Jack thinks enhancing one side of the square makes the other side worse. Engineering must compromise to sell the product quickly to avoid this lopsided success. Jack explains, “The way to keep top sellers is to give them something easy to sell. Otherwise, they go elsewhere.”
When the truth makes you laugh.
Having been in sales for most of my career, Jack’s take on “compromise” makes me laugh. However, my professional experience extends beyond the sales floor, and as such, I have a unique perspective on the actual relationship between sales and engineering.
During my career, I have worked as a software engineer for a $78 billion Fortune 40 company and as a sales executive for companies such as a small regional integrator, a large telecommunications manufacturer, and now Digium, which offers unified communications solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. As a senior manager at Digium, I focus on all aspects of our customer-facing business and have responsibilities in sales, customer satisfaction, and technical support. My previous experience allowed me to see business processes through the eyes of an end user, an integrator (intermediary), and a manufacturer.
When comedy contains ideas.
That being said, adopting a Jack Barker business philosophy would be easy. This philosophy constantly pushes engineering and Manufacturing to compromise long-term aspirations for short-term gain. However, I’ve learned nothing during my career as a salesperson. In that case, to successfully lead an organization and deliver innovative solutions to customers, you have to respect the values and opinions of other departments rather than force sales-oriented organizational compromises.
Assuming you’ve hired the right business leaders if the manufacturing department is obsessed with quality and needs two more weeks to “get it right”, the sales team should respect the department’s decision on Manufacturing. When the engineering team needs more time to implement an easy-to-use feature in a reliable and supportable way, the sales team needs to meet that new deadline.
Sales team leaders live in a world where exceeding customer expectations is the name of the game. Sales must pressure internal departments to deliver superb features and world-class quality in the tightest possible timeframes to meet customer demands. But compromising quality or product significantly for short-term gain is a recipe for long-term failure.
The consequences can be confirmed.
Even though Jack’s “conjoined triangles of success” is a satirical visual for an unclear corporate philosophy, I would replace compromise with organizational respect to form the perfect square. Time-to-market is critical, but in the long run, if we want to deliver an exquisite product experience that will delight our customers, it’s paramount that the product has the right features and superb quality, all implemented in a way that allows for a positive support experience. For all of these elements to work together, organizational compliance is the key to forming the perfect product philosophy.