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What drives your company? Marketing, sales or engineering?

Rob Enderle | June 29, 2015
Most tech companies are engineering-driven. However, some, like Oracle, are sales-driven and yet others are marketing-driven. Which is the best? Columnist Rob Enderle thinks a blend of all three would be the best approach, with Apple perhaps being an exception to that rule.

2. Sales driven

This is the most polar opposite to an engineering-driven company in that what is built may have little solid connection to what is being sold. While engineering companies are technology centric, sales-driven companies are focused on revenues and commissions.

Engineering is subordinating to sales and may be nearly entirely decoupled with decisions in both groups, which you'd think would be coupled not even connected. This can lead to rather fanciful claims that sales believes but engineering can't support and the firm having an inability to reconcile the difference.   This puts a lot of stress on contract administration on both sides as the firm struggles to match what was promised, and what is often in the contract, with what is delivered.

On the positive side, sales can, and often does, direct engineering, which can result in offerings that are more customer-centric. Because these firms are focused on revenue and commissions they tend to attract the most powerful and successful salespeople in the business, and these people don't get where they are if they don't know how to take care of customers, at least in this space (enterprise tech really isn't a sell and run business, at least not sustainably though if this problem does exist it is more likely to exist in a sales driven company). This is why, in a sales driven company, you are likely to see claims that look crazy and well out of line with reality.

With a sales-driven company you need a strong legal and contract compliance capability to assure you actually get what you thought you bought for the price you agreed to pay.  

3. Marketing driven

We just don't see this often in technology. The changes in leadership at Apple exemplify a company that appears to have drifted from marketing-driven to being engineering-driven. Marketing-driven companies, using Apple as the template, start with a concept of what can be sold and that is driven into engineering/design (who may revolt).

An interesting story is that Jobs once asked Apple engineering to create a pretty motherboard and they proved to him that it was impossible even though years later the gaming segment began regularly building pretty motherboards (showcasing that there was a revolt at Apple and that Jobs was actually right).  

As we saw with Apple, a marketing-driven company when done right can actually do amazing things with regard to customer satisfaction, revenue and profit, which should have folks chasing this model more aggressively. The reason is that, in this instance, marketing forces a substantial amount of coordination between how a product is created, marketed and sold in a way that doesn't happen with the other models. Now the product may not initially be ideal, but engineering is driven to meet the claims that marketing makes and as we have seen from Apple products, while initial offerings may be a bit off the mark, they will quickly alter course and within three versions be right on target.


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