The Divide Between the Technical and Sales Teams

Should the technical team working on building the core components of the product collaborate with the sales team? That’s the question that Eric Schadt, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Cornell University, tackles in his book Dealing with Data: Myths, Realities, and Design Patterns that Make Sense of Big Data. He says that most companies are going about it all wrong, leading to a number of limitations in the way they use the data they collect, and ultimately in the way they use the product itself.

Many products are designed to meet one set of customers. We need a team of people who work on the product to understand the customer base, and who are working on different interface technologies, so the product meets the needs of different groups of users. We also have to understand how to design interfaces in a way that will allow the product to be used with a certain amount of friction–not so fast and so easy that it doesn’t require any thought. On top of that, there are the business people who have to understand that this is a solution to a problem that they have. If they don’t understand the problem, they can’t fully understand the solution. Most companies haven’t taken the time to design the interface in the right way to allow the people who are actually going to use the product to understand it. This is the kind of thing that IBM is talking about with Watson. They’ve been working on this for years, and yet they have a design team, but I have not heard IBM talk much about the interface design. Why is that?

It has to do with culture. IBM, as a system integrator, focuses on integrating solutions, not necessarily on understanding how the product is going to be used. The thing about a Watson-type product is that it is fundamentally different. If you have a Watson product, you have to explain to a customer, “The technology is there, but we don’t know how to use it. So we need you to understand the user experience, and the problem that you want to solve. We’re not going to explain the whole thing to you. But if you do understand that, then we can start to build it.” They haven’t done that.

You hear the phrase that a product is “so good that no one can figure out how to use it.” This is actually the definition of a good product design: That it’s so effective that someone can’t figure out how to use it.

Think about the process you go through when you register to play on new casino sites. Even if that new site features some games and titles you may not previously have come into contact with, nobody needs to give you any instructions on how to play, do they? It is this type of coherence between the various departments and teams that go into the making of a great product which we’re referring to!

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