At Compete and now Lookery, Product Development was the key difference between good products and mediocre ones. The greater the distance between clients and developers the worse the product became. At Lookery, Elias, our head of engineering, is putting the rest of us to shame, juggling sales calls, support, and coding simultaneously.
I’ve never taken Product Development as far as Jeff has (elimnating “engineering”) but the next time I start a company I plan to do so. Jeff’s definition of Product Development below (emphasis mine):
In my companies, we go so far as to merge two functions that are often separated in other organizations: engineering and product marketing. It is my opinion that these should be one in the same. The folks that are building the product are the folks that need to be out in front of customers, finding out what that product should be. They are also the same folks that should be telling those customers how they can use the products they’ve built better or in different ways. We call the combined entity “product development” and it is their job to build products people will buy. They get full responsibility, so there is no blame game between product marketing (“the engineers built a product that sucks!”) and engineering (“marketing got the requirements all wrong!”). This one department is responsible for the whole enchilada, no questions asked.
A lot of technology companies delegate the responsibility for coming up with product requirements to “marketing” who then talks to customers (maybe) and analysts (probably) and copies what the competition does (unfortunately and almost certainly), and then hands a list of requirements to engineering, who inevitably further misinterprets the requirements on their way to creating a product that at best is marginally passable and at worst is so far of the mark that no one will buy it. What an unnecessary chain of misinformation and complexity. The people who design the product should be out there talking to people who want to buy it, and should build what they will buy.