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A Gap In Communication Between Sales And Engineering

Conflict solving
Internal Communication
Collaboration

22 June, 2018

Swapan Rajdev, CTO of Haptik, talks about how he resolved an issue when his sales team promised a client more than what his engineering team could deliver.

Problem

About a year ago, one of our clients asked us to build a voice chat bot for them. We had internally discussed building voice as a feature before and were interested in building the feature as we saw it as a great business opportunity. We hadn't built anything out from an engineering perspective, but our salespeople committed to the project and came back to us with a timeline from our client. They wanted it in six to eight weeks.

Actions taken

When you're building a brand new feature set, it obviously takes a lot longer than eight weeks to build. We were in a tense situation - sales had their targets and commitments to meet, and engineering could feel the timeline pressure, which had to potential to result in the team compromising on quality, if we could even deliver on time. My first step in approaching this problem was to talk to sales to understand the client's expectations and whether the expected the whole end-to-end flow in six weeks. I told them that if they were, they would need to adjust their expectations and that we would need to take a few days to evaluate what was actually achievable in six weeks. On the engineering side, I huddled the team together and explained the situation. When you are facing this type of situation, being completely transparent about the issue is very important because it helps to get everyone on the same page. Next, we discussed the engineering team discussed the plan and determined how we would strike a balance between simplicity and quality. I then divided the project into four phases and shared what we expected to get done with sales so they could pass this on to our client. Breaking it down into phases really helped, as it allowed us to think about what our goals were, and what we were looking for in our end product. Ultimately, we were able to complete three phases in six weeks and finished the project in nine weeks. However, because we clearly explained the situation to the client they were understanding and we were able to deliver a quality product they could use.

Lessons learned

When talking about the potential next steps your business should take, be clear about whether or not you are ready to pursue those steps. There was clearly a gap in communication between sales and engineering, and between what the salespeople thought we were able to offer in terms of a new business opportunity versus what we were actually able to deliver. On the engineering side, there are a lot of nuances that aren't necessarily communicated to the rest of your company. When you start looking at a project and focus on delivering quality, there is a lot more to projects than just hacking things together.


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