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July 13, 2013

The Grass Isn't Always Greener

A while back I had the opportunity to attend the Design Management Institute's seminar on Creating The Perfect Design Brief. It was an interesting event. Based upon attendance, it was also a topic that was top-of-mind to a lot of marketing executives at large companies. Although the goal of the seminar was focused on creating a design brief, the meat of the discussion involved how designers can work more effectively with business owners. What I found interesting (although not completely surprising) was the amount of whining in the room. No need to name names, but major complaints fell in to statements such as:

- The business folks have no idea how many projects we are trying to manage.
- Why are business people giving us feedback on design? They don't know anything about design.
- The deadlines we are given are ridiculous.
- Why is the room so cold?

As a provider of marketing project management software, I hear these complaints on a daily basis from prospective clients. And, I'll admit that these gripes are usually legitimate. However, I also get the sense that some of us in marketing could benefit from observing other areas of the corporation for a while. Things could be worse. Here are a few examples:

- Marketing departments always have lots of open projects that were due yesterday. Although lots of "quick turn" projects drive us crazy, there are some benefits. If your client can change his/her mind 5 times during a 5 day project, you should be glad you don't work in the IT department. Most IT projects last over 6 months. Some projects last more than two years. How many times can a client change his mind over a 6 month period? We may not like the fact that the business owner wants to change the color of the email banner, but how much work is really involved to make the change if the entire project is only 5 days long? On the flip side, IT folks must often throw away months of code if the business requirements change. I'll take shorter projects over longer projects any day.

- We don't like it when the client gives feedback on our designs, but think about the poor folks in Finance. They get feedback like "I'd prefer to recognize the revenue this month." The finance team may not like the feedback, but they also have to deal with the conflicts imposed by well defined accounting policies. These conflicts often lead to long/painful discussions where the finance team is forced to reject the client's request. Because of the strict policies, the finance folks often have unhappy clients and there is nothing (legally) that the they can do to make their customer happy.

- Tight deadlines are painful, but at least we often have clear marketing events that dictate an absolute end date for a project. After all, the big Thanksgiving Day campaign is going to be over by December whether it went well or not. However, the sales team may work for months to close a deal and they often have no deadline that is forcing the client to make a decision. I know I've personally waited over a year for a client to make up his/her mind about purchasing RoboHead. Tight deadlines are no fun, but they are usually better than no deadline at all.

So, cheer up marketers. It could be worse! How's that for motivation?