Choosing Arira as a design partner has proven to be a key tool for many technology companies, both large and small. But how do you know if outsourcing your design is the right move for you?
Below are some excerpts from an excellent article that author Jim Douglas wrote where he lays out some key points for establishing a successful working relationship with an external design firm.
1. Clearly define your requirements.
Since time-to-market is critical for companies developing new technologies, clearly defined requirements are crucial. Decide whether you want a design firm to augment your current project team, take on a specific portion of the project, or take responsibility for the entire design.
2. Determine if you have a business model fit.
It’s important to determine whether the firms on your short list have a business model that suits both your short and long-term needs. The ideal partner will have experience operating under different models and be flexible enough to adopt a model that meets your specific requirements. Common models you will encounter include:
- Scoped time and materials. Supplier provides estimate of man-hours required to complete the project and a rate per hour. After agreeing on scope and rate, supplier works until the project is completed. Changes to the original statement of work will be documented and agreed on via an engineering change order and billed at the same hourly rate.
- Fixed price. Supplier defines scope of work and fixed price to deliver the project. Changes to the original statement of work will be documented and agreed on via an engineering change order. Payment for engineering changes can either be fixed priced or time and materials (as defined by the original contract or by subsequent negotiations.)
3. Determine adaptability.
Product-development projects rarely, if ever, proceed without changes or unforeseen circumstances. Your requirements will likely be modified midstream based on incremental market intelligence or availability of required components. You may miss your partner’s deadlines and they will, inevitably, not execute to perfection. Make sure you understand how your partner manages engineering changes and establish an escalation path that can be exercised if necessary.
4. Understand design infrastructure.
In addition to solid design expertise, one of the key advantages a potential design partnership should provide is a robust design infrastructure. The expense and time associated with building and maintaining a strong design infrastructure shouldn’t be underestimated. Also, the firm should also interface efficiently with other organizations (internal and external) in your supply chain. Make sure you understand how they function in this area.
5. Plan ahead and be ready to commit.
One of the key advantages of working with a design partner is the speed with which you can build a project team. Priority conflicts can sometimes lead to months-long delays when you attempt to form a project team with internal resources. However, don’t expect the companies on your short list to be at their best if you haven’t made decisions. They may not be able to start immediately, hold resources open indefinitely while you contemplate whether you are going to engage, or maintain a fixed delivery schedule if you delay the start. You should plan your time carefully and be mentally committed to an efficient evaluation process. When you reach agreement on these issues with prospective firms, the process can move efficiently.
6. Get references and check them.
Look for demonstrated expertise in the areas of interest to you. Ask for references from current or former customers. Then call each reference and ask for a detailed critique of the firm’s performance. Ask specific questions about your particular concerns. The strategic outsourcing of design services can help you meet your objectives and give you a competitive advantage. However, a well-planned approach – including careful analysis of contract resources, documented project planning, and continuous coordination throughout the life of a project – is essential.
If you have a new design or an existing electronic design that needs to be modified, we can help. We welcome the opportunity to be a key part of your technology, and your success.