More projects have just landed in your lap — and your design and engineering teams were already swamped. Where will you find the resources to execute these programs? There’s not enough time to search and hire new tech staff (not if you are going to finish on time) and your past experience with consulting firms or job shops has been mixed, at best. Still scratching your head? Read on. Our vision for providing outstanding product design and engineering services was formed around experiences much like yours. I have walked many a mile in your shoes. Solving the dilemma using a consulting partner means addressing three areas simultaneously:
1) Breadth of Experience – you need access to talent with expertise that spans all the necessary functional disciplines.
2) Depth of Experience – you need a partner who has a talent pool with enough experienced staff in each function to enable your project to be realized efficiently and rapidly.
3) Level of Experience – your projects demand senior level talent so you can leverage the benefits of their years of experience.
The Breadth Problem
Execution of your product realization requires a team with talent from multiple design and technical functions. Every functional manager, more or less, suffers equally from being short staffed. As such, you likely have resource gaps in multiple functional areas… if not all. Look for a firm that has true multi-functional capabilities. Dig deep in your research because almost every firm will list a broad set of skills. Few will have more than a very modest capability beyond one or two functional areas. Find a firm that has strong capabilities in all the areas required to execute your project. Managing an incremental project using a single, highly capable product development firm with the necessary breadth of capability enables you to centralize responsibility and control. You want one firm to be responsible for the entire project with no excuses.
The Experience Problem
You have hired product development consulting firms before. In initial discussions you met with their best, senior level talent. Once the contract starts, you find the individuals you met are not the ones fully engaged in your project. At best, they are ‘supervising’ the more junior people assigned to the project. In the past, you may have even been told that someone with 5 years of experience (or less) was a “senior staff member”! An individual with 5 years engineering or ID experience is not a senior staff member. We both know that. You’ve sought out senior staff for your internal team because you know the value of experience. You also realize that creativity can be just as easily manifested in a senior staff member as a junior staff member. The difference? The senior level staff member will is less likely to make the mistakes of a more junior individual. The mistakes cost you time and they cost you money. Before you commit to a consulting partner, take a rigorous look at who will really be working on your project. You want strength to match your expectations for an internal team.
The Depth Problem
You’ve found a multi-disciplinary firm with breadth of expertise in all the necessary domains. But now you find that the project is running late. You need your PD partner to “kick up” the effort into a higher gear. Unfortunately, the partner only has one or two people with the skills you need and hence does not have the bandwidth to effectively ramp up the team. They may be able to find someone who is not part of their core team, but does the outsider have the skills you need to produce the quality deliverables you expect? Can they ramp up quickly enough? Look for a firm with a deep bench in each of the necessary functions for the project. This bandwidth in headcount is your hedge that the partner has the capability to scale up in response to a crisis or an unexpected bump in the road.
This may not be an all-inclusive list of the screening process. However, these key points… Breadth-Experience-Depth… may be crucial factors in finding the right partner.