Organizations across industries — even the tech industry’s giants — occasionally need help building the cutting-edge products of tomorrow. Whether due to a lack of engineers or engineers with the exact technical expertise to complete a project, outsourced product development is an often-used tool to get products developed.
Product development has risks, and a delayed project or defect ridden product can result in both financial and reputational damage. When outsourcing product development, picking the right partner to help bring your project to life is important.
If you are looking to delegate some engineering services to an outsourced engineering team but are unsure of how to choose the optimal partner, we can help. This article shares some of the top considerations when choosing the best product design engineering companies for your project.
Consider the Comprehensiveness of Your Partner’s Capabilities
The optimal partner provides services spanning your product’s entire technology stack. Even if you don’t plan to outsource the whole design, having a partner that can communicate in your language and understand the entire product’s operation is valuable. Additionally, if their services span your entire technology stack, then their QA team will be skilled at testing the end-to-end system. Since many modern connected products require the development and fusion of hardware, embedded software, and cloud and mobile applications, this can be a good differentiator and a way to narrow the field. Just like the old adage “too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the broth,” too many contractors results in no one taking responsibility for the end-to-end operation of the overall product.
If your engineering design partner of choice can complete your project from end to end, the final product is likely to be more cohesive — and likely better — than if different partners are responsible for disparate elements of the product. At the end of the day, someone needs to own the system level integration of the entire product, and work tirelessly to ensure the complete product works reliably. Consequently, when it comes to narrowing down to the best product design engineering companies for your product, expertise across all the necessary technologies and engineering disciplines is vital to success.
Evaluate the Product Development Process
Companies that leverage a well-thought-out and proven engineering process are more likely to complete projects and launch products on time and within budget as they have a repeatable process.
Also, remember that your partner’s processes should feed into any processes you’ve established. Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself to ensure your processes align:
- Do you have a quality management system (QMS) or a similar tool because you are in a regulated industry? If so, you need your partner to not just design the product but to do so using your process while filling in all of the supporting documentation so you can get through the regulatory hurdles.
- Is the software under source control? This is a telltale of an immature process and should be avoided. Do you have access to the code repository? If not, then be wary.
- Who will own the intellectual property? Will your partner use their ownership of a predeveloped piece of the design to hold you captive forever or do they deliver all that code with no IP restrictions?
- Is your partner selling you their “one-size-fits-some” predeveloped template? You are trying to develop a differentiated product, so pre-developed solutions can often be limiting.
From idea definition to design, development and integration through commercialization and ongoing support, your partner should be able to support every aspect of the product development process. And if your partner isn’t including QA in every step of the process, you might run into last-minute surprises that could hinder your launch.
Contemplate Quality Assurance
When it comes to your product, quality is critical. There’s nothing worse than launching a buggy product or one that gets panned on social media and in the press for not consistently working the way it should. From the management of alpha and beta testing to the automation of key regression tests when new features are added, QA should be integrated into product development. And if your partner says the engineers test their own code — run. Your reputation is heavily judged by the quality of the products you launch, so remember to choose a product design engineering company partner that prioritizes QA, possesses unique quality testing specialties and is committed to the quality of your product. As a quick litmus test, ask how many people are in their QA team. If they don’t have a QA team, then that would be a problem. For reference, at Cardinal Peak, roughly 15-20% of our staff are in QA.
Peruse the Project Portfolio
Does your potential product design engineering partner utilize the latest design and fabrication technologies? Are they experienced in your field? Many companies have a specialized niche, but a diverse portfolio of completed projects can highlight a company’s capabilities across markets and products, thereby illustrating its mastery of both engineering design services as well as of different markets.
By demonstrating these levels of proficiency, potential partners can give your project unique insight into overlooked or yet-to-be-discovered opportunities. While every product design engineering company’s portfolio will feature attractive designs and appealing content, it’s important that your potential partner has experience with the engineering disciplines and technologies you plan to leverage.
Remember to Balance Cost with Value
A top engineering design firm might charge you a pretty penny while some lower-cost companies appear to offer more affordable services. Remember that a professional is expensive but an amateur costs a fortune. Engage with a partner early in the process to determine your ballpark budget and chart the course. From there, it’s important to choose the partner that can deliver the most value in terms of product performance while adhering to timing and budget constraints.
Going too low cost often results in wasted time and money — and a subpar product or no product at all. The bar for production is exceedingly high, and many projects don’t clear that bar, which results in wasted money.
Boil your innovation down to the minimum viable product and get it out the door. If the MVP is successful, you’ll want to grow that product, so this approach enables you to test the market and reduce the risk of falling short on development funds. While pricing should not be your No. 1 priority, maximizing the return on your investment remains important.
Protect Your Intellectual Property
As you know, your intellectual property is incredibly valuable. Make sure you will exclusively own any IP that your partner develops.
Other Considerations for Choosing a Product Design Engineering Company
Beyond the factors discussed above, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind when selecting an engineering design firm.
Clear communication is critical during product development. If your partner isn’t willing to provide you with constant updates and the ability to correct course quickly, they probably are not the right partner for your project.
How does your partner communicate? Will it be obvious when there is a bump in the road, or will you find out months later? How does your partner stay in sync will your internal team? Get specific and ask to see some examples.
No one wants to worry about middle-of-the-night calls with offshore contract engineering firms, but if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that engineering teams can work effectively in remote settings and typically have the necessary tools in place to do so efficiently. It is common for outsourced engineering teams to be located in different parts of the country or in locales around the globe, so don’t limit your search because a partner isn’t in your backyard.
Did you know that about 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers? Repeat clients are a great way for product design companies to illustrate the value of the products they design and develop. Returning customers exhibit that your potential partner can deliver high-quality digital or physical products, mitigate risks, build and maintain healthy customer relationships, communicate effectively, and demonstrate project and time management skills. Ask your potential partner what fraction of their business is from repeat customers.
Why Cardinal Peak Stands Out Among the Best Product Design Engineering Companies
Product development is inherently risky, but an experienced product engineering company can overcome the most challenging issues at every step of the process to minimize those risks and deliver a high-quality product that’s ready to hit the market.
At Cardinal Peak, our robust team of 100-plus engineers meets clients at their point of need, working with existing teams and vendors to support every aspect of the product engineering process. Our milestone-driven approach keeps both short- and long-term goals in focus throughout the project, and we prioritize clear, detailed and transparent communication to ensure alignment with your processes. Plus, you maintain control over your valuable IP when partnering with us, and quality testing is engineered into our process from day one so that our team can find and correct any issues early, eliminating final-stage surprises.
We understand how entire solutions work together, and that knowledge allows us to minimize the risks involved in a product’s successful market launch. With more than 800 completed projects, including 200 successfully launched products, our unique product engineering process covers every angle. We’ve worked with both Fortune 500 leaders and innovative startup organizations to find the right solutions tailored according to each project’s individual needs, and we’re staffed and ready to deliver innovative solutions that meet your unique needs.
Reach out to your Cardinal Peak solution manager today to let us know how we can bring your project to life!