I’m a product management and development professional and I’ve worked with organizations such as General Electric, Ericsson, Honeywell, Meritor (formerly a division of Rockwell International), and others in the private sector. Most of my work is in new product development and product management, and I’ve developed or managed over 40 product lines for both North American and global markets. My work almost always includes working closely with the engineering department in the development and auditing of new products. Sometimes I discover an engineering team that has both organizational and technical challenges to overcome.
We cannot view design firms as clones of each other. They have their own expertise and business practices. Find the firms that claims a proven record of technical success in your field of need. Then eliminate any of them who cannot prove this expertise and back-up the proof with some form of guarantee. The hard work and diligence required by this vetting process will be returned to your firm many times. Failure to do the work can cause your firm irreparable damage and possible collapse.
How do we properly evaluate the efficacy of a design team (internal or contract) when we have little evidence of past performance? These 5 steps provide excellent insight into their ability to meet project requirements.
The 5 steps are:
- Demonstrable expertise and success in the EXACT discipline
- Numerous positive references and testimonials
- Advertised expertise
- An internal audit function
- Do they stand behind their design or so they shrug-off their failures and continue to bill time & materials
Third, do they advertise the expertise you require? This may sound crazy but I once entered a project very late in its development. The design firm was many months behind schedule and I was tasked with determining the causes of the delay and return the project to a proper course. I immediately “googled” the design firm we were using and found that they made no mention of the expertise required for our project on their website. I then did the same for their competitor and found multiple pages describing their successes in this particular field.
It is a good marketing practice to tout successes and satisfied clients on your website and in marketing material. If your contractor or consultant does not market a technique and past successes, they probably have do not have the ability to succeed with your project.
Fourth, do they have an internal QA process? How does your component supplier ensure your factory receives quality components? They probably have a quality assurance (QA) department responsible for quality control. A good factory also has work procedures they must follow – especially if they are ISO9000 certified. Doesn’t it make sense that your design team should have work procedures and formal peer reviews of designs and test results? During your interviews, demand to see their work processes and meeting minutes from design reviews.
They will say it is “privileged” information – give them a felt-tip pen and tell them to black-out the customer data. If the CIA can redact classified data, then your potential design firm can do the same if they want your business.
Next week I will conclude this series with Step 5 that deals with billing.
Contact me you have any questions about choosing a design firm at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my Contact Page.