Looking at outside help for things that (a) are outside of our core competencies or (b) something we simply don’t want to do is pretty commonplace in our personal lives. Think lawn care, snow removal, or pretty much all handyman jobs. In business however this seemingly simple idea is often presented in the garb of heavy sounding jargon like “make or buy” or “strategic outsourcing” decisions.
That said, although it sounds very simple, and probably doesn’t warrant too much deliberation in our personal lives, the same thing has far reaching consequences for a business. So, it’s not for nothing that decisions like these, keep executives awake at night. Ever wondered why? Put very simply, it’s because any executive or decision maker worth their salt knows that they need to get their house in order first before letting others in to help them with whatever they need help with. Especially, if that “something” involves engineering product development. Again, ever wondered why? One, engineering is complicated and collaboration is difficult to begin with. And, two, your company’s future could depend on it! Too dramatic? I don’t think so. Read on.
When you seek and engage an outside partner to help with your engineering, it’s imperative that you have your internal processes strong enough to share with an outside firm. In the absence of strong internal processes, the presence of an outside firm will simply complicate things and is a sure recipe for disaster.
Besides getting your engineering processes in order, it is important to have and document design best practices or standards. Without that, there is no benchmark for you to compare their work with. And before you know, your internal teams will spend a lot more time than you might have anticipated in correcting the work that has been delivered.
In the clamor for focusing on engineering processes, design standards and best practices, what is often lost is the need to get your communication infrastructure in order. It doesn’t matter whether your engineering partner is 20 or 2000 miles away. Communication (or lack thereof) often is the sole reason that makes or breaks an engagement. Having a strong communication infrastructure, either via proprietary or commercial tools, is not only important for a collaborative engineering/design project but also key for stakeholders to be on top of projects. Engagements that are based on throw-it-over-the-wall mentality hardly ever succeed. All stakeholders need to be able to have completely visibility and control over all the projects, be able to prioritize tasks as required and communicate with people directly involved in the project.
Unfortunately you are looking for outside help because you don’t have enough resources to keep up with your current work. So it is hardly likely you will have time to get your house in order before engaging with an outside partner. It is therefore important to find a partner who will help you get your house in order first. Look for an experienced company who is highly process and metric driven that can bring in the expertise to organize your processes and standards to industry norms.