Header Background

Keys for successfully outsourcing electronic product development

When a company identifies the need for outside product development resources, screening for the most suitable partner and mitigating risk are vital to producing the device or system that meets company standards. Once the screening is complete, establishing a productive working relationship with your chosen outsourcing partner is crucial for success. The following checklists can help you make good decisions when it’s time to get help.


Characteristics to look for in an outsourcing partner

  • Loyal. Protects your interests and is not involved in conflict-of-interest situations.

  • Open minded. Approaches your needs with an open mind and applies solutions tailored to your application.

  • Innovative. Provides custom solutions for the business need and avoids a cookie cutter or cookbook approach to problem solving.

  • Patient. Allows adequate time for planning and decision-making. Doesn't try to rush the timeline or push a canned solution.

  • Proactive. Anticipates needs and addresses them accordingly.

  • Personable. Uses effective communication skills. Is open and honest about all aspects of the work. Makes you comfortable with all aspects of the outsourcing activity.

  • Engaged. Treats you as if you are their only client. Is always available for calls or questions and shares your excitement about the project.

  • Prudent risk takers. Evaluates risk before taking or recommending action.

  • Self-starters. Takes charge of the situation and doesn't wait for prodding from you to get the job done.

  • Disciplined. Meets your deadlines and keeps your schedules without your supervision.

  • Goal oriented. Does not get involved in "work for work's sake," but works toward agreed-upon outcomes.

  • Focused and mature. Acknowledges the changing nature of today's work environment and deals with daily frustrations in a focused and mature way. Is not threatened by changes in the scope or nature of the work.


Nine keys to outsourcing success

1. Clearly define the scope and schedule for your project.

Produce a clear statement of work (SOW) with specific deliverables you expect. Set a clear and realistic schedule.

2. Evaluate a service provider like you'd hire a full-time employee.

When evaluating proposals from service providers, ask questions where clarification is needed.

Check references and ask for feedback from other clients who have used their services. If there are concerns about a supplier's specific capabilities, communicate them.

3. Look for specific experience fit.

Select a provider that has specific experience with the type of project that you're undertaking.

Avoid being somebody's "guinea pig.”

4. Don't choose a supplier based solely on price.

5. Review portfolios and samples.

Examine the supplier's previous work and make sure that their previous work meets your expectations for quality and style. Consider requesting an evaluation or a basic outline of a work plan. Do not to ask a supplier to provide you with finished work "on spec."

6. Tie payment to clearly defined project milestones.

Define a work plan for your outsourced project with clearly defined milestones. Tie the supplier's payment to these milestones.

7. Negotiate ownership of work up front.

Agree on who owns the resulting work product and any important components of that product.

Make certain the service provider understands how you intend to use the deliverables that they are agreeing to provide.

8. Don't forget about support after the project is complete.

Specify a warranty or support clause to be assured of continuing support from the supplier after the project is complete.

9. Get it in writing.

Clearly communicate any schedule, scope or payment changes to your service provider and get confirmation from them- in writing- that they understand and agree to the changes. Keep a record of any agreement changes requested by the service provider and your response. Save copies of all communications.

Adapted with permission from the author. Originally presented by Joseph Zaccari at the SMTA Medical Electronics Symposium. 

We hope you found this information helpful. For more information on Stilwell Baker's services visit stilwellbaker.com.