Outsourcing product development, whether it’s for a consumer, medical, or industrial product, can have huge benefits for both large and small companies. There’s the access to experts and specialists that you may not have within your organization; the great potential for time and cost savings; and the ability to rapidly scale without having to hire new or temporary employees.
But as with anything, there are certain obstacles that many entrepreneurs and companies come up against when they outsource without taking the time to really think through the process. Here are a few common pitfalls to outsourcing, and how to avoid them.
Fragmenting the development process
Industrial engineering, software coding, marketing, prototyping, certification…if you can think of a function, you can be 99 percent certain there’s a firm that does that single thing, and nothing else.
Sometimes this works well. Areas that are deeply technical and highly specialized, like building rockets for NASA, need firms that do one thing incredibly well.
However, when it comes to your average consumer or industrial product, you don’t need eight different firms working on eight different aspects of the development. This just fragments your development beyond any necessity and makes it harder for you to manage what’s happening.
This sounds obvious, right? The problem is that often, companies and entrepreneurs can be sold on the idea that a single company won’t have the chops to pull off each element of their product. They may think they need to involve an engineering firm, a design firm, a testing firm, and on and on if they’re going to make the best product possible.
However, this is rarely the case. Product development and manufacturing firms, like Pivot, exist for this exact reason: to make your outsourced product development process as smooth and easy to manage as possible. Instead of having to find, not to mention vet, three or four or five different organizations, you work with just one that houses experts in every step of your product’s lifecycle.
This not only makes your life a whole lot easier, but it can reduce your overall cost and shorten your timeline, too. If your design, prototyping, compliance, and manufacturing are all taking place within the same outsourcing provider, each of those departments will be in communication with each other. That’s a lot better – and faster – than you having to act as messenger between several different companies.
Outsourcing the product, then checking out
If you want to have a successful outsourcing experience, then you have to stay engaged with the company throughout the project’s lifecycle. It’s as simple as that.
That doesn’t mean you have to your product’s development process nanny – at Pivot, at least, we have project managers who can fulfill that role. It does, however, mean that you should be responsive to any inquiries from the company you’re using. You should take the time to offer details and ideas when necessary. You should make it a point to request an update if you haven’t heard from your outsourcing partner in a while.
No matter how good the company is, the fact remains that this is your product idea, not theirs, and they can’t read your mind. If they’re going to do the best work they possibly can, they’ll need your input now and then.
Outsourcing the wrong thing
There’s no rule that says you have to outsource the entire development process. Why would you, if there are elements that you can easily handle on your own or in-house?
The issue companies sometimes have, however, is that they don’t take the time to think through the resources they have available versus what they absolutely need help with. If you’re on a tight budget, this can be a major mistake.
That’s why it’s worth it to investigate all your in-house options first. Maybe you have someone in the marketing department who studied industrial design and would enjoy the chance to work on that part of the process. Maybe your current manufacturing partner is able to handle the small-batch runs you anticipate needing, and you just weren’t aware of it.
Bottom line: You may have access to resources you haven’t considered yet. To make sure you don’t waste money on outsourcing unnecessary parts of the process, do a thorough check-in with yourself and your employees to see what steps you can handle on your own, and what steps would benefit from outsourcing.
Want to learn more about the product development process? Read our e-book, From Concept to Product Launch: A Guide to Product Development.