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The 5 Essential Rules to successfully outsource your R&D activities!

6th September - Valencia.

The growing adoption of embedded devices in new electronics of advanced consumer applications to build functionality, quality and usability is having a knock-on effect to the Engineering industry.

As products grow in complexity so the need for expert Embedded Engineers becomes highly acute.

However in such a competitive market the stakes are high, to bring engineering projects to fruition at the right time and at the right cost.

It is well known that there is a skills shortage in the industry and therefore clients are seeing that the costs of obtaining the right calibre permanent and sometimes contract staff to get projects over the line are spinning out of control. As a result, more and more companies are seeking a different direction to increase control over their projects and reduce their costs. One solution is to outsource parts of their R&D activities in order to alleviate their hard pressed teams from overload and the distinct possibility of project delay or abandonment.

According to PWC in their paper ‘Strategy and Global Talent Innovation,’ it is highlighted that in the competitive environment of advanced electronics, companies must seek to build a new talent innovation model which accelerates competitive advantage from analysing talent needs and skills required internally and externally. By focusing on where the specific skills are needed and defining where value is being created, a company can then address what other skills can be outsourced.

Whilst there are advantages to looking at outsourcing particularly for lower skilled activities it is essential that companies should analyse in detail who and how they engage with an Outsource provider to drive success.

Here are 5 main rules…..

1. Choose the Right Outsource Provider

A client should always analyse their outsourced engineering provider to provide the full range of capabilities and having the right experience and portfolio to back up their service promises which are right for the organisation, project, timelines and budget. Technologies are continuously being advanced and updated, so capabilities and technical experience need to be examined to ensure any potential project can be covered and executed.

2. Analyse the specific technical capabilities in the team for your project

Any established outsourcing provider should be able to gather a team that will possess all the skills and technological expertise necessary to implement your project. You will need to pick the most suitable background and technical knowhow from the individuals presented. Engineers with strong Embedded Software & Firmware experience will also need to have extensive experience in your application area and good knowledge of your specialist tools and methodologies. 

3. Analyse where the Outsourced Team will be based and what the benefits will be

It makes a lot of sense to recognise how and where the Outsource team will operate from and what will be the benefits. For many project managers communication is the key, therefore it makes sense to enlist the help of an outsource team with a similar culture, mind-set and language plus a disciplined work ethic towards the project. 

It is also essential how the outsourced company will work with you, what overhead commitments they are taking to provide the team and how it will work to reduce your costs.

4. Flexibility and adaptability

Quite often you will need to change parameters on your project or check the need for onsite versus remote requirements. Is the outsource supplier adaptable to this? Or how easy will it be to scale the project? Can other skills or management be added to the project?

5. Choose an Outsource PARTNER not just a provider

How much of a partner is your Outsource provider? How easy is it for them to scale or provide more skilled operators to the team? Can they work in partnership on the same goals and success criteria as you have and can they work to your budget?

Since most embedded environments require system testing, it’s essential to implement system test activities in a form of agile iterations, with teams of testers executing functional, scalability and other system-level testing. Additionally, working towards the decoupling of the product architecture will improve the ability to change, build, and test specific architectural layers or product components more easily. As a result, you will achieve steady-state program performance targets and deliver everything at a desired pace. It may also bring such benefits as early customer engagement, continuous testing, and early program risk visibility.

By sticking to these basic rules of engagement and working towards a joint set of success indicators outsourcing becomes less of a risk and more of a competitive advantage.  Enabling clients to focus on their core competences and intellectual property whist key partners take care of the heavy load of necessary but lesser skilled tasks to deliver projects in time at a reduced cost.