You find yourself needing help with new product development. Now what? Because of the complex nature of product design and development, this can be a daunting situation, especially for startups who may be finding themselves on the development journey for the first time. Since the Hatch team has been through the process time and again, we’ve outlined three things we recommend evaluating when assessing a new partner.
Whether large or small scale, there will be challenges along the road to product commercialization. Technical challenges with material selection, software frameworks compatibility, delays with suppliers, edge case certifications, and manufacturing hurdles all throw a development team into a tailspin if there isn’t an expert problem solver at the helm. While the need to have someone who can work through problems may seem obvious on its face, it may be less obvious how to assess whether or not your new product development firm or consultant is a problem solver.
A good way to analyze whether the product development firm is a problem solver is to understand the projects they’ve worked on --and not just designed, but have taken all the way to production. Furthermore, the experience doesn’t have to be in the same industry, but it should be a product of similar complexity to prove that the firm can navigate similar sized problems they may encounter on your budding product. For example, if the product you’re working to commercialize is a connected IoT household product, look for experience with other connected products. It really doesn’t matter whether it’s a medical device that connects to a mobile phone or a toy that connects to an online game. The fact that your product development expert can show that they’ve successfully completed a program that has an analogous technology signals that you have a problem solver on your hands.
Make sure the scope of the programs your potential partner is showing you goes beyond slick industrial design- ask if they saw the product through to commercialization.
Sometimes a product is so unique and innovative that a product development firm may not have implemented the technology before. Obviously, this why you’re building a new product right? Maybe your product is dealing with 5g, human capture motion vision, UV disinfection, smart DC electric vehicle charging. Besides confirming your new partner has sharp problem-solving skills, they should also have relationships with a wide range of vendors all over the world. These relationships are established over time and tested throughout the years during different projects.
Trying to find reliable vendors by yourself through out the product development process with no help or prior experience would be impossible. The value in a well-connected expert is immeasurable. When trying to judge whether your new product development team has the network you’ll need, ask them at what points along the process they anticipate needing to leverage a vendor. Ask them to talk through these points along the project map or Gantt chart (and make sure they deliver you a Gantt Chart before your first contract is signed!). Inquire about their experience with specific vendors. For example: “What are some cost-effective options for plastic parts and who have you worked with in the past?” Or “How many PCBA vendors do you expect to get quotes from?” “Do you have any quick turn manufacturing houses (beyond 3D printing) that you have a close relationship with?” If your product development pro can answer these questions, you can feel more confident in their ability to bring you through the process successfully.
This is probably the most difficult trait to assess, when searching for a new product development partner.
Your relationship with your product development firm is nearly as important as your relationship with your own internal team.
Trustworthiness is paramount to success of your product. You have to be confident that your new partner will see the program through, even during challenges that may rise from technical obstacles, external factors and other situations. Ask your new product development partners to walk you through a couple case studies of programs they’ve successfully run. Ask to talk to someone who has worked with them. Get a feel for their reliability in your interactions before the program. And in the end, go with your gut.
If you’re working to bring a product through to commercialization, drop us a note. Our team has decades of experience in new product development. Our method of product planning and deep technical expertise has been forged throughout our team’s time developing high-tech, connected, market capturing solutions. Give us a call and we can show you more.
On what I hope is the tail-end of one of the most unpredictable 14 months in recent history, filled with medical, economical, and business challenges, I’ve reflected on what is required in 2021- of businesses, teams and product development.