In the course of product development, every company reaches a point where it becomes necessary to integrate additional resources into the development process.
This often concerns product and user interface design, as these aspects are important factors and "door openers" for the subsequent success of the product, but due to the cyclical workload in many companies, there are no internal resources available in this area. However, internal capacities are also often limited in the area of development, as day-to-day business and existing products have to be maintained alongside new developments. The focus of internal resources often remains on the actual technological functional component, the core, while the housing and the surrounding functions are "left behind" or can be outsourced to a design and construction office as a perfect package.
The possibilities of in-house prototype construction have also been "rationalized away" at many companies in recent years. Due to modern ERP and production processes, the introduction of prototypes between regular series production often means a great deal of bureaucratic effort and lead time.
The task now is to find out who is the right partner for these external tasks. And this search is no less complicated than the "real" search for a partner - especially as a much larger group of people is involved in this "relationship" in a company, so it is no less "complicated" as a result.
While the "coincidence" factor often writes the best stories in real-life relationships,
in business, this process should be as structured and successful as possible. After all, this is about project and product success, critical market launch dates and ultimately a lot of money.
Relationships with suppliers are also often formed because someone from the team "brings" the partner with them from their previous history. As in real life, it is also important that the rest of the team can also commit to this "adopted" partner and that a supplier does not end up as a stepchild "between the stools".
In the service sector, the "human factor" is an important criterion in a business relationship. The "chemistry has to be right", as the creative process and the concept and idea development are primarily based on intensive communication and a shared understanding. If views and expectations are too far apart, this can quickly lead to frustration and costly project loops. As in a real relationship, this common understanding must always be "worked on", as product development always involves weighing up objectives and feasibility.
As we have to deal with these issues and "relationship management" again and again with every new customer inquiry and in our collaboration with almost 100 customers per year, we have collected the various criteria for such an initial selection of the right partner and evaluated them for various "offices" as examples.
From our point of view, there are various selection criteria that we have summarized in the table excerpts above and prepared as a utility value analysis for an effective scoring procedure and transparent presentation. To explain the handling, we have also entered the ratings for 2 fictitious offices as an example. When scoring, it should be noted that the criteria marked as KILL criteria count twice in the scoring or mean a drop-out if they are not met.
In addition to the table, here are a few more explanations of the individual criteria groups:
References and industry knowledge
Of course, the desired candidate should have many years of experience in the respective product sector and industry and ideally have already completed an identical project, but on the other hand should work as exclusively as possible for the current project and the current partner. This is often a dilemma. Of course, exclusivity can only be achieved on a mutual basis with a long-term partnership and a corresponding continuous project workload.
However, this is often not yet possible to determine and estimate for an initial project. In our experience, experience in the industry and from similar projects and tasks is what counts here above all, as the service provider then has a very good understanding of the market, the applications and the technology, which is much more important for the success of the project than creative "naivety" from outside the industry. In addition, every project and every customer has different objectives and company-political and market-specific framework conditions, despite being in a similar industry. The competence of a design agency is often also derived from the number of design awards, whereby this is extremely influenced by whether the client uses this marketing tool and submits it at all. From our point of view, it is much more important what methodology the partner uses to find the right design for your brand and your product, rather than simply applying the "current style" to your product.
Specialist knowledge and other skills
It should go without saying that every design agency can design and work with Photoshop and the Wacom board. Therefore, knowledge and understanding of aspects such as manufacturability and production costs/processes that go beyond the actual specialist area are much more important selection criteria. And this is where many traditional offices fall short, as the technical aspects are given far too little attention in the designers' training.
Only an office that brings truly qualified engineers into the project team can score points here. Unless your internal development department is willing and able to fight through the transfer of the design vision to a feasible product itself - a thoroughly thankless task, as the "shining eyes" of the overdrawn design vision quickly turn into disappointed faces when what is really feasible in terms of technology and costs is subsequently put on the table. In this case, a well-founded partner with a larger team and broader expertise is better than a small team with only one "specialist pair of glasses".
Soft facts / team
The chemistry must be right - this is a real kill criterion. If you don't "warm up" to the other person, even specialist skills and references are useless. It is therefore important to get to know the team and the sparring partner personally. Here too, a large agency with a larger team can of course offer a broader range of personalities for a "best fit".
It is also important to us that the external partner also sees itself as a "project driver" and drives the projects and decisions forward together as equals, instead of just providing services on demand in a subordinate service provider role.
From our point of view, an appropriate seniority of the team is an extremely important aspect - often "hip" design offices consist of a large proportion of interns, trainees and graduates. After all, you don't want to let your partner "gain their first experience" with your project, you want to achieve the optimum result for your project. In our view, this can only be achieved by combining project and life experience with creative methodology and a variety of strategic ideas.
Last but not least, the commercial framework conditions must of course also be right. As in real life, "Buy cheap, buy twice" also applies here. Of course, the price for the service must be justified and the product must be financially viable. In our view, it is therefore extremely important that the services and the individual cost aspects are presented and formulated in a transparent, precise and binding manner so that the overall package of costs, deadlines and service content is comprehensible to you and fits in with your project.
We hope that we have been able to give you an understanding of the criteria that make sense in our experience. If we have forgotten important criteria from your point of view, please write to us. Of course, we have also prepared corresponding selection lists from an engineering and UI/UX design perspective, which we are happy to make available to you.
Now we wish you the best of luck with your next partner selection.
Or simply come to us directly, because we offer precisely this unique service package for your successful product development: many years of experience and countless references in many industries and a large internal team with interdisciplinary know-how from four specialist areas.