Choosing a product development (PD) agency to help bring your product to market is a high stakes decision that should be made with the utmost care.
Something we hear often from prospective clients who are shopping for a product development partner is how each PD agency has their own process, expertise and approach to working with customers and developing products – which makes their decision on who to work with difficult.
In the interest of making the decision a little less stressful for those looking for product development help, we’ve put together 21 questions you can ask each agency you meet with, to help you evaluate them across a common set of criteria.
1) Does the PD agency have all the required capabilities for your project? At a high-level, this can include validating product-market fit, approach to regulatory certification, industrial design, mechanical engineering, electronic hardware and firmware, prototyping, testing, and even product manufacturing.
2) After reviewing the projects on the PD agency’s website portfolio, can the PD agency clearly identify what involvement they had in the development of each featured product?
3) Has the PD agency worked on products in the past that require similar capabilities to your product? (Hint: experience in exactly the same product is not always necessary)
4) Do the capabilities promoted by the PD agency exist in-house or with external partners? If they do collaborate with other partners (many do), how does their external network of experts compliment their own? How do they manage these relationships and are their relationships with external expert’s long-standing?
Communication, Collaboration, & Customer Experience
5) What processes does the PD agency use to capture, document and communicate knowledge internally as well as with their clients?
6) How does the PD agency work with its clients to help guide and make important decisions? (Hint: it starts with providing full context to the solution space and the risks surrounding each potential path)
7) How does the PD agency measure client satisfaction and respond to client feedback? Do they have systems in place to capture, evaluate, and implement improvements based on the feedback they receive?
8) What project management methods does the PD agency use?
9) Does the PD agency have dedicated project managers that are accountable for overseeing the project budget and schedule?
10) Does the PD agency provide clear project targets (product cost, performance, development deadlines) and track their progress relative to each aspect?
11) How does the PD agency track product and project requirements and communicate deviations in project scope, budget and timing?
Engineering, Prototyping, & Testing
12) What tools and methods are used by the PD agency to define & manage product risks and product quality?
13) How does the PD agency decide where in the process to produce prototypes and at what fidelity?
14) When the time comes to solicit pre-sales or additional investment, can the PD firm deliver fully functional, “looks-like” prototypes that are virtually indistinguishable from the real product?
15) What processes and systems does the PD agency have in place to manage product validation, verification testing, and certification?
Manufacturing & Quality Management
16) Can the PD agency show documented evidence of their abilities to design for manufacturing and assembly?
17) To what extent was the PD agency responsible for auditing and selecting the manufacturer? Can they show you documented vendor audits?
18) How does the PD agency balance their client’s product manufacturing costs and product profitability? (Hint : product cost is set early in the concept design phase – not during manufacturing launch)
19) Can the PD agency show documented evidence of how they measure and manage ongoing quality control of parts and assemblies produced?
20) Can the PD agency provide in–market tracking and traceability for the products they produce?
21) Does the agency have a documented and certified quality management system such as ISO 9001 (general products and services) or ISO 13485 (medical devices)?