There are many talented product development firms’ throughout the world, but not all companies know how to integrate outside product development skills with in-house expertise. This chapter discusses how companies can leverage the skills of product developers, both as internal employees and as external consultants. What do they do, how can they do it for you, which firm do you hire, and how do you manage it?
Binghamton, NY. At the monthly meeting with top management, Paul Dinaro was chosen to head the new design initiative the company wanted to develop. The CEO called him in and told him personally, adding that it was possibly the most important thing he could do for the company. The first two things Paul asked himself was whether this was a promotion, and what it meant for his future career. Paul had been in advanced research with a promising career to become VP—if not at the current company, then certainly with a competitor. But his company did not have a history of making design a priority. He was given no instructions, and there were no guidebooks to go to for this one. What to do? Should he find an outside firm to work with? should he propose a budget to hire a design staff, one focused on product rather than technology, internal to the company? Would he have to be the one to figure out where the budget would come from to pay for all this?
This would be either the most significant growth step in his career or the establishment of his career plateau, and there was nothing and no one he could turn to to figure out which one it was. He decided to give it three months, but he was also going to call his headhunter to put his name back on the active list. The problem is he knew that companies are not plugging management in and out like in the 1990s, so the opportunity for advancement by corporate hopping was no longer the sure way to go.
A big problem from Paul’s viewpoint was his company’s uncertain commitment to design. The current CEO liked design, but the CEO was relatively new to the company. He had vision, but his vision was not yet part of the company culture; it was still just a vision. He was simply not sure if the company’s commitment to design was a longterm one or just in a trial period. The company designed products, sure, but its true technology was focus.