Not invented here: overcoming the barriers to outsourcing and open innovation
Outsourcing the design process is often viewed with caution especially by the in house R&D team, who sometimes can feel that their expertise and capability is being challenged. A common reaction is the ‘not invented here’ syndrome. So how can you reap the benefits of outsourcing and open innovation whist ensuring your in-house team stay involved and on-board with the process?
Combine the teams
It is of key importance for design consultancies to make sure that the combined team capability is greater than the sum of its parts. Effectively tapping into the technology and expertise that already exists within the internal team is a critical part of this; at the most basic level there is little point in reproducing what a company already has. By finding key experts within the organisation, building working relationships and working closely and openly with them we’re able to capitalise on our combined knowledge and experience. Often design consultancies have many different skills to offer and by mixing and matching in-house experts and external consultants with a fresh approach, it’s possible to build a creative, complementary team.
The issue of cost
A common objection to outsourcing is cost. Projects are often assumed to be expensive as the investment is clearly stated. If this figure was compared to the costs of maintaining a similar size internal team, which are often hidden in indirect overheads, then the differences would be surprisingly small. In any case, the cost of doing nothing might be much higher.
In addition it is important to remember that through this investment you’re not only getting one or two individuals, but a multidisciplinary R&D team with a successful track record, years of experience in many sectors and the resources and know how to deliver results quickly. Importantly this allows project timescales to be minimised and the likelihood of success and potential returns maximised. For many companies in growth cycles the strategic benefit of being able to pick up and put down an effective team allows a rapid scale up to meet demand with minimum risk should market conditions change.
Retaining both legal ownership of IP as well as a strong sense of project ownership is a crucial step. It is important to establish you will have complete freedom to use the results of an outsourced project unencumbered. Also, to extract the most value from a new product platform going forward, the in house team must fully understand the design in order to maintain it and build derivatives. The in house team are the customers in the outsourcing relationship, it’s their project and once the results have been delivered the design consultancy will step back.
Outsourcing product innovation can always be seen by some as a threat, but it’s something that many successful companies thrive on as part of their open innovation strategy. We believe the biggest threat comes from making do with a less effective process that allows products to slowly become out-dated, uncompetitive and uninspired.