The following is from an article published in the February 2018 issue of Embedded Advisor
President and founder of Wolff Electronic Design (WED), Kirk Wolff says “Product development has always been hard, and always will be hard. There are no magical silver bullets.”
Founded in 2009, WED is an outsource product development and technology consulting firm. Their management team has more than 40 years of experience in outsource product development. They define outsourced product development as “they do it for you.” During an outsourced product development engagement, irrespective of the size, they are usually working against a set of defined requirements, tasks and deliverables. They also provide project planning and management to achieve the agreed upon goals within a defined schedule and budget. Consulting on the other hand is when “they teach you how to do it” or “they assist you in doing it”. Often times it consists of answering specific technical questions or providing troubleshooting assistance. It also can take the form of training or independent design reviews.
WED has a team of specialists that are well versed in a variety of communication technologies, in particular USB, IoT, and BLE (Bluetooth Low-Energy). According to Kirk, “We have an internal process of strategic selection, adoption, and training of new technologies. During the early-adoption phase of a technology, there is a high demand for outsource developers in that specialty. By virtue of being an outsourced team, we rapidly execute many real-world projects with this technology and accumulate expertise by applying them in many different ways.
After you’ve become an expert in a technology, you are now an easy sell to companies with projects that incorporate that technology.
Companies often initially engage with them on a consulting basis and discover they are a competent resource implement entire projects with a good ROI. They later re-engage for an outsourced product development project that was deferred due to internal bandwidth constraints.
WED is a geographically distributed virtual company with employees located across the US. They use secure online industry standard tools that permit easy sharing of project data with both team members and clients. This encourages a high degree of communication and collaboration and ensures that transparency is maintained at all times.
WED uses a mix of full and part time employees and contractors. Since WED is a virtual company, they can be fairly selective about the engineers they employ. Kirk says “We can draw from a much broader talent base than most companies can, and offer our employees intangible benefits they can’t find elsewhere.” WED selects design engineers that are passionate about their work and fit well in the company culture of entrusting employees with a high degree of freedom of how and when to work, while simultaneously being held accountable by their peers.
WED works with clients across nearly all industry segments. Since each industry segment has its own priorities and challenges, another key to WED’s success is that it scales and tailors its development process to match the needs of a particular client’s project. This allows WED’s management to ensure the right people are working on the right pieces of a project at the right time and with the right amount of process. When asked how WED differs from its competitors, Kirk shared the following insight, “A lot of our competitors claim to be focused on ‘finding the right solutions’. We find that by being focused on asking the right questions, the right solutions become obvious.”
When asked to summarize WED’s recipe for success, Kirk responded “That’s easy… hire good people, pay them well, provide a flexible working environment that encourages innovation, apply just the right amount of process, use the right collaboration technologies that allow people to be productive and maintain team cohesiveness without the typical workplace distractions; then just get out of their way.”