How to Pick a Real-Time Embedded Software Consultant

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to provide you with a checklist for picking a consultant for your next real-time embedded software systems project. Since you have gotten this far, we’ll assume that you are already interested in finding a consultant and so we’ll skip to the basics. We tried to phrase all of the questions such that they require only Yes or No answers.

 

What is Their Skill Mix?
  • Does the consultant have at least 15 years of experience designing real-time embedded systems?
  • Is the consultant thoroughly familiar with real-time operating systems?
  • Does the consultant have a good working knowledge of electronics?
  • Does the consultant know how to read schematics?
  • Does the consultant know how to use an oscilloscope?
  • Does the consultant know how to debug hardware as well as software?
  • Is the consultant proficient in object oriented design?
  • Does the consultant know how to create object oriented designs that can run out of ROM?
  • Does the consultant have good communications skills as well as good technical skills?

 

How does their Proposal Read?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal provide a detailed preliminary specification?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal provide a detailed statement of work?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal provide a preliminary test plan?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal provide a fixed price?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal identify risks and provide a risk management plan?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal provide a schedule that is acceptable to you?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal provide references?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal read professionally?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal make clear all of the intellectual property issues?
  • Does the consultant’s proposal read like a legal contract?

 

References
  • Does the consultant have references in the specific technology areas where you are looking?
  • Does the consultant have references with whom they have worked for at least 5 years?
  • Are the references enthusiastic about the consultant?
  • Have you asked the reference about the consultant’s greatest strengths?
  • Have you asked the reference about the consultant’s greatest weakness?
  • Have you asked the reference about the consultant’s greatest success?
  • Have you asked the reference about the consultant’s greatest failure?
  • Does the reference believe that the consultant has met schedule on past projects?
  • Does the reference believe that the consultant brings integrity to its projects?
  • Does the reference believe that the consultant brings creativity to its projects?
  • Does the reference believe that the consultant keeps the client’s interests in mind in all decisions?
  • Have you asked the reference about how available the consultant was to meet their overflow software development needs?

 

Can the Consultant Provide Long Term Availability?
  • Has the consultant been working with clients like you for at least 10 years?
  • Is the consultant spread too thin to meet your long term needs?
  • Does the company present a stable image for the long term?

 

What are the Employees of the Consultant like?
  • Is it clear which employees will be working on your project?
  • Does the consulting company retain its employees over the long term?
  • Does the consulting company have a good technical mix of employees to handle your project?
  • Will there be more than one employee working on your project?
  • We hope that this checklist will clarify the values that we consider important in searching for quality real-time embedded consultants and that it will help you successfully outsource your next real-time embedded software project.

 

This is an example of what a quote request form could look like.