5 fundamental rules of outsourcing embedded software projects

5 fundamental rules of outsourcing embedded software projects
N-iX
2019-08-27T12:59:24+00:00

Embedded software is becoming omnipresent in both consumer and industrial sectors. Almost every modern application comes with an embedded software system. Global Market Insights estimate that the embedded software market will reach $18.61B by 2023. One of the main reasons for the increased adopti...

5 fundamental rules of outsourcing embedded software projects
By N-iX August 27, 2019

Embedded software is becoming omnipresent in both consumer and industrial sectors. Almost every modern application comes with an embedded software system. Global Market Insights estimate that the embedded software market will reach $18.61B by 2023.

One of the main reasons for the increased adoption of embedded software is its use by electronics companies for increased functionality, improved quality, and reusability. However, complexity in embedded software development and ever-changing technology trends are increasing the cost of embedded software development. That is why many companies explore the opportunity of outsourcing embedded software projects to cut costs while improving quality and time to market.

Here at N-iX, we have been providing embedded software services for over a decade and understand how challenging it might be to find qualified engineers for an embedded software outsourcing project. In this article, we share some tips that will help you drive maximum value from outsourcing your embedded software project.

1.EXAMINE THE EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE OF YOUR EMBEDDED SOFTWARE OUTSOURCING PROVIDER

A reliable embedded software outsourcing company should have a solid portfolio of successfully delivered projects and profound expertise in using various embedded platforms and operating systems. Embedded software engineers should be able to cover all aspects of embedded software development including real-time signal processing and big data. Another plus would be experience in delivering high-tech and IoT projects involving embedded software development.

An embedded software development company with expertise in various embedded services across multiple industries is more likely to offer transformative solutions and drive innovation on your project. N-iX provides a rich array of embedded software outsourcing services including firmware & hardware development, products SDK development and maintenance, integration with third-party technologies, technical support, etc. The company develops embedded solutions for industrial automation and consumer electronics industry.

Our recent projects include embedded Linux firmware development for Weinmann Emergency, a Germany-based company that develops mobile medical devices for emergency vehicles, helicopters, and airplanes. Also, we partnered with a Swedish company Anoto to help them develop an embedded solution that transforms handwritten notes and drawings into digital data. Locinox, a Belgian company that develops high-quality mechanical and electro-mechanical components for fences and gates, is also among our clients. N-iX embedded software engineers have been collaborating with them on developing devices that ensure the safe opening of gates through access codes and provides easy and controlled access to the premises. 

2. DEFINE THE TECHNICAL STACK YOUR REMOTE EMBEDDED TEAM NEEDS TO HAVE

The tech stack of embedded software engineers can vary depending on the product complexity and specific project requirements. Nevertheless, experience in working with General-Purpose Operating Systems (GPOS) and Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS) is essential for handling embedded projects. When working with embedded software, a qualified embedded software engineer should possess advanced knowledge of C or C++. In addition, an embedded software engineer needs to be able to work with algorithms, design patterns, data structures, control systems, etc. Some projects may also require the knowledge of Java, .Net, or Python. Qualified embedded software developers should be familiar with networking technologies such as Ethernet, TCP/IP and have a solid understanding of the different types of memory (RAM, ROM, and Flash), microprocessor & microcontroller architectures, and different types of protocols.

An established embedded software outsourcing provider should be able to gather a remote embedded team within a reasonable time frame that will possess all the skills and tech expertise necessary to implement the client’s project. 

3. CHOOSE SPECIALISTS WITH SOLID UNDERSTANDING OF HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS AND CAPABILITIES 

The main task of an embedded software engineer is to exploit the possibilities of the hardware to bring the maximum benefit for the end-user. So these professionals must understand the hardware they work with. Embedded projects can demand different computing or data processing power, memory size, HDD or SSD capacity, etc. depending on where and how they are used. Skilled embedded outsourcing developers should have profound knowledge of computing technology to help you optimize a target system, providing the ideal configuration of form factors, CPU, memory, storage, and I/Os. The outsourcing company should not only recommend the right embedded computing solutions but also utilize the latest processor technologies to deliver innovative solutions for advanced projects. Embedded engineers who have strong background knowledge in both firmware and hardware become a valuable asset for a client.

4. USE AGILE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES FOR MAXIMIZING PROJECT EFFICIENCY

Long development cycles, late delivery, unpredictable schedules, poor quality, and engineer burnout are some of the most common issues on a project. Agile practices accelerate product development lifecycle and help overcome the inherent constraints of embedded software development. Still some companies find it hard to adapt Agile for combined hardware and software development. It’s essential to define the methodology, structure and size of the team, tools, practices, and metrics to establish an efficient agile-based operating model. This includes creating a baseline map of the existing environment and product architecture. For instance, Agile may be effective in terms of implementing hardware milestone-driven release plans to define software releases.

Since most embedded environments require system testing, it’s important to implement system test activities in a form of agile iterations, with teams of testers executing functional, scalability, and other system-level testing. Additionally, working towards the decoupling of the product architecture will improve the ability to change, build, and test specific architectural layers or product components more easily. As a result, you will achieve steady-state program performance targets and deliver everything at the desired pace. It may also bring such benefits as early customer engagement, continuous testing, and early program risk visibility. Whether your project is hardware/software-focused or hybrid, introducing Agile practices to your development processes is definitely an effective strategy.

5. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF FLEXIBILITY

When outsourcing embedded software projects, hiring embedded software engineers who are flexible and can adapt to changes as quickly as possible is a great advantage. Embedded software development requires engineers to possess different skills depending on the hardware characteristics. For instance, they may need to do a proof-of-concept prototype in just a few weeks in a language they’ve never used before or to start working on a legacy project to fix a bug very quickly. So it’s also important to know about software architecture concepts, event-driven systems and modelling (UML). This knowledge accompanied with the flexibility to learn something new helps in developing quality firmware and hardware from the ground up.

Another point to consider when outsourcing embedded software development is the provider’s flexibility in ramping up and ramping down a team of embedded software engineers. For businesses that grow rapidly, it is essential to have the possibility to scale and shrink the team within the shortest time frames. Depending on the tech stack and the local tech talent market, the length of notice period about extending or shrinking a team with one embedded software engineer may range from 1 to 3 months. In the contract, it is necessary to agree on the reasonable notice periods with a vendor to ensure effective project implementation.

Wrap up

Outsourcing embedded software development offers a number of benefits such as access to the best talent, better project scalability, and a more predictable bottom line. However, the success of an embedded software outsourcing project depends on the skills, experience, and knowledge of embedded software engineers you choose to work with. Thus, when looking for a remote embedded team, don’t underestimate these simple rules of outsourcing embedded software projects. They will help you effectively handle issues at every stage of product development and move your business to the next level.

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About N-iX

N-iX is an Eastern European provider of software development services with 1000+ expert software engineers onboard that power innovative technology businesses. Since 2002 we have formed strategic partnerships with a variety of global industry leaders including OpenText, Novell, Lebara, Currencycloud and over 50 other medium and large-scale businesses. With delivery centers in Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria, and Belarus, we deliver excellence in software engineering and deep expertise in a range of verticals including finance, healthcare, hospitality, telecom, energy and enterprise content management helping our clients to innovate and implement technology transformations.

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