Maybe you’re a Product Lead, a CTO, a Software Engineer or a Project Manager. Chances are, you’ve had a taste of in-house and agency. They are entirely different beasts, and it can actually be quite daunting when switching from one to the other. Typically, in-house projects can be nurtured and mapped out over a longer period, whereas agency life is a little more pacey, with teams switching from one project (or client) to another just weeks apart.
The differences are endless – far too much to cover in a short blog, a watercooler chat or even an after-work beer (agencies love those). In this piece, we’re going to focus on three core reasons why engaging an external technology agency is a better option than developing (and designing) your digital product in-house.
You can choose your tech stack
Ruby agencies, Laravel agencies, Python agencies, even Squarespace agencies (yikes) – they’re all out there, and they are made up of some of the most talented sparks in the industry. In our network alone, we can count at least 10 agencies who specialise in one particular and rather niche language. That’s not to say that’s all they do, but you can rarely go wrong with a strong and reputable agency who have spent years perfecting their craft and hiring specialist talent.
Choosing exactly how you’ll develop your digital product is not just a finger in the air moment or a choice you make on a whim. But in-house teams will most likely have an understanding of the benefits and limitations of certain approaches, so this varied landscape of agencies will prove useful.
Utilisation is a big word
Let’s talk a little about utilisation too. This is a big word in agencies, with Studio Managers and Heads of Delivery ensuring that billable staff are on client work as much as possible. Downtime = £££. Agencies are generally on top of this, and it’s made easier by numerous projects circulating at once, ie: there is always something to work on.
In-house, it can be a different story. Hiring in staff is a big cost in itself, furthermore, those staff won’t necessarily be busy for a solid eight hours a day. As projects move through various stages, some staff may find themselves waiting for their input. This can be particularly common with designers or QA Engineers whose work is typically at the beginning or end of a build.
The options here are to put them onto internal marketing jobs (non-billable, therefore costly), or, outsource these roles to individual contractors instead. Utilising freelancers does have the benefit of being able to switch them on and off as you need them, but this can be tricky, and day rates often work out higher than a salaried equivalent.
What’s better? Under-utilised internal staff? A team of costly contractors? Or outsourcing the entire project to an agency? The latter could be the most effective.
The diversity of thought
A byproduct of diverse teams is better products. This has been proven again and again through research and user testing. Recent data from Deloitte’s Fast 50 programme noted that over 65% of its winning companies see diversity and inclusion as “extremely important to the growth of their business”.
In its simplest form, diversity breeds success by diluting the bias that has historically inhibited itself in products built by non-diverse tech teams. But how does this relate to agencies?
The lack of diversity in tech is no big secret. 65% of boards in top tech firms have no female directors, and just 8.5% of senior leaders are from a minority ethnic background. This data is from 2019, and since then we have certainly noticed a shift in the industry. There is still a long way to go, but at the forefront of this charge is agencies, many of which are now hiring for cultural fit and diversity over aptitude or qualifications.
Agencies are becoming increasingly diverse, if gradually. This has been further accelerated by a shift to remote work – a direct response to the pandemic. Whilst it was never good enough to blame geographical location for lack of diversity in companies, there is now no excuse.
Agencies are typically more nimble too. When you work in tech, changes to your own tools, software and systems should be fairly straightforward compared to a business tied to an ageing in-house setup or outdated infrastructure.
In short, agencies are agile by nature, and a good agency will hire for the world we live in today. This can vastly improve your digital product development and accelerate anything you could even dream of achieving in-house.
Which leads us neatly onto our fourth point…
The process is in the process
If there’s one thing that agencies really have nailed down, it’s process. Because they have to. Numerous internal teams, multiple external clients, different product stages, all knitted together by client-facing account managers, and design and development teams. It should be a well-oiled machine, and when it’s not, it all falls down.
Agile and Scrum (or versions thereof) are prevalent in agencies, and help to form the various methods of project delivery. Discovery sessions, client workshops, design sprints and journey mapping are just some of the processes used throughout a project. Some agencies go all-in, utilising everything above. Others pick what works for them. The bottom line is, sprint methodology works, and it works best for agencies who can get everything completed in one short period. In contrast, in-house projects can creep, drift and even stall.
Whilst no two agencies do it quite the same, these processes are tried and tested industry-wide, and have become somewhat of a stable in agency life. If this is new to you, there’s plenty of reading material out there, from super-detailed Medium articles to bestselling books.
You should be offering your clients six-star service, delivering value to them in every way. Never, ever give them a reason to leave.
Outsourcing your build can be likened to strapping a four-stage booster to your digital product, propelling it forward with the pace and momentum you rarely see in-house. It can be daunting to some businesses, but with a capable and communicative Account Manager or Client Partner agency-side, you’re in good hands.
From the initial discovery session all the way to user testing and validation, the agency process is reliable and iterative. Which means you can leave behind those in-house headaches; stalled projects, abandoned products, interdepartmental politics, red tape, and so on.
The AndAnotherDay way
We’re pleased to say that we utilise all of the above, and we are a better agency for it. Our clients come to us and stay with us because they trust in our technology, they trust in our people, and they trust in our process. But there is still the risk of clients taking work back in-house. It’s frustrating, it’s painful, but it happens.
There’s no magic bullet to avoid this happening, but at the very least, you should be offering your clients six-star service and delivering value to them in every way possible. Never, ever give them a reason to leave.
This quadrangle of fundamentals (tech, utilisation, diversity and process) has allowed us to spin up prototypes in the fraction of the time it would have taken our clients to do so in-house. We’ve also been able to pick up the fragments of projects where all hope was once lost, and quickly assemble a rigid delivery timeline and ultimately, a go-live date.
This is what we love to do. As an agency, we are a sum of our parts and we’re always looking for the next client ready to trust us with their baby.