Do You Need to Hire an Agency?

Given how business critical the web is to many businesses and organisations, it might be worth considering. It may prove not only cheaper in the long-term, but also strategically more prudent to build an in-house web team instead?

Sarah Parmenter touches on this in her now infamous article ‘The Elephant in the Room’. Some famous agencies have sold to their clients or competitors — think Adaptive Path, Mark Boulton Design, or Teehan+Lax — becoming their de facto in-house teams. Meanwhile other web design or digital marketing agencies are finding new opportunities increasingly competitive. There is a distinct trend towards companies cultivating their own in-house teams that I think will only continue.

Having your own team of dedicated web professionals confers obvious advantages. They are likely going to be based in your office, making for easier communication and collaboration. Being part of your business, they’re going to have a better understanding of your business’s products, operations, and customers. That means they have an innate understanding of your requirements. They are fully dedicated to the betterment of your organisation and it’s web projects, and won’t be distracted by any other projects from other organisations. By working full-time on your web projects, they ensure better longterm viability of those projects through ongoing maintenance and upgrades. There’s no learning curve for them.

But of course, there are also disadvantages. No in-house team is likely to have every skill you need to build and maintain every kind of web project your organisation might need. There will still occasionally be cause for hiring specialist outside contractors (such as myself!) to come in and collaborate with them on short-term contracts. You could of course hire someone who brings these high-level specialist skills to your team, but who’s to say you need such high-level, and likely expensive, skills throughout the project’s lifetime? It may end up just costing more for no additional benefit. Another risk is that the team lacks the motivation to innovate, to bring in new ideas and technologies, falling into the same patterns of ongoing maintenance. Or otherwise, a risk that the team will fall into a certain business division such as IT or marketing, and then failing to be able to represent your organisation as a whole. These are all factors you’ll need to consider.

Finally one more factor to consider is the rise of software as a service. This is “disrupting” the bottom end of many sectors, not just the web industry. You may find far from needing an outside web design agency, you may not even need recruiters or people to manage customers, given new online services that can do this for you at minimal cost. Where once freelance web designers could make a living wage creating websites for small businesses, now there are services like Squarespace* that provide an easy way for people to build stunning, mobile-friendly websites themselves for just a few dollars a month.

*other such services are available

In recent blog posts I’ve talked about how web project owners need to consider and communicate their goals to their production team and make decisions based on the options available. Ultimately, you have to also consider that the production team itself is now a commodity, so decide which kind of team or service would be most appropriate for your business or organisation.