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How to effectively outsource

Author: Harry Cobbold
Birdseye view of a table of people working on laptops

The choice of whether to outsource or bring your design and development in-house is a decision many tech businesses need to undertake at some stage in their lifetime. There are a whole host of reasons businesses choose to bring their development team in-house including; focused access to your project, direct contact with developers and a perception of greater control over the outcome. There are, however, some very compelling reasons for partnering with a team of external experts to level up your development work. In this article we look at the benefits as well as our top tips for outsourcing your development work.

Reasons to outsource:

Out-run your competitors:
Harnessing the power of an existing team of experts offers you the ability to get started much faster and deliver with a greater level of accuracy. This means while your competitors are still searching for the right hires, you’ll already be going live!

Draw from the expertise of an entire existing team:
There are no substitutes for experience – when you choose to outsource you’ll likely be working with a team that has already shipped multiple projects together. They’ll have their processes down and will have learnt from past mistakes – both of which will help you avoid falling into common traps.

More time to focus on growing your business:
Leaving the outsourcing of your tech and digital design to an agency will mean you have far more time to focus on the things you’re good at such as business growth, or managing your team. This frees up a huge amount of mental headspace and means you can leave many of the remaining considerations to your outsourced team.

It can actually be more cost-effective:
Whilst it can look more expensive on the face of things, hiring a development team of your own can come with a lot of hidden costs. There is a big time/money cost associated with hiring, and enlisting a recruiter can take a huge chunk of cash for finding someone. With an agency, you’ll only pay for what you need but still retain access to experts in their respective fields when you need them.

Outsourcing reduces risk:
If you’re using a team with a proven track record of delivering amazing digital products, you’re far less likely to go down the wrong path which can become costly if the mistake isn’t picked up early.

Build an MVP first Using an MVP first will allow you to start with the most valuable features first and iterate from there.

Top tips for outsourcing

Don’t just go with the cheapest option: whilst this might be tempting, you need to consider that you’ll be working with this agency for potentially several years. Ask yourself the following;

  • What’s their expertise?
  • Do they have a proven track record?
  • What chemistry do you have with them? Can you see yourself working with them on a daily basis?
  • Have you met the actual team you’ll be working with? (Don’t be wowed by flashy pitch decks and sales teams only for them to disappear once you sign the contract).
  • Do they have sector specific experience? Do they only work with certain tools or sectors? Don’t pick someone who isn’t going to be able to deliver on your area of expertise.

Work with a team that have experience across the whole cycle of product development: This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll have to deliver the full suite of services for you, but understanding how different disciplines interlace is very important to a successful/smooth project.

Alongside this, it’s really important that the team you choose has experience working with other teams if required, such as design, branding or SEO agencies. An agency’s ability to acknowledge its limitations and blind spots will demonstrate that they are responsible and likely experienced with collaborating with other service providers.

Ask the right/difficult questions: There’s a lot more to building an application than just development – a good agency will help you understand answers to the following questions:

  • What methodologies do they use to organise their team and deliver work?
  • How will they test the application/website?
  • How will the agency communicate with you through the project?
  • What technology will they use and will this lock you into working with them in the future?
  • What costs are involved post-launch e.g. hosting, maintenance, upgrades?
  • What happens if something goes wrong out of hours?

Build an MVP first then develop from there: It can be tempting to build in lots of features all at once at the beginning, but these cost time, money, effort and if you build something which doesn’t work in the way you’d anticipated, these can quickly become costly mistakes.

Using an MVP first will allow you to start with the most valuable features first and iterate from there. This minimises the risk of building features that customers don’t want and means you can get feedback from real users faster.

Set a clear expectation of budget and timelines before the project: It is a common misconception that agencies asking for budgets are just trying to maximise their own profits – but often the converse is true. You can spend an infinite amount of money designing and building technology, so giving a clear idea of budget and time frames allows your technology partner to work out how to maximise your budget to provide as much value as possible within the constraints you’ve set.

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