Got IT Staff? Why Use a Digital Agency?

Our clients often have the same dilemma.  Why use an agency to build your website if you can do it in house?  Needless to say, we regularly get caught up in this discussion, and while we would obviously admit to a certain bias, we do think that we can add some value to the debate by sharing our thoughts on the subject.  

Some of the considerations that might be relevant:

Price:  If you look at things simply from a day rate perspective, using an agency is likely to look more expensive – after all, you don’t pay your IT staff that much do you?  However this changes if you start factoring in the ‘real’ cost of getting the project done.  If an agency quotes so many hours for a project then that’s what you should pay for.  Who’s counting the hours that internal IT staff spend on a project – or factoring their total costs including office space, recruitment, training and all the other overheads that come with them?

Risk:  When using an agency that has a good proven track record, the chances are that your project is going to get delivered, after all they have done it before.  If it is a big project, there will almost certainly be niggles around the scope of work and project management, these things are notoriously difficult to get one hundred per cent right,  but in the end an established team that has a proven record is much more likely to deliver on time and on budget.

Range of experience: A digital agency will generally have specialist staff, well-developed techniques and tools, also contacts in the industry that have been tried and tested.  The obvious analogy is a DIY project. We all know the downside of DIY.  Ever stood there and thought – ‘I should have employed an expert, they would have done this better, quicker, had the right tools’ etc.

Ongoing Support:  One of the main considerations is on-going support; a digital agency will operate in the field continuously and is likely to be better informed about on-going developments and resolutions to support problems. Furthermore, a good agency would keep its clients abreast of the latest developments. Some larger companies may prefer a hybrid approach where an internal team works in conjunction with a digital agency to get the best of both worlds. That way if key staff members leave there is still some level of support available.

Ownership:  Marketing teams often end up in charge of digital projects (like building new websites).  If marketing has no influence over the IT team - and in our experience they generally don’t - there is no easy way to exercise project control.

Team Formation: Getting creative, technical and marketing teams to work together harmoniously can be a challenge if the technical team is comprised of corporate IT staff.  In a good digital agency that has been around for a while, these relationships are already cemented and provide a synergy that can be hard to generate in-house.

Shifting priorities: When projects are assigned internally and delivery becomes difficult, the priorities can easily shift. Again we have seen this happen where a talented IT team member has been moved to a different role after a few weeks into the project.
 
Conclusion
We believe that good digital projects can be delivered by agencies, corporate IT departments or a hybrid team of both.  However, we have seen so many situations where corporate IT departments compete vigorously with agency proposals on the basis:  ‘We can do that – and for much less money’.  We have to say – we have never seen that happen.  The reality is that most companies – certainly most SMEs - don’t have a dedicated web team, but have IT generalists.  With the best will in the world (which they always start the project with) they almost certainly experience a painful learning curve with the technology, and end up feeling relieved that they aren’t being paid for on-time delivery of the project.. 

So if you are considering your own IT folks for a major digital project, please ask them these questions:
  • Have you done this before?
  • Are you familiar with all the related technologies?
  • How will the creative and marketing aspects of this project be embraced?
  • Can you give us a detailed project scope and guarantee timings?
  • Can you give us a real cost for the project that includes all the IT man hours and other overheads?

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