27 August 2020 (updated: 14 September 2020) by
Wojciech Polak Wojciech Polak
Hiring developers in-house or outsourcing? Know your domain, before diving deep into the development.
Hiring designers and developers in-house has some undisputed benefits: you build your company’s culture, the communication is easier, and you have their knowledge and expertise at hand to resolve issues, all in real-time. But there’s also an option B: hiring an external agency.
Slack, Alibaba, Skype, GitHub, and now even Google: they all outsource some of their design and development. But how to tell it’s the right fit for your case?
1. You need top talent for your project. But do you need it all the time?
One thing is clear: you need people to deliver the best design and development work for your product. But, especially at the beginning, do you need them all the time?
Juggling responsibilities of your already hired team may sound exciting and stimulate their growth (at first), but even the best ones out there will have some trouble switching roles constantly, and be sure it can affect their morale.
Early-stage startups and newly launched projects will have times when they need to put their full focus on development.
But a quick fast-forward to the future, they suddenly need to move their resources to something else (marketing, sales) for the best cost optimization.
For your in-house team, it may mean wasted potential, a growing debt or even lay-offs. But when you outsource,it’s just a reduction of your team size to fit your current needs.
Agencies do not develop products and then disappear in a classy Celebrity Comet NEOWISE way. They're also able to do the maintenance work of your app or platform. This usually involves dealing with day-to-day minor tweaks and emergency bug fixes, so you don't need to worry about being left in the dark with no clue what to do next.
2. You need an experienced team. And fast.
Hiring an experienced team is no easy task. It may take months rather than weeks. In the Nordics, an effective IT recruitment of a Senior Developer may take up to 9 months. And for fast-moving companies and startups time costs not only money but their time-to-market.
Established agencies hire top talent. To stay on top of things in a quickly moving environment, they have to prove their expertise to the world. The fast pace of working allows them to approach your project efficiently: they roll up their sleeves and get to work.
A quick check of their portfolio and social proof should make you aware if they’re the right fit for your company and industry.
3. You have the expertise. An agency can fill in the gaps.
Building and launching a product takes a broad range of expertise and skills that might be difficult to find and employ fully in-house. The most tangible benefit of hiring an external agency is their ability to fill in the gaps in your internal team's skill set.
External teams have a history of working with a wide variety of clients from different industries, often with different backgrounds and business models. They can become a source of invaluable insights and learnings from their past projects.
4. Something extra: a fresh outlook on your product.
When you're working on a project for a while, you tend to go deeper and more into details, simultaneously losing the high-level perspective on things.
The hidden benefit of hiring an agency might be the chance to look at your product differently.
Agencies can elicit your product's potential in areas you didn't think of before. We had a client like this at EL Passion: Fiskl. After a thorough UX Research, we discovered a completely new way to approach the product and consequently reimagined the whole end-user experience. You can see more on this here, in our Fiskl Case Study. This example shows the importance of a fresh pair of eyes.
5. Knowledge sharing mode activate
In-house team members can grow and learn from one another, and this growth potential is usually the strongest asset of well-built tech teams.
But it also calls for a lot of resources (time & money) to build a team with an experienced-enough mentor to guide your Mids and Juniors to truly benefit from this as a company. And for a startup or an early-stage project in a yet unstable environment, this might become a lot to take on.
Agencies invest a lot in their teams’ continuous learning and skills development, both soft and hard. They are likely to share knowledge at conferences, meetups, organize and participate in hackathons, both sharing and widening their expertise.
6. An agency can become your team’s long-time partner
Hiring in-house does not exclude outsourcing some of the tasks. An agency's role is to engage in the areas where your internal team lacks experience or expertise, so you can really take your business to the next level.
I’ve seen numerous times how good internal and external teams integrate and support each other. During our cooperation with Docplanner our developers helped the client's Mobile team not only to develop the app but also to develop the skills, so they can go further on their own.
Is hiring a software development agency worth the money?
The decision whether to hire an in-house team or to outsource your project is not a quick one. It very much depends on your business environment and particular needs.
An agency is a more flexible way of developing software while still getting access to a big talent pool, and fast. Hiring in-house is a longer and more resource-consuming process, but it is likely to bring you benefits in the long run.