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Digital Maturity Insight

In-house or Agency - how should you build the digital team to execute your strategy?

by Redweb, 24 June 2020

Read Time: 5 minutes

We explore the options for bringing talent into your digital team. Specifically, we look at the pros and cons of building your team internally or working with agencies.

Having already discussed the importance of informed and engaged leadership to a successful digital transformation, and the broad range of skills involved with executing it, in this article we explore the options for bringing talent into your digital team.

It doesn’t have to be either/or

Honestly, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to the question of in-house vs agency. That probably seems like an odd admission this early in our discussion of the topic, but in truth it depends on a number of factors. The size of your organisation, the budget you have to work with, your all-important strategy and the outcomes you are aiming for all play a role in defining how you should approach building your digital team.

A blend of the two – an in-house team of experts backed-up and supplemented by an agency, or a roster of specialist agencies, is probably the right answer in most cases. What is important is that you work with an agency that will become an extension of your team – they should put effort in to understanding, and even help to establish, the outcomes and aims you are driving towards.

Who does what?

So, if a blend is best, then who does what? You should consider carefully what you go to an agency for. For example – content production is often a first choice for agency outsourcing, and plenty of agencies will offer excellent output, but we’d urge you to consider this carefully.

Content is key, it should represent your brand well, and keeping some expertise in-house here may well ensure better results. Similarly, it may feel natural to keep the creation of your digital strategy in-house, but an agency can offer a fresh perspective, bringing insight from the wider industry, and other sectors.

Modern agencies bring a lot to the table and can be vital to delivering a project or campaign to a tough deadline, but partnership is key. This means letting them in, giving them access to stakeholders at every level, and allowing them to challenge your status quo and do what they do best.

A good digital partner could even consult on recruitment for your in-house team, planning and long-term strategy, and digital and campaign budgets.

In pursuit of finding the right balance we explore over the next couple of pages some of the pros, cons and key considerations worth making when investigating both the in-house and agency options.

In-house

An in-house digital team brings plenty of positives, but it isn’t without its limitations. This list details some of the pros and cons we think are important to consider when looking to recruit internal digital talent.

Pros

  • Your team will quickly gain, and retain, a deep understanding of your company, with a solid understanding of its aims, customers and goals
  • Your team will live and breathe your company and its brand - being well placed to represent it in content, comms and digital experiences
  • An in-house team often allows for quicker, more streamlined communication - both in-team and with the wider organisation
  • Your team should know your industry and your competitors well – first-hand industry experience is valuable, and worth considering when hiring.

Cons

  • In-house staff can come with a limited range of skill sets and experience, and that can become very specialised over time
  • As a result of narrower, more specialised skills in your team, there’s a risk that creativity, ideas and success can stagnate over time
  • The process of hiring, equipping and training an in-house team can become time consuming and costly, in particular keeping up the training needed to stay up to date.
  • No one marketer is the full package and you will need to find a balance of the skills available to you, or have a large (expensive) team if entirely in-house

Agency

Agencies will bring fresh insight, increased capacity and an opportunity to add skills to your digital team only when you need them, but there are things you should consider when looking to appoint. This table details some of the pros and cons we think are important to consider.

Pros

  • Agencies can bring a broader range of skills, resources and experience to the table, offering more versatility to your digital experiences
  • Agencies work to deadlines and can agree budgets up front - thus making planning easier and increasing successes and ROI
  • An outside perspective - both in terms of your organisation and industry, and other industries can challenge in a new ways and lead to innovation and creativity
  • Agencies need to stay up to date to survive and can bring this insight to your organisation - through strategy, deliverables, and training

Cons

  • To succeed, an agency will need to overcome the challenge of getting up to speed, quickly, with your organisation, its brand, and goals
  • An agency is likely to be very busy - deadlines should be discussed early to avoid impacting goals and underdelivering
  • If they bring a lot of experience in your industry, agencies may pose a risk of conflict of interest - something that should be discussed early, when appointing
  • One agency may not bring every skill you need, and depending on the level of agency input required you may need a roster of agency, and, in turn, a larger budget

Choosing your agency - some considerations

If you decide a combination of both in-house team members and agency expertise is the way to go, then choosing the right agency is a very important decision. We’ve said it before, but partnership is key. Not least if you’re starting your digital strategy and transformation from scratch.

A partner agency can offer support throughout – and a good agency should have an ‘immersion’ plan to enable them to get to the heart of your organisation and its aims quickly and be empowered to challenge this too. You should consider what you need from your agency, and what skills you are choosing to bring in-house, to ensure the two complement each other. An agency may be your source of development resource for product delivery, running your SEO and PPC campaigns, producing content, helping to define your digital strategy, or all of the above.

When you understand what an agency needs to bring to the table you can better decide whether to work with a full-service agency, a roster of specialist agencies, or even look to an agency to help build and manage your on-site team for the short, medium or long term.

To conclude, only by empowering digital leadership in your organisation to drive change that aligns with your long-term goals will you be able to establish exactly how digital can best drive success. Agencies and In-house team members should both be considered when building a team to support this, but they’ll all want to know where you’re headed, and why.


Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

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