In-house development vs subcontracting

22 Aug

I write a lot.  I  really like to write.  I write for my own recreation and I write for my job.  Yet sitting down to write my first blog entry seems daunting.

Give me a moment to get over myself…right, thank you!

I am often involved in discussions where the question of whether to contract or manage an in-house project is raised.  Each time, a slightly different variant of the old argument is presented and each time, the outcome seems a little surprising.  So, what I’m trying to say is that there is no right or wrong answer to this seemingly innocuous question. Like most things in life, the answer depends on the situation.

Before I continue, I should warn you that I belong to an in-house web development team, so my answer may appear somewhat biased.  I like to think of myself as unbiased, but thought I should clarify that point upfront.

To my mind, an enormous amount of value lies in experience and an intimate understanding of how a company operates.  This is particularly true in today’s social-media frenzied world, where the slightest hint of a lack of authenticity stands out like a sore thumb. If a company is trying to promote it’s brand, I believe it is vital to have in-house experience, not to mention someone with a vested interest, deliver the message to the masses.  This is equally true of engaging one’s customers and partners through social media.  A contrived message sent via subcontractors will never make the grade.  Your customers want to engage with you – not a third-party.

However, there are times when resources are low (or possibly lacking in a particular skill-set) and time constraints dictate that additional (or more specialised) resources be brought on-board. Any manager worth his/her salt should be able to recognise when the requirement become necessary and make allowances for contractors/experts to be included into the team.  And herein lies the key to the point I am making.  Make the contractors a part of the team – that way you really do get the best of both worlds.  Make sure to manage the expectations of the staff who would usually be working on the project so that they are fully aware of the reasons why the contractors have been brought on board.  This should ease any territorial issues that could potentially arise.

Any web site owner/manager knows that we are in the enviable position of ‘specialising in being generalists’, so it is impossible for a smaller team to have specialised skills in all areas. External resources can bring that skill-set to the party and can be used on either a temporary or permanent basis. Be sure, however, to be committed and involved in the project yourself, throughout the duration of the project.  This way you have everything to gain, by learning more and very little chance of the project taking a nose-dive.

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