Regardless of the industry you're in, building a new product is a major commitment. From allocating resources and sourcing new technology to finding the right talent and securing the appropriate project funding and approvals, product development is a daunting prospect.
But does it need to be? What if all the time and money spent building an in-house product development team and managing its members could've been used for something else more important? What if you were able to get a prebuilt team and not have to stress about the management and time associated with building out an entire team? Those are the types of advantages full-service design and development agencies can offer businesses, whether they’re working to develop their first product or their 20th.
Some businesses might cringe at the idea of outsourcing something as important as product design, but there’s nothing strange about hiring the best people for the job. Hiring an agency gives you access to a team with a variety of experiences that can be leveraged to build the best possible product. And unlike businesses with a lot on their plate, certain agencies focus on product development and nothing else. This means they understand the right tools for the job, have a proven process in place to guarantee delivery, and will even build in easy ways for you to hold them accountable.
So how do you decide whether a design agency is right for you?
6 Signs You Should Hire an External UX Design Agency
Hiring an external team is not right in all situations. Here are some scenarios when outsourcing your next product to a qualified agency might make sense:
1. You need to hit the ground running.
The task of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding is a monthslong process that doesn’t even take into account the difficulty of managing a new team. It can sometimes be half a year before a new employee becomes fully productive — time many companies can’t afford to waste.
If you need help right away, don’t stick yourself with such a long run-up to productivity. Call an agency, see whether there's a fit, check its references, and see whether that agency has availability. Even if that agency is over capacity, most good agencies will have a network of other trusted companies they can refer you to. Even if it takes a few phone calls, you should be able to have a team ready to go in a significantly shorter timeline than if you try to build one yourself.
2. You need an unbiased perspective to strengthen your project.
Anybody who’s worked in UX design long enough knows the importance of unbiased opinions in the design process. Sometimes internal teams can become too insular and can’t see past their own opinions.
Sometimes bringing in an outside perspective is necessary for a project to escape that echo chamber and break past a company's long-held assumptions. Providing unbiased, expert opinions is the bread and butter of an outside consultant. Don’t let that skill go to waste. Our company has often been brought in simply to offer an outside perspective to help our clients push past that unseen boundary that's been blocking them.
3. You have a one-off project with a clear beginning and end.
A lot of product development projects require heavy lifting to get a foundation in place but don’t need a full team to maintain it. Something that might only require some support work after a few months or a year shouldn’t necessitate a team of full-time hires. You'd feel horrible hiring people only to let them go after the project's over. These sorts of builds are why agencies exist in the first place.
4. You have a mission-critical project that needs to be done right the first time.
People who have a track record of producing high-quality work on a regular basis are in such high demand that the best place to find them is usually at their own agency.
Leadership for top product design and development talent is hard to attract, and the majority of in-house design teams are short-staffed as it is. If you need talent that will get the job done right with no room for error, go to the people who are putting their reputation on the line with their own business and a portfolio that speaks for itself.
5. You’re not sure whether a project is going anywhere.
If any of your plans contain the phrase "if it works out," it’s probably not time to outfit your company with an in-house team. If you’re not sure whether a full-time employee is going be necessary in the long run, going with an agency is, in many ways, the ethical thing to do (unless you can find an employee who's comfortable with the risk of being let go).
Furthermore, UX designers and developers are in extreme demand, so you won’t find many top designers who are willing to take an uncertain job. The agency model is built on project-based work, which allows you to see whether it works out before committing to the task of finding and hiring qualified long-term employees. A good agency will work with you on a transition plan, so have that "if this works out and I need to hire my own team" conversation with your agency before you start.
6. Your project would be a distraction to the core staff if handled in-house.
If you have a busy staff working on other projects, adding a standalone software product development project to the pile can create an unnecessary burden that throws everyone’s productivity off. Let an agency take care of the projects that aren’t a part of your business and could distract your core staff as a result. That way, these projects can stay at arm's length. We most often see this scenario when the core team is focused on the revenue-generating piece of the business and the execs are looking at the second or third horizon of innovation.
A good agency can help you with a host of important tasks, such as UX design, app development, and even the creation of a digital innovation strategy. If any of these scenarios seem to describe your situation, set up a free consultation today, and let's explore whether an outsourced team might be right for you.
Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.