Tuesday, May 8, 2007

An Outsourced Model

Smaller interactive agencies seem to be trending towards more precise specialization. This means they are honing their internal skills to become subject matter experts in a particular space. A specialization could be database marketing, search engine optimization, creative design or email development. As a result, clients are beginning to work with multiple agencies to achieve their online goals, selecting the agency they feel can best deliver a portion of their program. The effect on the agencies is that their internal staff and skill-sets become very narrow. This may drive the need for outsourcing work when client requirements fall outside that core skill set. In fact, outsourcing is becoming a trend in the online world. There are a number of benefits to outsourcing work, and an equal number of challenges. An agency will have to endure a trial period followed by an analysis to determine whether outsourcing is a viable solution. Here are some of the more common issues you can expect:

Quality of sub-contractors: It is undeniable that when you outsource work you often lose a certain amount of control over the quality of the output. It's difficult to manage resources that may be working off-site, and even more challenging to monitor work process and work product until you receive the final deliverable. At this point it's often too late to make significant revisions, and the timeline and cost implications can be prohibitive. Sub-contractors need to undergo a thorough review and assessment period. You'll likely have to identify a pilot project to really put their skills to the test. Don't even consider hiring a sub-contractor if you haven't reviewed a portfolio of their work.

Increased management time: Working with sub-contracted talent will require additional management time. Initially, generating service level agreements, non-disclosure agreements and other required legal documents required to begin working with a sub-contractor must be considered. Once you begin work, communicating with an off-site resource can often be more time consuming than if they were a part of your internal team. As a Project Manager, you will have to determine effective, efficient methods of managing off-site resources. Engage the larger team in status calls or meetings with the sub-contractor so that everyone feels they're working towards a common goal. Try to integrate the sub-contractor into your standard process as much as possible. This will decrease the need for extraneous conversations that splinter your project management time and detract from the bigger picture.

Finding the right people: Simply put, never stop networking! There is legitimate value in leveraging external resources for skills your agency doesn't posses. Each day, new technologies and strategies are emerging, so continually network to meet the people who are cutting edge. Build up a pool of resources and potential partners so that when the needed arises, you can address it more easily. Being able to react and put solutions forward quickly is mandatory in the online world. Having to source the proper credentials in a short time can be stressful, so keep potential resources in your professional circle and call on them when the time is right.

Moving to an outsourced model can be a key factor in supporting a growing, dynamic business. Just make sure you anticipate the additional management requirements, and that your process can adapt to external resources before you begin.

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