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Building Digital Capability – Part 2, Business Partners – level of agency engagement

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In Part 1: Understanding Business Engagement, I highlighted the importance of engagement, particularly with the senior executive team (the C Suite). The following some of the pros and cons of building digital expertise in house which will define your level of agency/vendor engagement.

There are a number of considerations with vendor selection such as: budget, costs, scope, length of engagement, references, and experience. I will save vendor selection for another blog and will focus on the businesses appetite for using external parties.

I'll openly admit to 2 main points;

1. I prefer to build digital expertise in house.
2. I prefer to engage specialist niche external partners (only when needed)

I've been fortunate to develop and lead decent sized in-house digital teams, my current digital team comprises of 50 people. The principles below, also apply to small teams. The benefits of building in-house capability include:

• The intellectual property remains in house – you do not need to keep engaging externals for ongoing development. Internal skills can even rival some external agencies, which is why you then seek out specialist niche agencies.

• Increased team engagement – higher productivity – lower attrition

• Lower cost model – with higher productivity, try delivering the same quality and volume of work with externals at the same or lower cost benefit

• Quicker time to market with in-house resources

• Better attention to detail and agility to manage scope changes

Of course there are challenges in building internal teams:

• Growing and developing skill sets takes time and money – strong teams are built over time

• Managing expectations of stakeholders who expect external quality from day 1

• Keeping up with new industry changes and new technology

• Finding skilled team members – this is generally challenging across the industry

• Providing enough challenging work and career development. I admit to losing a few good team members, because of the lack of growth opportunities. It is not uncommon for team members out grow the business and need to move on to new opportunities.

It's about finding the right balance for your business, importantly with the support of your C suite. It's also important not to get over confident and think you can complete everything in-house. If you think this, then you are either completely mad or short sighted. Or both!

A good external can add real value and contribute to your business (but I do mean good and not just a good sales team). No matter how many conferences I attend or newsletters I read or websites I visit, I simply cannot keep up with what is happening in the digital industry and I can't expect my team to either. There is always something new to learn from a good external, so keep the mind open. In an earlier blog I wrote about 5 Reasons to use an Independent Digital Consultant and which support my view of using specialist niche externals.

Gems can also be found by listening to your team and revisiting your point of view.

A few years ago, I was challenged by one of my senior digital managers to hire a full time digital designer. I was of the view that in house creative people end up producing the same style over time and we needed external creative.

Two years later, the team had two full time internal digital designers who were producing top notch quality work. Stakeholders expectations were met and the ROI on their cost was recouped within the first 6 months of each year. The team still uses external creative – but a balance was found.

Next in the series: Building your Digital Capability – Part 3: Core Digital Team Capability

Jason Stidworthy - VP, Global Head of Digital & Software at Tamaggo Enterprises
Jason is a digital leader with 20 years international experience shaping the digital conversation with market leading and challenger brands in both client and agency roles. He is focused on building effective teams with intelligent, passionate and driven people who successfully deliver strategic initiatives addressing customer needs and achieving business objectives.
More of Jason's blog can be read at www.jasonstidworthy.com.

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Guest Sunday, 04 December 2016