As the economy struggled across the better part of the last decade and developing nations proved able to take on business services in addition to production tasks, outsourcing and offshoring conversations and activities increased. Business leaders looking to take advantage of the cost savings have asked their business unit heads to identify opportunities to offshore activities within their departments. These asks have not excluded creative departments and multimedia design and development and graphic design have been specifically targeted.

Many creative departments have employed outsourcing for years, as the common practice of using an external agency is a form of outsourcing. But that type of outsourcing is not for cost savings, but rather to foster creative innovation and access to the right talent. Offshoring, the practice of relocating select business processes from one country to another, is traditionally highly motivated by cost savings. However, early findings from Cella's "Global Creative Benchmarking Survey" indicate that creative offshoring is rarely motivated by cost savings; more substantial reasons include real-time support for local clients, a greater ability to develop materials appropriate for the local market, and easier native language design. In fact, few responding companies identified traditional offshoring locations as home to a creative team, and a majority of respondents identified that offshore locations were selected based on a critical mass from clients in that country or region.

That said, creative leaders are still being asked to consider traditional offshore locations such as India for cost-savings purposes, which can lead to a significant savings if your team is large enough that a significant number of positions can be relocated to the offshore location. For example, the cost savings in relocating just one production designer to India can be $35,000 annually, but you can't relocate just one role. In fact, I wouldn't recommend offshoring unless you have a goal of moving at least 8-10 designers to the location.

Recruiting for talent in India can be challenging. Due to a cultural shift, design has just recently become a reputable field and a college-worthy course of study, which means employers often have to choose between design skills and English ability, with the latter prevailing. One major U.S. consulting firm hires entirely based on English and expects that every employee will require design and software coaching. In my former role as head of an international creative services team, we hired production designers in India first based on English speaking proficiency skills, but also required a technical assessment. The assessment, similar to the U.S. evaluation, focused on InDesign skills with minor PhotoShop and Illustrator requirements. In the U.S. we required a minimum score of 80% for consideration, whereas in India we required 40% for consideration and were ecstatic when we received 60% and higher. Once we identified candidates to join our team, ramp up time was generally 50-100% longer than U.S. peers and quality, as measured by accuracy, took longer to maintain.

In addition to understanding that longer recruiting and onboarding periods will exist, creative leaders must have a strong technology plan in place before setting up an offshore team in India. Leaders will need to consider tasks centralized teams take for granted, such as where to host files, how to share files, how to administer time and job tracking systems, and many other IT concerns. In addition, it is likely your team in India will work on PCs, as Mac technical expertise and support is extremely limited.

Outside of the planning process, the key to success in building an offshore team in India is investing in rotations. At the onset, a U.S. team member needs to go to India for at least 6-8 weeks to onboard and develop the team. In addition, another team member should go shortly thereafter to ensure the team's foundation is strong. Rotations to India, by technical and soft skills leaders, should occur every year to enforce standards, develop team members, and build relationships. Rotations of the offshore employees to the U.S. should also be planned. Depending on the size of your team, at least one per year. Though, I always liked bringing two team members over at the same time as they were able to dine and travel together, reducing the likelihood of home sickness and stress on you and your team to ensure their out-of-work time is fulfilling.

Setting up an offshore team in India is complex and requires considerable planning and effort, but it is worth the pay-off. Relocating 10 positions can save your company $350,000 annually and considerably reduce rates for chargeback departments allowing your clients to reallocate their dollars against other activities. In addition to cost savings, your team will be better able to manage crunch jobs, as your shop will develop 24-hour capabilities. Also, as your company's business grows in that region your creative department will be better able to support local demand for creative services.

All global companies are invited to participate in Cella's "Global Creative Benchmarking Survey" and will receive a copy of the resulting report free of charge. If you'd like more information prior to participating, please contact [email protected].

For information about how Cella can add value to your business through consulting, coaching, and training, please email [email protected].

Jackie Schaffer has more than a decade of experience optimizing creative teams. Most recently she directed an international team of 80 creatives. During her tenure, she spearheaded the launch and development of the group's India-based team, built an interactive media division, and executed against a new visual identity. Jackie's management competencies lie in workflow, technology, and talent management, and she has a deep passion for balancing the creative and business needs of in-house shops while providing fulfilling opportunities for the team.