As creative services groups are charged with increased demands and efficiencies, they need to "do more with less," employ flexible staffing and increase operational productivity. Often outsourcing a portion of the team's work becomes a top-level discussion and viable option as well. Work can be outsourced to high-end advertising agencies, to smaller design firms, offshore companies and more. Work can also be "outsourced" to an offshore team in one of your company's global locations, which is not truly outsourcing, but requires as much, if not more, effort to set up and keep running.

Outsourcing Considerations
When determining which work to outsource the below points should be considered:

  • Cost: Where can the service be provided more cost-effectively?
  • Staff morale: How will the current staff morale and thus retention be affected? Will they think (1) The "fun" work is being outsourced or (2) thank goodness I no longer have to work on "x" project?
  • Staff talent: Does the in-house team possess the skills to produce this work (e.g., mobile app development or HTML5)? If not, is this something that the team can upskill on successfully? Is that the best choice for the business?
  • Speed: Depending on where the outsourcing is occurring, turnaround and cycle times may increase due to time zone differences and the inability to go back-and-forth quickly. How will this impact your internal clients?
  • Client impact: If the clients experience a decrease in quality and speed, will they take their business elsewhere?
  • Long-term department vision: Is the department making a decision that is in line with its evolution goal and the greater organization's future needs?
  • Institutional knowledge: Does this service/project/step require institutional knowledge?
  • Confidentiality: Is this information public? Does it need to be handled by an employee?
  • Outsourcing strategy: Should the entire process be outsourced or should we do some aspects such as the writing and project management?

By Capability
Fully outsourcing an entire service area such as Video Production is an option that is somewhat easier to facilitate than outsourcing a step in the process. However, the elimination of an internal service may negatively affect your group's reputation with the greater organization, as the team may be seen as "behind the times" or "not innovative." They key to outsourcing a capability is to still be part of the process by continuing to provide account & project management to your internal clients/business partners with the work flowing from them to you to the outsourced service providers. This provides a valuable service to your internal clients and allows the internal creative team to ensure brand standards are adhered to. Position the internal team's expertise as the brand and knowing how to best execute that brand--whether through internal resources or trusted partners.

Work Segmentation
Identifying specific capability within the creative process (e.g., creative or production design, proofreading) to outsource can be challenging and requires evaluation and determination of expected results and benefits outweighing the disruption to the group and quality control processes. Selecting the right principal partnership agency becomes a critical factor in how successful your outsourcing is determined in time, quality and cost--time being the most variable in this type of outsourcing.

Full Department Outsourcing
A handful of creative leaders are being asked to evaluate whether outsourcing most or the entire creative team is viable option--and some organizations have put this into place. This topic warrants its own post, but know there are several ways this can be done, including an on-site team that can operate much like an internal team. It's a dramatic choice, but one that Fortune 100 companies are considering as they seek to decrease fixed costs in favor of variable costs in order to frame costs differently for their shareholders.

If you're considering outsourcing or offshoring and would like advise or a thought partner, please contact us.