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Software Development Agencies Vs In-house Dev Teams

Advantages of working with an agency over setting up an in-house team

It’s tempting to set up your own in-house development team when you find out the cost of developing a project with an agency, but there are a few factors worth considering before making a decision…

Guaranteed Result

When you commission an agency to develop your digital product, you are paying for a very specific result. The agency will outline exactly what you will get and the timescale. You are not paying for a number of hours or a vague concept. Instead, you will receive tangible deliverables, as listed on the agreement you make with the agency. 

Even if the project requires additional development time, if the deliverable has been listed on a functional spec, the agency will absorb the cost of this additional development time. 

On the other hand, with an in-house team, any unexpected setbacks will incur a time delay or financial cost. 


Skillsets Required

You’ll obviously need custom software or web developers on any digital app development project. But if you’re aiming high, you’ll also need other specialists.

  • UX and Visual Designers
  • A Project Manager
  • Quality Assurance Testers

By working with an agency you’ll benefit from the level of expertise in these disciplines, without having to employ a full team yourself. Either full time or on a freelance basis.

When some individuals are only required for a small number of days, you won’t want to employ them full-time. But, even finding freelancers or contractors to work on your project is very time consuming, and costly.

The Costs

Although you might decide to take on your own development team to keep costs low, this could prove a false economy. 

Give some thought to the less obvious costs associated with taking on your own team. Not only do you have salaries to pay for each team member, but you’ll also need to provide holiday and sick pay, make contributions to their pension and the cost of training and career development.

This could be worthwhile if you’re going to continue utilising these skills, but for a one-off app development project, it’s unlikely the time and money investment will be recouped.

For larger companies with an existing IT department, it could be advantageous developing an app in-house. Particularly if the existing team have specialist skills and experience, and a design team. This is dependent on capacity around other projects though, so not always an easy solution.

Another consideration is the space needed if you take on additional employees. Although not always an issue, small companies are often at capacity with their office space and the additional facilities required to expand a team.

True Cost of Taking on a Permanent Employee

There are a few additional costs to take into account if you’re looking to take on permanent staff. Some are non-negotiable and others are difficult to predict.

  • Employers NICs (national insurance contributions) extra 13.5% of employee salary
  • Pension extra 8% of salary
  • Holiday pay
  • Sick pay
  • Maternity/paternity pay
  • Employers liability Insurance
  • Equipment costs
  • RTI compliant PAYE payroll system

Staff Contingency

Not only do you need to shell out for sick pay, but you’ll also need backup in place if you’re short-staffed due to sickness, holiday or training days.

This may not matter if there isn’t a tight deadline. In reality, though, you probably want to launch your app as soon as possible. This is one of the biggest reasons for hiring an agency to develop your digital product.

Agencies have a pool of designers and developers at various levels who can take on tasks when needed and systems in place to manage projects between a large team. 

So there is rarely any training or handover time required in these cases. Not to mention the cost savings of utilising junior developers, to take on the less complex work.

Staying Ahead of the Curve (or having the competitive edge)

You’ll be sure of up-to-date industry knowledge when you opt for the agency route. With access to both the latest technology as well as experience on similar projects with other organisations, going with an agency will give you the edge over the competition.

Most agency app developers live and breath software development. They’re usually members of specialist communities and professional bodies and likely attend industry events.

Combined with the access to a network of similar professionals, you’ll benefit from the ‘hive mind’ and up-to-date technology used by agencies.

Knowledge Retention

It’s inevitable that team members will leave occasionally. This is likely to be the case for both agency staff and an in-house team. However, agencies are usually very good at documenting their processes so any new additions to the team are up to speed as quickly as possible and all employees follow the same processes. 

This also minimises wasted time as these processes have usually been streamlined over time. So agency teams tend to be incredibly efficient and work together well.


Why You Need a Project Manager, Designers and Testers?

Project Manager: Ensuring the various elements of a project are pulled together and tasks divided amongst developers and designers etc. They will check milestones are met at various stages along the way and keep the project on track. 

UX Designer: A UX designer ensures a product is easy to use and accessible for people. They ‘humanise’ technology by conducting research, determining the information architecture and user flows and create wireframes and prototypes of the digital product. Ready for the UI (User Interface) design stage of the project.

UI / Visual Designer: The UI designer takes the wireframe or prototype and creates the final imagery. This includes layouts, colour schemes, icons and typography. Great visuals make apps enjoyable to use and bridge the gap between functionality and aesthetics. The visual design also helps attract buyers to your product.

Quality Assurance Testers: It’s essential your app is tested on different devices and browsers. A professional software tester will follow testing scripts to thoroughly check the app works under different circumstances, and report back any issues to the project manager to have fixed by developers. 

Time Requirements

It goes without saying that an agency will turn a project around faster than an in-house team. But taking on an agency will result in additional time savings for you and others involved in the project. 

You’ll need to factor in the time to recruit staff and all the other HR and accountancy responsibilities you’ll incur from taking them on. Even after team members join, it will take a while for them to get up to speed.

Software development and web design team members.

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