An Eternal Debate: Outsourced or In-House Development for IT Projects?

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 - Written by: Mark Rizzo

INSite Business Solutions is a web development group offering mission critical software development for companies in a wide range of industries. So we admit that we may have a bias toward outsourcing development work—full disclosure is always good, right? But we’re not diehard proponents of outsourcing in every single instance: we really do believe that there are times that internal teams are the right choice for an IT project, and then there are other times when outsourcing is the way for your business to go.

“When you have more than two people working together, it gets a bit unfocused as an idea.” – Liam Payne, singer from One Direction

We don’t usually quote singers from One Direction; in fact, in general we’re not really keen on taking life advice from a boy band—but in this case, we can agree with Mr. Payne. Whenever there are people involved on a project of any kind, things can certainly get sticky and unfocused. Sometimes things can be refocused and energized from within. But what if the roadblock still remains firmly in place with no signs of budging? Some outside help might be needed.

Here are some situations when your business (and your internal IT group) would benefit from outsourced web development work:

1. When your IT department is overwhelmed by its task list. Many companies, both large and small, are downsizing these days while at the same time trying to increase production/client load. That means everyone has more work to do on a daily basis. Software is becoming more and more essential to running a successful business. When you’ve got business leaders requiring more and more from internal IT teams, these teams can quickly get overworked—especially when individual departments may be insisting that priority be given to each of their projects.

2. When IT developers are required to divide their time between supporting old projects and developing new ones. Piggybacking off the first point above and the fact that many internal IT departments are understaffed, we see a challenge arising for most internal IT groups. They are required to keep maintaining and supporting existing applications while at the same time brainstorming and creating new ones.

Justin James, writing for TechRepublic, says,

The more you ask people to multi-task, the worse their work will be and the longer it will take. This applies to multi-tasking at the minute-to-minute level (juggling emails, phone calls, actual work, etc.) as well as the hour-to-hour or day-to-day level (handling multiple projects).

3. When internal IT teams find it difficult to estimate project scope. An inaccurate project estimate in terms of time and cost is not always an IT team’s fault. Sometimes it comes as the result of poorly defined objectives from the beginning—or it may stem from unforeseen pivots that must occur during the course of development. Hindsight is certainly always better than foresight. An outsourced team may feel more freedom to ask for clearly defined project specs and typically has more capability to flex a schedule to meet needed course changes.

4. When good developers leave the team. Keeping good developers is difficult and costly. If one member of an internal development team leaves the company or is promoted to another position, the whole team is thrown off. It can take years to rebuild—this sounds dramatic, but it is a realistic statement given the code library and the necessary familiarity with tools developers must possess to do their jobs well. The velocity to get up and running again is often quicker with an outsourced group than with an internal team. Again, this is not the fault of the internal team or even of the parent business—it’s just a function of the agility of a smaller entity versus a larger one.

5. When internal teams don’t feel like they can keep up with newer technologies coming on the development scene. At the risk of beating a dead horse, we want to say one more time that this scenario is not reflective of an internal IT team’s skill set or motivation. It just sometimes happens as a result of internal development teams being required to sustain existing web projects; time dedicated to this sustaining role must be taken from somewhere. Independent web development groups, on the other hand, are often learning new technologies by necessity because of the nature of the work they are usually hired to do.

6. When consumer demand keeps morphing. In web development, the end consumer is sometimes an end consumer like you and me using a website on our phones. The end consumer can also be a fellow employee, a boss, or a whole division of a company. And the fact is this—sometimes end consumers may not fully understand what it is they are looking for at first, explains Paul Smyth, writing for Finextra:

Even with good input from the users no amount of analysis of user requirements can take away an immutable fact that users only think that they know what they want. In truth, it’s not until they start seeing something, and using it, that they begin to really understand what they need. This is especially true when the software is being developed for a new idea or process that they haven’t used before.

Do you see any of these situations as being true for your business? How is your internal IT team holding up under the demands placed on it? If you’re part of that internal IT team, what could make your job better/easier? INSite Business Solutions functions as an internal (but outsourced!) web development team, partnering with you in mission critical development. We work with companies and their internal IT teams to get their enterprise web applications to the starting line—and then across the finish line, too. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

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