Internalizing UX: the death of external agencies?

Quite the contrary, actually. Organizations that have in-house UX designers are often the ones who benefit the most from working with an agency. Here’s why.

The trend of internalization

Digital products are becoming more and more important. Some organizations even consider digital products to be mission-critical. As a result, many companies are internalizing UX services, just as they previously integrated teams of developers and visual designers.

This makes perfect business sense. As a matter of fact, Central encourages many of its clients to go down that path.

Just what you need, when you need it

Companies are internalizing UX competencies partly because hiring an employee will cost them less money in the long run than relying on consultants, freelancers or agencies.

When a big new project starts, in-house designers may not have the capacity to handle it in addition to their day-to-day work. But hiring new team members may not be worth it if that project is just going to last a few months.

Collaborating with an external team gives you the best of both worlds. Your internal team can continue building and maintaining your digital assets. Meanwhile, a highly skilled external workforce overcomes temporary bottlenecks or removes a wealth of items from that product backlog.

Depth of knowledge and breadth of experience

Companies also internalize UX and design services because an internal team can acquire deep knowledge about the organization’s objectives, constraints, users and users’ needs.

However, that also means that internal teams have an inherent tendency to be turned inwards. The main risk here is to get stuck in your ways. Sometimes, the best way to crack a problem is to get a fresh perspective on it.

As a design studio, Central is constantly faced with a wide variety of challenges and contexts. We can complement your team’s depth of knowledge with a wide breadth of experiences, workflows and best practices.

High-level UX deliverables and evangelization

The UX teams Central collaborates with are usually mature and efficient. They have a clear roadmap and constantly improve their product. To support this ongoing effort, high-level UX deliverables are generally needed at one point or another.

For example, a UX/UI style guide, a front-end pattern library or copywriting guidelines will help your internal UX team tremendously. Nevertheless, they will not benefit the organization as a whole unless they are adopted globally, which requires a lot of evangelization and buy-in.

An external UX team, free from the constant flow of daily requests and internal politics, is ideally suited to build these tools and promote them internally. High-level UX projects like these can have a positive impact across your organization and increase the velocity of your own UX team.

No need to pick, here’s the trick

Of course, hiring an external agency for design and UX services makes sense if you don’t have an internal team you can count on.

Even if you have one, collaborating with an external team can help you increase your team’s bandwidth and flexibility. It can also help you see your projects from a new angle and learn new skills. These creativity boosts will enable you to crack tough challenges faster. Last but not least, getting an agency’s support to create high-level UX deliverables will benefit your whole business by helping you keep your products clear and consistent.

This blogpost was originally written when working with Central, a design consultancy that helps organizations create successful digital products.