Going In-House; Why We Stopped Outsourcing and Started Building

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For media companies, websites are more important than ever. Whether you have one site or a dozen, the ability to update content quickly and to take care of site maintenance efficiently is one of the keys to success. Many companies still outsource their web development, and while this can be a viable solution, we have found that building an in-house team has brought us much more success. It has increased turnaround time on projects, tightened lines of communication between editorial, marketing and IT, and allowed us to maximize our content output.

Life with Outsourcing

Before I arrived at SGC, all web development was outsourced. All of our web products were in the hands of other companies, which meant that we had little control over turnaround time. Often we found ourselves in need of a quick turnaround on a project; however, we had to follow our dev firm’s timeline, meaning we were bound by two completely different schedules.

Aside from the timing, communication with an outsourced web development team proved to be challenging at times, and that meant things could be lost in translation during the updates/build. Even though there were challenges, our outsourced projects turned out great. However, the volume of web development that we needed to complete, and the speed at which we needed to complete it, demanded a different process.

Transitioning to In-House Development

During the build of one of our websites, Water & Wastes Digest, our team made the decision to completely switch over to in-house web development. The construction of this website was the point when we became fully aware that our in-house web development skills were far enough along to do anything from a data migration to front end theming.

We noticed the direct impact of improved communication when building this site in-house. Sitting 10 feet from the stakeholders meant we got real-time answers when we needed them, and that was a major turning point for our team.

Another major advantage we soon noticed was that we were a lot more flexible in all aspects of the project. From a quick front-end update to a more in-depth programming change, having the dev team work directly with the stakeholders allowed a smooth workflow. Finally, for those changes that may have directly affected the timeline, we were no longer bound by a hard launch date, which soon shaped our “iterative” development approach. WWD turned out to be a major success, and the rest of our the websites followed.

Shortly after this concept of internal development, we then opened the door to a second senior developer and soon after, a junior developer. At this point in time we were all hands on deck, all the time. We were now doing more than migrating websites to Drupal 6; we were upgrading our older sites to Drupal 7, building modules, organizing older data workflow, and working with our editorial team for new improvements to their sites on a daily basis.

Efficiencies with In-House Development

With an internal web development team and all of our websites now on Drupal, we are in a phase where upgrades and enhancements are crucial to our growth. Our editors have become more open to requesting widgets, tweaks, or upgrades to their sites, and we have been making it happen.

With our new procedure in place, the entire team is involved all the way through the web process, start to finish, ensuring the website is exactly what they are expecting.

If you’re thinking about starting an in-house web development team, but not sure where to begin, start small;

1. Assess your company’s needs. Do you require enough internal web development to make it worth hiring full-time developers?

2. Assess your current IT team; if you have the capabilities to do your own web development, try building a site or completing a big project that’s been waiting in the wings. If it goes well, it’s time to pursue in-house development in earnest.

3. Begin creating a workflow. If there’s a CMS that works for you, stick with it and make it the standard.

4. Build a strong team. Bring in the people who can best adapt to your workflow, and who have the necessary expertise. Remember: quality, not quantity!

5. Keep your team up to date on Drupal developments--there’s always more to learn.

In short, if you have many websites that need upkeep, maintenance or general attention, it’s definitely worth investigating an internal development team!

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