UX Magazine:

“In-house or Agency” is the wrong question to ask, says Sean O’Connor


A global move toward becoming a Design Capable organization, a growing trend for several years now, has led many of the world’s most innovative companies to invest heavily in internal creative teams.

As a wave of agency acquisitions began in 2012, many proclaimed that the agency design business was dead; too important to be left to outsiders. But this is a narrow view of a complex topic. As more organizations have taken this approach, we’re seeing several new challenges come to light.

One setback is these internal teams might lack the power to effect substantial change in large organizations. Another is the feasibility of acquiring specific design skills that might only be required for short-term project initiatives. “An external agency can bring a mix of design ability that would be impractical to maintain indefinitely inside most companies,” states Sean O’Connor, Partner at Smart Design.

Smart has been working since 2014 with sports fuel leader, Gatorade, alongside their successful internal design team, piloting and developing the Gx personalized hydration ecosystem, and creating a new business model in the process. Implementing the right external expertise, paired with an already top-notch internal team creates more value than what the organization could have been capable of handling alone. 

Some companies such as Apple and IKEA are investing, and being driven by design in a way that is transforming their culture, while other big brands including P&G are taking a hybrid approach and incorporating robust internal teams with external partners. As these internal design departments define the organization’s creative culture and advocate for long-term commitment, we’re seeing external teams bring fresh new perspectives and a broader range of tools and expertise into big, complex projects. A good example of this is BBVA, who partnered with Smart to review how they could become more customer-centric. Engaging with an external consultancy allowed BBVA to think about more thoughtful ways to build a more robust design team, but also engage external agencies in a more thoughtful and effective manner, all while keeping best-in-class user experiences at the center of their organizational redesign effort.  

To read the full article, visit UX Magazine.

May 2017