When weighing the decision between outsourcing and hiring staff, there are three key factors that you will have to think about:
Ideally you would get all three – a high quality product that’s easy on the wallet and delivered quickly. Realistically, however, you will only be able to get two of those three factors. High quality work done quickly is rarely cheap, and cheap work is usually either slow or low quality. Determining which two are most important is the key. This is what is known as the value triangle.
While you can get a quality deliverable from either a full-time employee or a contractor, a new hire is going to take considerably longer to be brought up to speed than an outsourced worker who already knows the technology and the data. A new employee may not know anything about the data, and in some cases it will be three, six, or even 12 months before they have learned enough to be a productive member of the team without direct intervention or support from their colleagues.
Bringing in an expert for a specific project or length of time can be a very efficient way to tackle a complex project or take some of the pressure off of the existing staff so that they can get caught up. The risk with a contractor is that they will not be familiar with the specifics of the data as it relates to the institution. However, the contractor should have a working knowledge of the technology and the processing required.
The difference in cost between the two options is harder to measure because you are dealing with a one-time investment versus a long term commitment. Outsourcing requires a large payment to be made at one time and, once the job is completed, that outsourced resource is no longer available to you. This can be great for help with a single complex project or for getting a fixed amount of assistance, but also leaves you with a potentially lower overall return on your investment. Hiring new staff is more expensive in the long run – requiring a yearly salary plus benefits – but you also get a resource that can prove to be valuable for years to come.
It is at this point that you’ll need to answer several questions, including:
- How soon are these deliverables needed?
- What are the repercussions if the project is not finished by a specific deadline, or at all?
- Do you have sufficient internal resources to train a new hire?
Quality can mean different things depending on who you ask, but really you want to think about who the target audience of the project will be. Is this a report that is going to be shown to the president of the institution? Is it a data dump that is going to be given to a different department to feed into another system? The quality of these two examples can vary greatly, and should be considered when trying to decide between hiring and outsourcing. Maybe a new hire can knock out a simple data dump quickly enough to suit your needs without needing too much expertise. Maybe you need someone who knows the tools inside and out to take full advantage of the features and create an elegant solution.
Quality really comes down to defining, and sometimes refining, the requirements of the project. Poorly defined requirements can cause a contractor to struggle with completing the project exactly how it was envisioned by the requestor, and could cause delays in the development process. In some cases a new hire may work better with poorly defined requirements, as they would be able to meet with the requestors much more frequently and conveniently.
In conclusion, determining whether to hire extra staff or outsource your extra reporting workload is not always an easy decision. Yet, by weighing the three aforementioned factors, you will be better able to decide what the most efficient use of your available funds would be and solve the value triangle.