The benefits of adding a developer to your in-house team

This is the first part in a series of blogs about in house development, adapted from a lightning talk I recently did for the Boagworld podcast

A developer can be a real asset that’ll allow your in house digital team to be more agile and flexible in the way they work.

Everywhere is different, so the way a developer will fit into your organisation will vary depending on the size and type of your team and how it fits in with the rest of the company.

With a huge range of possible external resources available - from low-cost, remote-working freelancers to established agencies with a proven track record - why would an organisation want to invest in adding an in-house developer to their team?

I think using any one of those resources doesn’t necessarily prevent an organisation from using the others if the situation calls for it. A combination of all three can allow an organisation to flex over time with a changing workload.

Although the associated costs of employing somebody on payroll are going to outweigh using freelancers, there are plenty of other benefits which make it worthwhile investing in that extra internal resource. One of the real benefits of having somebody in house is that they’re going to be focussed entirely on your company’s work. You won’t have to compete with other clients for their time and you can much more easily respond to changing priorities.

Even with some in-house development expertise, there will inevitably be times where you need some extra capacity and will need to work with external agencies.

So often, problems arise during the course of a project because of scope creep or the knock on implications of changes not being fully considered. Having someone on your team who is able to take the business needs of the organisation and translate them into a detailed brief for an agency means that the budget you are spending on external resources is focused on getting the job done rather than figuring out what it is you're asking for. It makes for a much more productive working relationship and you're more likely to get what you want, on time and on budget.

With an in house developer, you can define clear development standards for when you're choosing an agency to work with. That way you can be confident that, whoever is working on your site, someone else will be able to pick up the code further down the line and support it.

Having technical knowledge in house means that you're much more self sufficient and better placed to support and extend the functionality of the site further down the line.

Getting to know the organisation

But it's not just on the technical front that having a developer in house is an asset. They'll have the chance to really get to know the organisation in a way that you just can’t from the outside. That perspective, and the relationships that they can build, will allow the team to be a lot more proactive. An in house developer is better placed to anticipate the needs of the organisation and find the solution to problems much quicker than having to go backwards and forwards with external suppliers.

If you get the right person in the right in-house role, and give them the tools they need to get on with doing their job, you can really unlock the potential of a digital team and the organisation. If you're lucky enough to have a reasonable size team with some UX expertise and content creators, you can make your in house unit a real force to drive digital innovation in your organisation. You can get into a cycle of iterative, evidence-based development. User testing, refining and increasing conversion rates.

In the next part of this series, I look at some of the differences for a developer in taking a role in house over one in an agency.