Insourcing & leading a creative team

We’ve had a brief pause lately to focus back on our team & what our strategy for growth is. The “design team” at SPARC has been in existence over 3 years now, with me learning to lead while building the team from the ground up. It’s been the most rewarding experience of my professional career to be able to foster such a unique group of creatives and facilitate achieving results.

As we’ve grown, there has always been a question of scale – how big do we let the team get? We’ve gone from three to as many as 14. During this process of growth we’ve been very careful who we hire and that the timing with business is correct. We’ve always had the intent of keeping the team as small & agile as possible, but still large enough accommodate the different types of work that comes in. We handle everything from User-Experience for enterprise software, to front-end development within a scrum team, to branding for our commercial clients. The designers we bring onto the team have to have the range to accommodate many different disciplines associated with “design”.

This latest pause has given me time to research a little more about the term “insourcing” and what it means to lead an in-house design group. While our team is more oriented towards software development & UX than in-house “creative services”, I found a lot of good gems in this article by the Chief Creative of Capstrat.

The reason companies in-source are pretty easy:

1. To save money. The simple, traditional in-house view: value = cost

2. To better control an organization’s image… and to save money The insource perspective: value = cost + brand + expertise + familiarity

Couple other great thoughts about the value of insourcing, many of which helped us successfully launch products such as Teamphoria in a short time:

Insourced employees create value because they:

  • Have a personal commitment to the greater purpose of the organization
  • Earn the trust and confidence of executive decision-makers
  • Understand key business drivers
  • Know the culture and can facilitate faster decision-making
  • Aid in speed to market

The last element of the article was the subject that has become my new passion of late, leadership:

The perfect internal creative leader:

  • Fosters a safe creative environment.
  • Knows when to take risks.
  • Has a sense of urgency
  • Is a spotlight-shunning consigliere.
  • Has high standards and a strong moral compass
  • Is a tireless evangelist.

In the very beginning, our team focused a ton on growing SPARC’s brand and image. Since then we’ve gotten an amazing advocate for our brand in Chad and move towards focusing on designing user-experiences for our clients. We’ve moved from an “overhead” services-focused team towards a billable asset to the company. Some level of design is included in every contract we work on. And design as a competency has top-level visibility within our organization.

To sum it up, as Adobe and Fast Company just pointed out, every designer is happiest when they know they’re fulfilling a need. Thanks for reading!