What Happened to In-Housing During Lockdown?

Oct 12, 2020

At a Glance...

Far from spelling the end of in-housing, remote working has demonstrated that we can get all the benefits of an in-housed agency operation without ever setting foor in the office. We now talk about in-sourcing digital agency capability rather than in-housing. 

The inevitability of in-housing

The forces pushing our industry towards in-housing were immense and unescapable: purchasing power was being eroded, technology was increasingly complex and marketing teams demanded ever-more transparency from their partners.

Nothing could stop the in-housing tide…

Except perhaps the pandemic that none of us saw coming. Suddenly, we were in lockdown and the physical proximity of our clients & us was replaced with Zoom, Slack, Hangouts, Teams and email.

At In Digital our biggest concern was how this would affect our ability to collaborate closely with our clients, keep our connections alive with secondary stakeholders such as product or finance teams, and ultimately, whether we’d still feel like we were all one team.


The benefit of hindsight

I wish I’d known this at the time, but we needn’t have been concerned: the closely knit teams we’d become before lockdown transitioned pretty seamlessly to the new normal of remote working. I think we can be very grateful to Slack for making the informal communication between individuals as easy as possible. Coffee machine chats became coffee machine Slacks.

Even more encouragingly it’s been possible to achieve this with new clients we started working with since lockdown.

This begs the awkward question: did we need in-housing in the first place?

Early in the summer and after a little soul-searching we came to the conclusion that while in-housing is a great strategy, it is just that: a strategy and not an outcome.


Enter “in-sourcing”

That’s why we now talk about “in-sourcing” your digital agency capability, rather than in-housing. In-sourcing is a strategy that implicitly means the client has ownership and control over their digital operations while still acknowledging the need to bring-in something from the outside: experience, expertise and flexibility.

Below is an example of how we now talk about how in-sourcing works by plugging-in In Digital’s capability into different functional areas:

There’s no doubt that for a lot of businesses this is the right strategy. Anyone with a more sophisticated marketing plan than “maximise reach & frequency, minimise cost” benefits from more creativity, collaboration and transparency from their agency.

Time will tell where the balance or remote & office-working will end but I for one am very excited to bring the best of what we’ve learnt from remote working to our tried & tested approaches from pre-lockdown.


Making the most of remote working

While we wait to make a gradual return to offices, here are my top three “different” learnings for making remote teams work well together:

  1. Avoid any communication bottlenecks: give people the autonomy to speak to anyone they feel they need to in order to do their job well
  2. Encourage informal communication from the start & make the most of tools like Slack or Hangouts
  3. Go big on interactive. Boredom on Zoom calls is the enemy of creativity, for example when two people do all the talking on a call with 10 people silently listening. We use Google forms, Zoom polls and other tools like Kahoot! to make it easier for everyone to have their say


Oliver Norman, Co-Founder

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