Innovation Services: In-House or Outsourced?

Man looking intently at his laptop screen.
When you should outsource is a tough question to answer.

The idea of “outsourcing” innovation can seem contrary to the whole concept. Isn’t innovation supposed to be about tapping the potential of your employees while engaging with them on a creative level? Yes, but it’s also about a variety of perspectives. Sometimes it takes an outsider to kickstart the creative process.

Why Should I Outsource Innovation?

There’s a lot of reasons to outsource innovation work. If you haven’t really developed a strategy before, it helps to work with an expert who can guide you through the process. If you’re struggling to grow your strategy from something informal into a formal process, outsourcing can bring in experienced teams to help you. Of course, in the case of tools like open innovation and crowdsourcing, you might want the perspective of customers and clients on what they need and want.

What Innovation Processes Can I Outsource?

Depending on your needs, you can outsource your entire innovation strategy, if that suits you. More commonly, though, certain aspects are outsourced based on need and expertise. Common examples of outsourcing in innovation include crowdsourcing, platform design and implementation, data collection and analysis, auditing, and testing. For example, you might build a prototype in-house, but send it to a firm to test it to secure more objective results.

When Should I Outsource Innovation?

Timing is key to outsourcing. Before you launch your innovation strategy, you should work out a roadmap, look for key points where you need more resources, and consider where these resources will originate. Look for milestones where your team members may not be able to dedicate the time or energy necessary due to other tasks, and mark those out for potential outsourcing. Start the outsourcing process before you hit that milestone, however, so you can stick to your roadmap.

Person holding a lightbulb labeled outsourcing.
Innovation should come from without and within.

What Innovation Processes Should I Outsource?

What you outsource with innovation depends on your needs, budget, and approach. A small, busy company may lack the time to draft an innovation strategy, so it might bring in an outside company to start the work, and then finish it once it has the results. Or a company grows beyond the suggestion box in the break room for its innovation strategy, so it has an outside company customize an innovation management platform for it.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Innovation?

Some pros include:

  • Access to expertise that may still be growing within your organization.
  • More availability of tools designed for innovation.
  • Easier customization of platforms, strategies, and other aspects.
  • Faster implementation.
  • Time and resources saved compared to building your own solution and processes.

The most common cons or challenges are inherent in any form of outsourcing.

  • You’ll need to choose a company that fits your culture.
  • You’ll need to give that company a clear goal and metrics. 
  • You’ll need to dedicate the time needed for proper guidance. In other words, you can’t “hire and forget,” or you’ll find yourself spending more time and money to get the solution you actually need.

Outsourcing should be one of the key tools in your innovation strategy. To learn more about what to outsource, and when, contact us today. 

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