Data Analysis: When to Outsource, When to Insource

Data analysis can be an overlooked, even thankless, task in many organizations. But it’s a complex role that requires specific expertise, and qualified analysts can be hard to find. Every company is organized differently, has a particular set of specialities, and a range of challenges they face everyday. Thankfully, there are specialized data analytics agencies that can benefit companies who are struggling with large analytics projects, short on human capital, and lacking specific analytics knowledge.

At Empirical Path, we have worked with a broad range of organizations, from small data-driven agencies that devote precious human capital to analytics, to enterprises that have departments of appreciated analysts. Each company has their unique reasons for outsourcing to our consultancy; for those on the fence, let’s dive into best practices for evaluating whether outsourcing or staying in-house is best for your business. 

Marketing Analytics Tasks: Outsourcing vs. Insourcing 

First, it’s helpful to consider what kinds of digital measurement projects should be outsourced and what tasks are best done by the internal team. 

Projects ideal for outsourcing are:

  • One-time — such as conducting a measurement audit or migrating from one analytics platform to another.
  • Diagnostic — digging into site code to find data tracking problems.
  • Foundational — creating customized reporting and automated dashboards.
  • Strategic — identifying reporting needs, developing a measurement strategy and plan.
  • Consultative — mediating between business functions with different analytics priorities, like marketing and product teams.

Projects better suited for internal staff are:

  • Recurring — such as generating and interpreting regular reports and A/B testing.
  • Ongoing — making routine site updates in response to evolving user experience improvements or new marketing technologies being implemented.
  • Collaborative — requiring detailed knowledge of the business (products or processes) or relationship management with multiple company stakeholders.

Some data-related projects fall in between and typically involve an outside partner working side-by-side with internal analysts. Those might include vendor selection, establishing and defining key performance indicators, designing dashboards and reports, and at times, delivering valuable findings and insights derived from the data. 

Why It’s Smart to Outsource

For one, outsourcing is appropriate for big, singular projects like moving from Adobe Analytics to Google Analytics. A consultancy can dedicate the time and people power to such an intense project, then move on; whereas hiring an internal team to manage a one-time project leaves them with little to do when that job is complete. 

External consultants, too, are adept at mitigating internal conflict between business units that may value data differently. Product and marketing departments, for example, may have different, even competing data needs — especially if analytics is historically owned by one of them. Marketers may want to profile audience segments to identify the habits of customers vs. non-customers, but if the product team doesn’t build data collection into the site or app, that insight can’t happen. An unbiased outsider can act as a therapist of sorts to identify those disconnects, explain why measurement supports business goals, implement best practices, and facilitate cooperation. 

Another reason to work with an agency is for full access to their technology, brainpower and range of experiences, which make timely and polished deliverables more likely. Outside agency team members bring a wealth of experience, across multiple sectors and clients, gleaned from hundreds of engagements. Specialized consultants have overcome many challenges and hiccups along the way, so they can leverage best practices and avoid pitfalls learned among a team of experts. They are well versed in all the latest analytical techniques, business intelligence software platforms, and analytics tools that can help contextualize your data and quickly figure out which strategies will help create an impact. 

To expand on the topic of a consultants expertise, clients typically find that cost savings become a notable factor when deciding on outsourcing. With providers like us, clients end up hiring senior-level experts, dedicated and trained in the world of digital measurement, at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. Our job is to help your team when particular projects or needs arise, giving you the flexibility to turn on our services when you deem necessary. 

Finally, and equally important, we have found that staff analysts see working with a consultant as an opportunity to finally be heard. When businesses invest in outside help, they begin to respect digital measurement as a critical function and the role of their internal teams.

When It’s Smart to Insource

Organizations that have staff knowledgeable in Google Analytics, Tag Manager, Optimize, BigQuery, and comparable tools have the option to retain many digital measurement projects in-house. Often tasks done on a weekly or monthly basis — gathering, evaluating, and reporting data — are more efficiently handled inside than outsourced. 

Just as important, employees understand the organization. We like to say that internal employees “know where the bodies are buried.” They understand how the hierarchy works, who has priority, and how to handle ongoing requests from management. They understand how websites and apps function and who their users are at a deep level. They speak the corporate lingo.

When working in-house there is more flexibility with project timelines, priorities and innovation. The in-house employees have more time to work on different deliverables, as opposed to an agency that might have a hard time being flexible because they have a limited number of contracted hours for specific tasks. 

For companies with limited data analysis capacity, major one-off projects, lack of knowledge in specialized analytics, or spending constraints, outsourcing to experts is a smart option. Once you have decided that you want to outsource, it is important to pick a vendor that aligns with your company’s values, is client-centered, and is willing to negotiate flexible hours. If it is a good match, consultants will then be able to work in tandem with your team to meet a fundamental goal: ensuring relevant, actionable, trusted data that drives business results.

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