Insourcing was a marketing services trend of the late 2010s as businesses moved more of their marketing function in-house. Insight teams haven’t been immune to this trend - as companies worked to own their own “data lakes” combining behavioral and survey data it seemed sensible to insource analytics and, in many cases, global data collection.
At the end of 2020, though, the picture looks very different. As in every industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape. Budgets - and sadly, teams - are being cut across the marketing and research industries.
Prior to the pandemic, insourcing seemed to be an effective way of making sure marketing was joined-up across a business. Now, with the economy taking a hit and remote work replacing in-person teams in many businesses, things look different. Large in-house teams can feel over-resourced and unwieldy.
Research managers operating in this environment face a terrible dilemma. They’re being asked to work with less, but at the same time they need to understand consumers more than ever. The rapid changes which are disrupting their teams are also changing consumer behavior and expectations in every other area of life.
Without the insight that research provides, businesses are at risk of making blind decisions based on out-of-date assumptions. And without the proper resources to obtain that insight, research teams are at risk of delayed or cancelled projects and disappointed internal stakeholders.
At Gazelle Global, we think it’s time to look again at the insourcing/outsourcing balance. Outsourcing some global research services has to be back on the table as an option, as it allows better budget management and less overhead.
At the same time, we know the issues which led to the insourcing trend haven’t all gone away. So, what’s needed is a new approach to outsourcing, one which emphasizes close partnership and embedded work, where the vendor thinks and behaves as if they were an extension of the client team. Outsourcing that acts like insourcing but still offers the benefits of contract flexibility and low overhead.
Outsourcing is the new insourcing. But what does that mean in practice? We think there are major differences between the old outsourcing and its 2020 model.
One of the major issues with outsourcing was the need for multiple suppliers across complex supply chains to deal with specialized elements of research. This created a risk of bottlenecks. This problem is far less acute lately as the suppliers themselves have insourced and expanded capability and now offer more complete capabilities. A trusted supplier can provide complete project oversight with no hidden risks or costs.
Experience has always been an asset in a supplier. But the last big period of research outsourcing coincided with an era of accelerated change in terms of the tools and technologies researchers used. The transition to online and mobile made it very hard for clients to tell which vendors really had the know-how. In the recent year, suppliers like Gazelle Global who operated through this era have decades of genuine and trustworthy experience in survey programming, creating respondent engagement, data management and other modern research skills.
Outsourcing in the old days often meant hard to reach suppliers, a lack of communication and the potential for misunderstandings. The alternative was embedding a team within your organization, but this needed office space and resources and involved a higher level of commitment overall. But this is one area where the accelerated move to remote work has made outsourcing better. With video conferencing, integrating outsourced workers into a team on a temporary basis is far easier. At Gazelle Global, we have the mindset that we’re an extension of a client team, sharing and working towards their objectives.
Outsourcing is still cost-effective and offers financial flexibility. But it’s now also a way to get experienced, committed and integrated resource into your team quickly to meet those hard deadlines and keep a business up to date. In an uncertain world, outsourcing is the smart solution.
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