Best Practices for Your Design Team Extension

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Bartosz Białek

Updated Jun 2, 2024 • 8 min read
Young creative business people at office-4

As Hunter S. Thompson famously said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” This is especially relevant when leveraging team extensions for your design team.

Making sure you are executing it correctly can be the biggest factor in determining the success of your project.

Design teams often encounter significant bottlenecks that may hinder their effectiveness. One of the most pressing issues can be seen when reaching capacity of the in-house team, which frequently means having to slow down and regroup or scale up. However, at times this may not be feasible due to hiring freezes or a lack of qualified candidates.

Moreover, I believe that relying solely on internal resources can limit a company's ability to innovate. During times of digital acceleration, staying up to date with new design strategies and industry trends is crucial for remaining competitive.

I also think that specific project requirements, such as deep integration with software development or the need for niche expertise, may pose further obstacles for internal teams. When this happens, accessing specialized skills and knowledge within the organization can be difficult, leading to delays or compromises in project execution.

I’ve also witnessed budget constraints and tight deadlines add another layer of complexity to the already challenging situation for design teams. Pressure to deliver results with limited resources can create additional bottlenecks – without having to mention the pressure of wanting to be first-in-the-market.

In essence, design teams face a multitude of pain points, from talent acquisition and retention to staying abreast of industry trends, as well as delivering high-quality projects within budget and time constraints. Addressing these pain points requires a strategic approach that leverages both internal capabilities and external resources effectively.

This is where design team extension emerges as a viable solution, offering scalability, flexibility, and access to specialized expertise tailored to the unique needs of each design project.

Increase presence of team extension in the market

My research on team extension underscores its widespread adoption and strategic importance in modern business models and project management. Notably, 24% of small businesses extend teams for efficiency gains, while 70% of companies do so to reduce expenses, and a survey conducted by EE Times showed a striking 60% of businesses outsourced their design projects which increased to 84% for large companies.

With the global team extension market expected to generate revenues of €560.70 billion by 2027, organizations across sectors, particularly in financial services (72%) and retail/wholesale (60%), are increasingly leveraging this model for app development and design functions.

As John Furneaux, CEO at Hive and one of Netguru's clients, said:

"I believe there is a massive wastage in a business where you carry people full time when what you actually need is specialist skills and knowledge in the right moments."

This statement encapsulates perfectly the rationale behind the rise of team extension, emphasizing the importance of accessing specialized expertise precisely when and where it's needed most.

Benefits of team extension

Scalability and flexibility are key concerns for growing startups and enterprises, particularly in terms of keeping up with evolving demands and fluctuating workloads. For instance, team extension offers the ability to adjust collaboration according to immediate needs and budgets, facilitating seamless scaling of teams and changes in composition to accommodate dynamic project requirements.

This approach not only ensures that companies can progress with their design and development pipelines but also provides on-demand access to specialized talent, eliminating the need for extensive talent scouting or handovers.

Moreover, team extension, reflecting current IT outsourcing trends, enhances efficiency and cost optimization by accelerating development processes, allowing for faster design iterations, and enabling rapid validation of market ideas. The model promotes knowledge and experience transfer, as external teams bring expertise from similar projects, enriching internal capabilities.

When done right, team extension can also emphasize control, transparency, and seamless integration, which can foster long-term partnerships built on mutual trust and open communication.

Overall, this model can offer you a fresh perspective, rapid onboarding, and efficient collaboration, making it an asset for design teams. However, to achieve the success that team extension can bring you, there are a few best practices you should keep in mind.

Best practices for design team extension

Define a well-formed project scope and schedule

Before starting a team extension collaboration, I strongly believe it's crucial to have a clear understanding of your project requirements and objectives. Define your project scope and schedule upfront, supplying the service providers with accurate, complete information to present realistic proposals and quotes.

A detailed project brief outlining goals, target audience, and other relevant details will facilitate effective communication and ensure alignment between all the stakeholders. Transparency about expectations and limits helps outsourcing providers better plan and allocate resources, setting the stage for a successful partnership.

Create a clear workflow and provide regular feedback sessions

Communication is key when working with a design team extension. Provide accurate feedback promptly, ensuring clarity and specificity to facilitate quick adjustments and iterations while creating high quality designs.

Establishing a successful workflow that prioritizes efficient communication and collaboration is essential for maximizing productivity and achieving your desired outcomes. By fostering a culture of openness and responsiveness, teams can streamline processes and accelerate project delivery.

Build a strong relationship between key managers and teams

The relationship between key management personnel of both teams is paramount to the success of a team extension partnership.

Establish communication channels and regular meetings to foster understanding and collaboration. Emphasize the importance of keeping a strong relationship and encourage open dialogue to address any issues or concerns promptly.

By nurturing strong working ties between key stakeholders, teams can cultivate trust and synergy, laying the foundation for long-term success and partnerships.

Choose the right industry and domain experts for your project

When selecting a team extension partner, prioritize expertise and experienced designers relevant to your project requirements.

Look for outsourcing agencies with a proven track record in your industry and domain, as well as proficiency in relevant tools and technologies. Conduct thorough research and due diligence, considering factors such as credibility, domain expertise, technical proficiency, and quality assurance measures.

By partnering with industry-leading experts, you can leverage their specialized knowledge and insights to drive project success.

Take the team extension service provider’s portfolio seriously – it could make or break the success of your project

Examine the vendor's previous work and ensure it aligns with your expectations for quality and style.

Request case studies and references to validate their capabilities and track record. Additionally, consider requesting a mock-up or work plan to better understand their approach and suitability for your project.

Is team extension the right strategy for your design team?

Team extension emerges as a compelling strategy for businesses grappling with these main pain points in design. By acknowledging these challenges and embracing team extension, design teams can leverage external expertise, optimize costs, and accelerate project delivery.

Whether you are seeking to augment existing capabilities or address specific project requirements, the benefits of team extension underscore its viability as a go-to strategy in design. As businesses continue to prioritize agility and innovation, team extension represents a proactive step toward overcoming obstacles and achieving long-term success.

The way I see it, the future of design lies in strategic partnerships and collaborative ecosystems that harness the collective expertise of internal and external teams. Making team extension a core pillar of your design strategy will allow your company to unlock new opportunities for innovation, growth, and competitive advantage in today's digital acceleration era.

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Bartosz Białek

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