It’s never easy to outsource! Even delegating routine, unimportant tasks calls for a certain amount of trust. Now imagine outsourcing asset creation for your beloved animation or video game. Sounds like quite a project, doesn’t it?
We’re an international creative studio, so we have a general idea of what you’re going through. We’ve also noticed that some customer concerns repeat themselves at every project. Here they are, along with our answers, to put your mind at ease!
Why Outsource at All?
Before we get into your concerns (or pain points, as we call them), let’s quickly go over why a creative studio would outsource to another. If it’s so complicated, why do it at all? Here’s a rundown of the most common reasons.
- Accessing Specialized Expertise or Technologies: For example, if you don’t have the latest motion capture equipment, we do!
- Sticking to the Budget: Outsourcing can lower costs in many ways, especially by paying lower rates and reducing overhead.
- Focusing on Core Competencies: Even the biggest studios outsource the tiny details sometimes, allowing themselves to focus on the bigger, more important things.
- Meeting Tight Deadlines: It’s much easier to cope with a looming deadline when outsourcing partners do a considerable amount of the job.
- Having Flexible Scalability: Outsourcing allows you to quickly scale up or down without going through the hassle of maintaining a large in-house team.
Let’s get to your concerns, then! They’re sorted by frequency, with the more frequent concerns coming first.
1. Lack of Creative Control
This is probably the most common concern. You’d fear that if you outsource, you’ll lose your vision, voice, and identity in the process. If heavens forbid, that fear is realized, you’ll end up with generic, useless material that couldn’t be more off-brand.
Fear not! Creative control isn’t something you can just hand over to us at Picotion. We understand that getting things right takes time, energy, and a lot of communication. That’s why we have a set of practices here to ensure your final product will definitely be yours.
In short, you don’t have to relinquish creative control when outsourcing to Picotion. On the contrary, you may even enhance and optimize it with our combined expertise! Here’s how:
Clarity, Clarity, Clarity
The first step to getting where we want is to know exactly where we’re going. So, we’ll establish clarity before anything else, starting with your own needs. First, we’ll get clear on your vision, deliverables, good-to-haves, budget, and timeline. Then, we’ll clarify our expertise, responsibilities, processes, standards, and communication channels.
This approach works in all human and corporate relationships. We’ll be asking the right questions, listening intently to your answers, conducting thorough research on the project specifics, coming up with detailed proposals, and finally getting it all down in writing. We also encourage you to be as specific as you can. It’s your vision we’ll be working for!
Regular Updates from Us
In the previous step, we established clear communication channels for a reason. Once we get started, we’ll provide you with regular, transparent updates on our progress, challenges, solutions, questions, and results.
How regular? It’s decided in the previous step. You can ask for daily or weekly meetups, written summaries, short messages, mockups, live demos, or other media of your choice at the frequency of your choice. The more updates you receive, the more creative control you can have.
Regular, Flexible Feedback & Iteration
How can you best utilize all the updates? By getting into a virtuous iteration loop that goes like this:
You’ll review our work with every update and provide feedback, and we’ll iterate as many times as needed. The more feedback you give, the more creative control you’ll have. (It goes without saying that we won’t take the feedback personally! It’s just a great way to get to your end vision.)
2. Communication & Collaboration Challenges
Ah, another terrifying challenge! Creative control is all well and good, but how can you be sure that your outsourced project will go as smoothly as possible? Like before, we have it all under control.
First off, don’t worry about time zone differences. We have offices in two hemispheres, so you’ll always be able to reach us! There won’t be much of a language barrier either. We have meticulous hiring standards for project managers, whom you’ll mostly be in touch with.
Here’s how we ensure we can communicate and collaborate without a hitch.
Dedicated Project Manager
You’ll be amazed at the number of projects that drag on without dedicated managers. A project manager:
- Is the only person directly in contact with you throughout the project,
- Follows up on progress, deadlines, and deliverables for both sides,
- Does the final QA check, and
- Handles reporting and issue resolution.
So, it’s essential for each project to have a manager with enough time, energy, and headspace to be the single point of contact between two or more teams. It’s not an easy role at all, so that may be why it could be overlooked.
Don’t worry about it at Picotion, though. You don’t have to talk to ten different people, just the dedicated project manager with expertise in your industry.
Clear Communication Channels
We previously touched on this one, so let’s not repeat the parts about the virtuous iteration cycle. Instead, we’d like to reassure you that the communication channels and report formats will be agreed upon before we go into the project. There will be several ways to contact us, specifically your project manager. These contact details usually include an email, a phone number, and an online messenger.
So, if something comes up, you’ll know exactly where to contact us and how.
Aside from communication channels, we’ll also agree on collaborative software to use and streamline work processes. Specifically, we mean two sets of software:
- Cloud collaboration platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Figma. These allow your team and ours to have access to all the files in a single space.
- Project management platforms like Jira, Trello, and Asana. These visualize the tasks, dependencies, deadlines, and milestones.
So, everyone on both teams will know where the files are and how everything is going. You could even add your comments directly on the source files without compromising their integrity.
3. Quality Assurance & Control
This is all well and good, but how can you be sure that the final product will be up to your standards? You know it: formidable quality control! This is always up there in the concerns, along with collaboration challenges and creative control FOMO.
It’s important here to distinguish between quality assurance and quality control.
- Quality Assurance is a set of ever-present activities or practices ensuring that the final product meets standards.
- Quality Control is a set of activities (including inspecting, testing, and measurement) carried out on the final product, ensuring the lack of defects.
We do both at Picotion. How? Read on!
Rigorous Testing & Prototyping
Quality Assurance is an ongoing process looking to optimize work and prevent flaws. It’s always better to detect flaws and shortcomings sooner rather than later, especially in digital designs with huge dependencies, like those in an animated series or a video game.
So, rest easy knowing that our optimum workflow at the studio includes rigorous testing and prototyping whenever we can. First, everything comes in the form of a prototype. If it’s aesthetically and functionally okay by us and maybe yourself, the team behind it will take it ahead to the end, all the while under the QA team’s supervision. The final deliverables, too, will be audited by your dedicated QC team.
Dedicated QC Team
Yes, depending on the variables of your project, you’ll get your own quality control team! We’ve already mentioned one of their responsibilities: to conduct a complete battery of tests on every deliverable to ensure they’re up to your standards.
Their other responsibility is to act on your feedback in their audits. They’re the ones who will authorize or deny the submission of deliverables, so they’ll be working closely with your project manager to ensure everything is A-okay.
The final quality control is, of course, up to you after you receive each deliverable. There’s usually minimal feedback from our partners, all thanks to the clarity we establish together. But still, errors are ultimately inevitable, and you may even suddenly decide to go in a different direction! So, we value client review as the final stage for each deliverable.
This stage also usually proves to be a milestone of trust between us and our partners! We get to show our expertise, and you get to receive exactly what you need when you need it. Could it get better?
4. Intellectual Property Protection
Exposing your intellectual property (IP) could bring substantial risks. Your IP is a very tangible asset, if only because of its potential to generate revenue and reputation for your studio. (It also has artistic merit, of course.) If an IP is copied, distributed, modified, or even disclosed by your partner or third parties, you may find yourself in financial losses, legal disputes, or a full-on scandal dragging your studio’s brand through the mud.
If you trust us to do an impeccable job with you, can you also trust us to protect your intellectual property (IP) at all costs? Well, yes, because it’s us! But how? Let’s see below.
Robust Contracts & NDAs
This is the first step to take in safeguarding your IP. Both you and the outsourcing partner (us) should sign a clear, comprehensive contract that defines the project’s scope, terms, and conditions. The contact should also be very specific in two matters:
- Ownerships, rights, and obligations of both parties regarding the IP involved, and
- Clauses that prohibit the outsourcing partner from disclosing, copying, or using the IP outside the project.
The same contract should also require the outsourcing partner to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that binds them to keep your IP confidential and secure. The NDA:
- Should cover every aspect of the project, including concepts, designs, files, and processes like development, testing, delivery, etc.
- Should also state the consequences (and remedies) for any breach of confidentiality by the outsourcing partner.
Copyright laws aren’t straightforward or even similar in different countries. Since we are an international studio, it’s always a good idea to have a legal expert draft and review any contracts and NDAs. If you don’t know anyone who specializes in IP law and outsourcing contracts, we do!
With legal counsel present, you could get advice on how to register and enforce your IP rights, as well as how to resolve any issues that might arise. We’ll never knowingly infringe your rights or cause any damage, but business is business!
Secure File Handling
We’ll keep your files encrypted, password-protected, and stored in reliable platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox. We’d also certainly like to back them up to a location of your choice and delete them after the project is done.
The access to your IP will be granted on a need-to-know basis, and files will only be shared over encrypted channels. We encourage you to control and oversee file activity for yourself! You could also watermark or digitally sign your files.
5. Cost & Budget Management
Animations or video games don’t come cheap! Generally speaking, outsourcing (or even offshoring to significantly less expensive countries) isn’t too different in financial terms. We mentioned lower costs as an outsourcing pro, but that’s only if you effectively manage the project.
So, how do we help you outsource to us and stay on top of the budget? Let’s see.
There are obvious reasons for not putting up prices on our website, but trust us, we won’t make you jump through a hundred hoops to get them! After we develop a clear understanding of your requirements in one or several meetings, we’ll write up a crystal-clear proposal, talk it out, and that’ll be it—no hidden fees or such, completely within your budget.
We’ll explain how the rate is calculated, what factors may have affected it, and what are the payment terms and options. We’ll also track extra assets, further revisions, and other flexible rates (if any) on a platform that you’ll have access to.
Expert Budget Tracking
Remember the collaboration platforms we mentioned earlier? Aside from tracking the time spent on each task and the progress of each sprint, many of them are also efficient for tracking costs, invoices, and payments.
So, there you have it! You’ll have real-time updates and the opportunity to provide instantaneous feedback and monitoring of the work or the costs. This really helps avoid any misunderstandings, delays, or disputes.
We always agree on a set scope, but it might sometimes change. Life is tricky that way! Unforeseen circumstances, new requirements, or even new laws might change the project scope. We have your back and will accommodate any reasonable changes.
This is how it works:
- A potential change comes about in the project,
- We’ll evaluate it with a scope management process of our own,
- Communicate any possible adjustments in cost, timeline, etc., to you,
- Get your approval, and
- Document the changes in writing.
6. Timelines & Deadlines
Does Trello or Asana magically deliver everything on time? Nope! That’s why this one is also among the most common concerns, especially for animated productions. Delayed episodes are always particularly annoying for viewers but might also cause serious conflicts with producers or stakeholders.
So, let’s talk a little bit more about how we make sure everything is delivered on time.
We set every deadline according to the SMART criteria, which are logical, handy, and used worldwide. Here’s what the acronym stands for:
- Specific: Tasks will be well-defined and clear to all involved parties.
- Measurable: We’ll know what success and failure are in each task, and we’ll be able to measure it.
- Achievable: Every task will be realistically possible to do within its timeframe.
- Relevant: Every task will contribute something meaningful to the broader objectives.
- Time-bound: There’ll be a deadline for everything.
We’ve already covered this in the piece, but we’d still like to take a moment here to assure you that the project management platform won’t just be for show! Such platforms take some getting used to at first, but you can’t let go once you get the hang of things.
These platforms and other agreed-upon communication channels with your project manager ensure you’ll always be in the loop. They go both ways, too! You can use them anytime, anywhere, to give us any update you think is relevant.
Sometimes, things don’t go as planned, no matter how hard you plan and execute for them. That’s why we always devise contingency plans at the start of each project. Think of them as a plan B that lets everyone keep their cool in the face of challenges or risks.
Perhaps the most tangible of these plans is the way we manage each person’s workload at the studio. We’ll never jam-pack our schedules; there’s always some free buffer time for tweaks or delays in any task.
7. Finding the Right Talent
You already know how many different (yet intertwined) talents work in a creative studio. If you don’t, you can quickly find that out in our post on the production stage in animation. So, finding people with your project’s specific talents, budget, and timeframe can be time-consuming, if not a complete failure.
This can be framed as an outsourcing pro, but only if you’re dealing with pros. Here are some steps we take to ensure your project has the right people.
Wide Talent Pool
We mentioned this one at the beginning of the article, but it’s time to go a little deeper. Now, we’re not a giant like Disney, but we employ many active or on-call artists or technicians specializing in everything from video games to animation to AI!
We can tell you with certainty that you’ll find every talented artist or technician you need to outsource to or augment your team with. In the unlikely case that we don’t have the right people, we certainly have connections that do! So, we’ll find them for you with a global reach.
As you already know, you get a say in who gets assigned to your project. We’ll find the best people and then share their portfolios with you. You’ll get to see skills, experiences, preferred styles, and the quality of their works.
We’re also quite proud of our portfolio here! We update it regularly, and we’ll also be happy to provide testimonials or demos if you’d like!
Custom Talent Search
We’re ultimately a creative studio, so every project is unique. Let’s say you have a very specific vision or style in mind for your project and need a rare skill that Picotion might not have. We’ll be happy to take a more tailored approach in such cases.
A custom talent search usually works like this:
- You’ll tell us, in as much detail as possible, what exact talent you’re looking for,
- We’ll go through our network with your criteria and make a shortlist of candidates,
- We’ll arrange interviews for you to talk to the candidates and peruse their portfolios,
- You’ll choose your favorites for the project,
- We’ll hire the ones you like and give you even more creative control over the project.
In other words, we’ll be doing most of the heavy lifting, and you can focus on realizing your vision to its best!
To wrap things up, here are our partners’ most common concerns and our TL;DR answers.
- Lack of Creative Control: We’ll get crystal clear with you and ensure you have the control you need through updates and iteration.
- Communication & Collaboration Challenges: You’ll have your own dedicated project manager and clear communication channels that include a collaboration platform as well.
- Quality Assurance & Control: We have ongoing QA, a dedicated QC team, rigorous prototyping and testing whenever possible, and we’ll need you to greenlight all deliverables.
- Intellectual Property Protection: The contracts and NDAs we sign will be crystal clear, and your files will be handled over secure, encrypted channels.
- Cost & Budget Management: Our pricing is transparent. We also incorporate budget tracking in the collab platforms and have our in-house process for scope management.
- Timelines & Deadlines: We schedule everything according to the SMART criteria and keep you posted. Plus, we also have contingency plans in case something happens.
- Finding the Right Talent: We’ll find and suggest only the best people for your specific requirements, and you can choose between various candidates.
These are the most common concerns, but there’s more. That’s why we’d love to hear from you for our upcoming FAQ page!