Canadian Cost Benefit: Cross Border eCommerce Development

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Francis Pilon

In working with a wide range of US clients over the years, it became clear to us that we, as a Canadian web agency, have unique characteristics that make it advantageous for American clients to work with us.

Selecting an agency to work with is a complex process. It forces one to consider a myriad of factors that generally fall under the two following buckets: hiring and training in-house staff vs outsourcing, selecting, and working with one or several partner agencies for short and/or long terms.

A (More) Common Hybrid Model

Distributed heterogeneous teams have become more and more common within the IT world in recent years. With ubiquitous, fast, internet connectivity, and the right set of tools to enhance productive communication, the must-work-in-house paradigm is no longer necessary.

There's been a shift in how organizations are seeking to work with external teams. Where at one point there was reticence in working with a series of high-performing teams of specialists in favour of one all encompassing large agency, it is now common to see projects with a number of teams.

The question as to whether an organization is better off hiring or outsourcing, while still valid, is increasingly positioned as "how much hybridization works best for a given business?"

This is especially relevant, and perhaps even driven, by the rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist who drives a more agile, holistic, and multidisciplinary approach.

At The Jibe, we often work with marketing teams who do not have any in-house technical capabilities. We also work with small technology teams who need the expertise, support, and training we provide.

In other instances, we collaborate with larger proficient IT teams to provide leadership using certain technology and lend temporary staff augmentation for faster project delivery.

In all cases, we are brought in to satisfy a short-term need by injecting a select set of skills and expertise. Regularly, we support our clients for the long-term, providing operational efficiencies and skills that would be either too difficult or too costly to build and maintain in house.

We found this to be true while working on the redesign of Fincad. We collaborated with the clients' marketing and IT teams, Industrial Brand–whom were working on the design–and us, The Jibe, that brought our development and support expertise. Through the unification of specific skill sets, the project was launched without a hitch.

Finding The Right Partner

Selecting the best agency for the right mandate is key to successful outcomes. Characteristics such as breadth of experience in your markets or tangential markets, team composition, availability and responsiveness, methodology, and costs are essential in finding the right agency partners.

Beyond these "hard" facets, it is imperative you find a team you enjoy working with. Every project comes with its own set of highs and lows. While with the right partners you should experience more good news than bad, I have yet to come across "the perfect project."

The ability to plow through these challenging moments and deliver successful outcomes relies heavily on the transparency of the teams involved, their flexibility, and their creativity.

Does your organization and your agency partners share a vision and a common cultural language?

We've all heard tales of misalignment and challenging communication with offshoring. The typical, and oft-cited cost-of-labour-saving key benefits of offshoring appears to be quite an elusive reward. In fact, a report produced by Ventoro found that "only 9 percent of any cost savings from offshore outsourcing was the result of lower overseas labor costs." This is not accounting for the stress and frustrations that comes from the frictions stemming from poor team cohesion.

This cultural alignment is one of the key reason US businesses should consider Canadian agencies as a top outsourcing option. Something also has to be said in these times of relatively unstable global economy about “neighbour-shoring” [as] an alternative outsourcing location that bolsters the North American economy."

Finally, it is important to consider the type of partner you are seeking: are you simply looking for a team who can execute well, or are you looking for a team who can execute well AND can proactively propose solutions that help you become more successful?

The Bottom Line

To address some of the ROI consideration around hybridization, it is worth noting that at the time of this writing, $1 CAD can be purchased for $0.78 USD. This is close to the cheapest the Canadian dollar has been in the last ten years. While one can't rely on having access to a cheap Loony for the long term, it is worth noting that, in average over 20 years, the Canadian dollar has sat at 0.86.


It is essential in this day and age of fast ubiquitous internet to consider the collaboration of in-house resources and quality external teams.

Beyond the measurable characteristics of an agency, you should be looking for one whose values and style aligns with those of your organization.

Transparency, a shared vision, cultural alignment, and proactivity should be at the top of your list.