IT staff augmentation is an effective way of bridging a skills gap and bringing many projects to fruition. While many companies are successfully using it to their advantage, others are still relying on local talent pools, which is closely associated with a long time to hire and high costs, and are reluctant to explore alternative ways that can help accelerate their project kickoff and/or improve quality.
This article explores 6 common myths about software team augmentation that keep businesses away from using its full potential. But first, let’s talk about what team augmentation really is and what sets it apart from other IT outsourcing models.
Staff augmentation vs IT outsourcing
People often talk about the advantages of team augmentation over IT outsourcing (ITO). In reality, though, both concepts are not self-exclusive: IT outsourcing is an umbrella term for a set of collaboration models used to facilitate software development. In essence, software staff augmentation is a collaboration model for extending existing development teams with extra talent or skills that are hard to find or are too expensive in the local market.
Team augmentation model is well-suited for companies that already have an in-house team, but require particular expertise or a set of skills to complete a project successfully and faster than competitors. Team augmentation enables them to tap into global pools of highly-qualified tech talent.
Within this model, the client retains full control over their augmented software development teams, while augmented staff complies with their management style, corporate culture, and project development/management methodology. In its turn, an outsourcing provider takes full care of recruitment, HR, IT, and administrative functions. The augmented staff usually works remotely, which rids the client of infrastructure expenses.
Staff augmentation is also distinctly different from other collaboration models.
Let’s see how.
Staff augmentation vs fixed price model
Fixed price outsourcing model implies that, as an outsourcing client, you have a set of fixed and pre-documented requirements (aka functional and non-functional requirements) for your software project. The project you outsource has a pre-established timeline and deadline, which enables an outsourcing company to charge a fixed price (for example, website development may fall under this category, or tech support agreement with a strictly limited set of responsibilities). The developers at your ITO partner’s end work on the project and see it to completion. You never get to interfere with the course of development; with this respect, team augmentation model gives you more control and power.
Staff augmentation vs T&M model
T&M stands for “time and money”, or “time and materials”; in essence, this is a pay-as-you-go model. An outsourcing client pays strictly for the amount of work accomplished during a certain period – as a rule, in small chunks (iterations) following achievement of a particular milestone. Well-suited for product development, this model has several downsides. As an example, you need to communicate your goals to your outsourcing partner clearly and transparently, which consumes time and efforts. You may never personally get to know the developers on your outsourcing provider’s side responsible for completing your project and your control over the project, in general, is highly limited. However, if you don’t have any PM resources internally to oversee your outsourced project or if you can’t afford to hire one, it’s highly recommended that you start your outsourcing journey with this model and move to staff augmentation only after you’ve gained maturity, built rapport with the vendor, and dived deep into the process to better understand how outsourcing works in general.
In a nutshell, team augmentation is a means to extend your in-house team with skilled developers while minimizing infrastructure, administrative, and salary expenses to a reasonable minimum. Extended software teams enable companies to achieve more while reducing bottom-line expenses.
Staff augmentation: myth-busting
Utilizing IT staff augmentation model is frequently associated with many concerns. Below we will dispel some common misconceptions about augmented software teams based on either bias or rumors.
1. They say staff augmentation is expensive
Your IT outsourcing provider will charge you for its services, and the bill will include the salaries of augmented staff and its service fee. However, the sum you will pay each month (or as agreed) will be distinctly lower than the one you would pay to your local experts. If you need proof, check out software dev salaries on websites like Indeed and Glassdoor. In most developed countries, tech experts are scarce and tend to command hefty salaries, not to mention fancy compensation packages. The situation is different in areas like Eastern Europe, where job markets are saturated with high-quality tech staff, and the average software dev salaries range from $2500 to $3500 per month.
2. They say staff augmentation is time-consuming
While some managers are convinced staff augmentation is time-consuming, in reality, it is a proven means of saving the time you would otherwise spend on the lengthy process of headhunting and hiring local specialists. Finding, attracting, and hiring experts in a particular technology niche can take months and will require engaging your HR staff or paying a local recruitment agency a generous fee. If you opt for team augmentation model, your outsourcing partner deals with the tricky part, while you only join at the interview stage to pick and approve candidates for your extended software team.
3. They say finding a reliable staff augmentation vendor is a rocker science
Finding a reliable outsourcing company is only difficult if you don’t know where to look. Apart from b2b directory websites like Clutch, GoodFirms, and ThinkMobiles, personal recommendations remain the best way of finding the right vendor. Talk to your partners and colleagues in your industry: there’s a high probability they have worked with an outsourcing provider that has delivered to their expectations. Having said that, the tricky part here is not to fall into the trap of using old boy nets and hiring a particular provider just because one or more of the key stakeholders are on good terms with them.
We would suggest that you always have a plan for peak situations when you badly need to add additional talent to your team fast. Having a pool of outsourcing companies you could turn to once the need for staff augmentation arises will reduce time spent on lengthy evaluation and negotiation process. One rule of thumb is to ensure your outsourcing partner of choice meets the following criteria:
- Access to pools of high-quality tech/talent;
- Operating in the US/EU legal framework, ideally, having headquarters in a country with a developed economy and a reliable court system;
- Maturity of HR/recruitment processes, ads well as use of growth hacking and unconventional approach to accelerate time to hire;
- The partner should involve you in the process of interviewing and approving candidates;
- Regulatory compliance and untarnished business reputation.
4. They say time/cultural difference can kill a project
The augmented staff you hire will most likely work for you remotely (although, some agreements involve their physical presence). In today’s business environment, this can actually act to your advantage, ensure continuous development, and give you a competitive edge. Given the time difference, your remote staff on the other side of the globe could react to the problem while your local devs are still asleep. Using communication and project management tools to facilitate interactions with your augmented development teams is also a common practice.
Core cultural differences are difficult to overcome, but your concerns regarding them could be exaggerated. Most tech specialists in outsourcing locations like Ukraine are big-city dwellers who share Western values and speak excellent English. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if you want them on your team or not.
5. They say it’s difficult to get follow up tech support
Once your project is finished and augmented staff is no longer on your team, who will provide tech support? This is one of the legitimate concerns of many forward-looking business owners. This aspect is negotiable, though, and can be specifically covered in your outsourcing agreement. A reliable outsourcing company understands these concerns and will offer you a range of solution support options.
6. They say staff augmentation jeopardizes sensitive data safety
Again, it all boils down to reliability and trust issues. A reliable outsourcing partner will be bound by NDA agreements and won’t jeopardize own reputation – you can also sign such an agreement with every member of your augmented team. Alternatively, you may ensure security by imposing access rules: only those team members whose work directly involves working with sensitive or classified data may be granted access. If data safety is your paramount concern and a showstopper on your way to value-based and efficient software development, do request that your team members take a lie detector test.
Surely, software team augmentation may not be applicable in your particular case. Although it may prove an indispensable asset if you need to launch a product fast, test-drive a new approach or meet the needs of a client that fall out of the scope of your expertise, other collaboration models may prove more effective depending on the situation. An outsourcing company with proven expertise will offer you a number of options to tackle your problem. One thing is for sure, though: if done the right way, without haste and using old boy nets – benefits from team augmentation will outnumber those of in-house development.