Staff Augmentation Part 3 – Way more than outsourcing
SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
Critics of staff augmentation often say it’s a fancy term for outsourcing.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s easy to see why some folks think it’s convenient to toss staff augmentation and outsourcing into the same proverbial bucket. Both of them could be viable options for companies looking to boost bandwidth – without having to activate their own human resources department to bring resources on-board full-time and permanently.
This can be especially resonant for IT departments challenged by historic shortages of key technology skills – including project management, software development, quality assurance, and infrastructure. After years of struggling to bring critical talent in-house, organizations are increasingly looking for help to ensure their projects have the right people – with the right skills – at the right time to ensure success.
The shared benefits of staff augmentation and outsourcing extend to organizational agility, as well. Both of these approaches to staffing allow organizations to quickly and efficiently staff up to meet fast-changing market conditions, then staff back down as needed.
For organizations with either no HR department, or a talent acquisition team whose resources may already be stretched to the limit, a third-party talent provider could be an ideal means to successfully serve ongoing business needs.
NOT SO FAST
Despite these similarities, choosing between staff augmentation and outsourcing can represent a key factor in long-term project success.
The key difference between the two methods revolves around accountability and management. In outsourced arrangements, talent remains accountable to the third-party organization that contracts that talent out to the client.
On the plus side, this frees up clients from having to take on the additional overhead associated with managing third-party experts. In a development project with limited project management cycles, this could be an interesting benefit.
This advantage, however, begins to lose its luster when measured against staff augmentation, where the contracted resources actually become part of the client company’s team. Rather than throwing the entire project over a proverbial wall and trusting the outsourced team to manage and deliver at some future end date, staff augmentation allows organizations to welcome matched talent on-board, then integrate them into the very fabric of the team and project.
With this in mind, staff augmentation can be of particular interest to results-focused organizations, as it allows them to:
- More consistently influence and manage team culture and workflow
- Better track team progress throughout the entire project lifecycle
- Control project timelines more directly
- Enhance collaboration and knowledge sharing
- More thoroughly institutionalize project outcomes and influence future initiatives
- Keep a cap on costs, as they pay only for the unique talent required, and not for overhead
Under the staff augmentation model, organizations don’t simply hand a project component over to an outsourced individual or team, then wait patiently for them to complete the particular deliverable. Rather, they bring skilled resources in as the project and business needs dictate, then leverage their skills in an optimally integrated manner. While outsourcing implies a certain degree of transfer of project deliverables to a separate resource, staff augmentation keeps the core functionality of the project well within organizational boundaries.
Staff augmentation doesn’t come without its own specific impacts to the organization, however. For a typical software update project, for example, the organization will have to take on accountability for the developers brought on-board under the staff augmentation model. Project managers and tech leads, for example, will now have additional head count and deliverables to manage. Make sure you have enough leadership bandwidth to allow for this.
While the new, contracted members of the team aren’t full-time employees and won’t require traditional onboarding, technical leads and project managers will nonetheless be accountable for managing them day-to-day.
Similarly, because they’re working side-by-side with the team, they’ll need to be trained up on work structures, toolsets, and cultures unique to your organization. Although this facet of staff augmentation makes it somewhat more resource intensive up-front when compared to outsourcing, it does pay off long-term in a more cohesive work experience and project workflow.
If we resolve one thing in the new year, it’ll be this: staff augmentation and outsourcing are emphatically not the same thing. While they both allow resource-constrained organizations to access additional talent to help them get their mission critical projects across the finish line, they do so in a significantly different manner.
The world has changed, and organizations are under growing pressure to deliver not just quickly, but to a level of quality and consistency considered unheard-of even a few short years ago. So, handing major project components over to a team of outsourced developers and expecting them to independently deliver the goods months from now is not necessarily an ideal strategy in this new landscape.
Staff augmentation gives organizations the flexibility to grow their capacity without overstressing their HR capacity – all while allowing IT leadership to maintain control over workflows, cultures, and, most critically, project and business outcomes.
Reach out to us any time if you’d like to discuss how staff augmentation can benefit you.