Scaling is never easy. Every business—startups, SMBs, and enterprises—face the ever-present, long-term lack of skilled professionals in their local markets when they need to:
- scale fast
- find rare expertise
- balance development costs
Even if a team of rock-star engineers are already on a project, it is hard to find and hire new cadre of the same level unless you have a mountain-high hiring budget.
Are there any options?
Yes, there are.
Choose team augmentation.
Enrich the in-house team fast with seasoned experts.
IT staff augmentation can save a seven-digit budget.
But without due diligence, it also can turn a project into disaster.
Find out why below.
This post helps you weigh the pros and cons of team augmentation. It also gives insight into determining a productive and profitable cooperation strategy that turns both teams into a single unit.
What is staff augmentation?
Staff augmentation means hiring an external workforce to complete certain tasks.
When a business lacks specific in-house expertise needed on a short-term basis, it can opt for IT staff augmentation by subcontracting only one or two specialists for either full- or part-time work.
Team augmentation, a.k.a. team extension, means a hybrid model when both in-house team and external developers work alongside one another on the same project.
Both teams work relatively independently on different parts (e.g., one team works on a Web app and another on native iPhone app).
Members of the extended team do not become employees. The service provider is responsible for overhead costs including recruitment, taxes and insurance, equipment, etc.
By applying the staff augmentation model, a business has one point of contact who handles all matters relating to the external workforce.
All in all, an extended team remains an external, temporary workforce:
- A line item in the budget.
- Hired on a temporary basis.
- Extended team members work from any place all over the world.
Team augmentation vs. outsourcing software development
Team augmentation is no different. Team augmentation is one of several options businesses can find among outsourcing software development services.
What is specific for team extension?
For typical project outsourcing, a business contracts a software development provider to deliver a solution but retains scant direct control over development processes.
An augmented team is tightly integrated into a business’s workflow. This means the business retains a higher level of direct control throughout the workflow.
Hybrid team composition means in-house developers and outsourcing specialists work together. This is sustainable and decreases any potential long-term risks in a software development project:
Risks associated with in-house teams
- High development costs
- Long hiring and onboarding time
- High staff turnover due to lost motivation
- Inability to hire right talent and scale fast
Risks associated with outsourced, not augmented, teams
- Loss of fundamental control over processes
- Decreased quality of source code and documentation
- Business becoming too dependent on vendor
- Lack of business knowledge
Last but not least, augmented teams often provide improvement through diversity. They have experience delivering diverse solutions. Having an “outsider’s” view and experience of how things work on different projects, they think “out of the box” and help improve project workflow.
Types of team augmentation models
Staff augmentation models are flexible. Diverse options are available.
Businesses can choose between:
Freelancer vs company
When hiring a freelancer, a business looks for independent professionals on specialized platforms e.g., Upwork or Toptal. However, they need to spend expensive managerial time communicating with freelancers.
What about a software development company? The vendor can provide a business with available experts or help recruit a remote specialist. It helps with HR management and, when needed, helps with communication too.
Another important point, a vendor handles replacement if the specialist quits.
Short-term vs long-term term assistance
Project needs differ. Some businesses benefit from short-time help with code inspection, bug fixing, or CI/CD automation to help with a better launch.
However, when regular work is anticipated, e.g., test automation or iOS app maintenance, a business might consider long-term cooperation. This is important, so the business can retain the accrued expertise.
For best long-term results, it makes sense to discuss duration in advance.
Single narrow-focused specialist vs extended team
The best decision depends on scope of work. A single developer enriches the in-house team with narrow expertise (e.g., iOS app development) while increasing project costs slightly. An extended team costs are higher but so are the number of successfully accomplished tasks. Plus, when a deadline is short with too many features for one specialist to successfully handle, the business should apply for an external dedicated team to take care of all steps on the subproject.
Full-time vs part-time
Depending on project scope, an extended team or single developers can work exclusively on one project or can also be engaged with other projects when there is not enough workload (e.g., when helping with app maintenance).
On one hand, this is very convenient, as the client pays only for time and material basis and saves on budget when specialists stay idle.
On the other, if the team is busy with other projects, it might not scale fast enough to respond to an increased scope of work.
To keep a healthy balance between expenditures and scalability, it makes sense to keep long-term workload in mind.
An important note regarding outsourcing development companies. Possible IT staff augmentation options might differ from vendor to vendor. Vendors could offer full-cycle development services provided by dedicated teams. Services also include project management on the vendor’s side.
Another vendor might only focus on providing time for a single developer. The client manages developers directly.
Many other outsourcing providers tend to be more flexible and strive to provide their clients with the best services based on desired budget.
If you like a provider’s portfolio, leave a request and discuss possibilities.Check out how IT Craft can help you
How team augmentation worked out: use cases
With an average of 4.8 out of 5 points from 32 verified reviews on Clutch, IT Craft is grateful to its clients for sharing their project delivery experiences.
IT Craft strives to excel in both listening attentively to the clients’ requirements and expectations and in delivering high-quality work on time, within budget.
How long does an augmented team work on a project?
The length varied from 2 months helping a startup finish and launch their MVP to over 10 years updating and monitoring a large ecommerce platform.
Terms of collaboration varied from one developer working part time to over 50 engineers working full time.
Here are two from the many projects completed:
Adorama is a large family business specializing in the camera industry. A large part of Adorama’s business is focused on retailing and rentals of photo equipment.
- ASP MVC
- MS SQL
Partnering360 is a large Web portal owned by EBD group. It helps organize and follow events in biopharmaceutical industry and permits professionals maintain connections within their networks.
- Zend Framework
Benefits from team augmentation
Staff augmentation services make the following benefits for your business possible:
A team augmentation model provides fast upscale and downscale. Businesses can add people on a project within a minimum reasonable time.
The project’s scope of work drops precipitously after a launch unless the business plans further expansion. When this happens, the core in-house team remains intact and the external augmentation team switches to the next project—with that client or another.
Access to specific expertise
Some affordable specialists simply might not be available in the local market but are available in another geographic location. Plus, many professionals prefer not to work with old, worn-out technologies. They fear the wrong focus (that of working with out-dated technologies) might ruin their career. An extended team can help transition an old system onto a new tech stack.
Under the team augmentation model, a business retains its in-house team. All core skills and competences remain in-house. The in-house team remains responsible for both domain knowledge and programming skills. This means chances are high there is always an in-house person on a project who knows how the system works and why certain technical decisions were made.
Structure of costs is transparent when hiring an augmented team. The client discusses an estimate on needed hours at the beginning of a Sprint. After the Sprint ends, the client receives a detailed report on hours spent by the team or single developer together with a piece of source code.
The client knows upfront what the costs are. The client never pays indirect costs.
Speed of integration into workflow
When there is no suitable specialist, a business can hire one from a distant location. However, it is always long and expensive to transfer such a specialist to where the business resides. Legal issues and travel restrictions decrease chances on a quick integration.
Instead, team augmentation makes it possible to solve the integration problem fast. The only time required centers on synchronizing workflow between business and augmented team.
Staff augmentation services at IT Craft
To help clients complete their projects, IT Craft uses three essential steps:
- Project discussion (including Discovery)
- Support and maintenance
Together with the client, IT Craft discusses requirements and cooperation.
- Send a detailed request – the client describes his/her requirements in an email.
- Prepare a plan – PM prepares a plan for the best project progress (several plans are possible, if required).
- Initial call – PM discusses client requirements and clarifies project details.
Project mapping or a small pilot task needed to evaluate scope of work and possible areas of risk are prepared.
- Project discovery and mapping – the team/PM dives deeply into project details preparing a realistic estimate and roadmap.
For some projects, an estimate is not possible. In this case, the team completes a pilot task:
- A task for a small piece of functionality is worth 40 working hours.
- Code inspection to evaluate available source code.
Parties resume project discussion
- Detailed discussion – parties decide on project details, best means of communication, payment terms, and cooperation model.
- Signed contract and NDA – parties sign an agreement.
Project development starts.
- Source code development – the entire process is divided into Sprints (2 weeks on average).
Developers provide the client with a Sprint plan at the beginning of every Sprint. It contains an estimate on scope of work and number of hours needed to complete it. Each Sprint ends with a report and a piece of working source code.
The client can test each piece of source on a special server. The client is never left in the dark about project progress.
Services can include
- Business analysis and project documentation
- UX/UI design
- Source code development for required platform
When the required functionality is ready, the team integrates it to the system or launches it on a live server.
Support and maintenance
The team ensures the software remains up-to-date and works smoothly.
- Post-launch guarantee period – the team or developer stays in constant contact with the client for 1 – 3 months, ensuring developed source code works flawlessly.
- Project maintenance – upon request, IT Craft dedicates time of a developer who already knows the system to ensure the client has support.
What to keep in mind when looking for team augmentation
IT staff augmentation substantially boosts productivity. Still, the wrong developer or development team causes only delays and losses.
Do not underestimate the following points during your search:
Identify your needs
Make sure you have answered the following questions:
- What are the skill gaps you want to cover with team augmentation?
- What are your end goals? What do you expect from external professional(s)?
- What is the planned scope of work? Will the scope increase?
- How much time can you spend managing external developers?
The answers will help you formulate expectations from team augmentation.
Take your time to look for and evaluate candidate(s)
Even if there is an urgent need for professionals on a project, it makes sense to choose carefully. The costs of an error exponentially increase the longer they remain hidden in the code.
- check portfolio for similar projects
- search for reviews and online feedback
- ask for references
On a call, ask about:
- overlap in business hours
- possible solution path(s) with some fact-based, albeit approximate numbers
Make sure the team or developer is interested in your project.
Read more about how to find programmers.
Start with a pilot task
Practice is the best verification. Start small to see whether an augmented staff understands the project problems and chooses the right path to their solutions.
A small pilot task also indicates whether an extended team keeps pace with your timeline or becomes a roadblock on the project creating extra hassle and costs.
Pay attention to cultural fit
Miscommunication caused by cultural differences becomes the primary source of hidden costs. Large cultural differences mean a lower degree of understanding and predictability. As a result, tasks are completed slower and project managers spend their time on micromanagement. Choose a team with work ethics similar to yours.
Give the extended team a heads up on possible changes in workload before cooperation starts so they can prepare for them. When increasing scope of work rapidly, the team might struggle to scale and/or adapt to the new scope. It can also cause problems for the vendor to find a suitable developer for the project. (Reliable vendors do not just put a body in a seat and charge more.) The result can cause delays or produce lower-than-expected quality of source code.
Integrate vendor to your workflow
Do not leave new staff working alone. Integrate them into your business’s workflow. Ensure in-house engineers are aware of the reasons for IT staff augmentation. This helps eliminate tensions and boost motivation and productivity for both teams.
As a win-win strategy, team augmentation benefits both outsourcing and in-house development.
- Stay on track with their business growth plans.
- Retain control over their software systems.
- Keep their budget under control.
Team augmentation is the perfect option for companies that want to scale flexibly and wisely.
As with any cooperation, concerns and risks remain. Businesses can eliminate them by determining their aims and expectations with a vendor.
Whatever option you choose, choose expertise and a high-quality working culture.
Need an experienced team with a proven portfolio to start today?
Contact us to see how we can help.