What is Staff Augmentation and how can you harness it?

Chinmay Kulkarni

What is staff augmentation?

One way to think of staff augmentation is as hiring external staff on a non-permanent basis, to help supplement your existing team. In the technology sector, this is often done by hiring freelancers or contractors who can work as an extended part of your tech team for the duration of a project. There are two main types of staff augmentation. One is non-remote, where freelancers work out of your physical office. The other is remote, where freelancers work remotely while being located either within your country or globally. No matter which route you choose, staff augmentation can be a great way to get the extra help you need on a short-term basis.

Why staff augmentation?

Staff augmentation can be a great way to get the ball rolling on a new project. It can also be a fantastic way to add some extra manpower to an existing team in order to get things done more quickly. Here are a few reasons you might want to consider staff augmentation for your business:

1. Quickly increase the tech team’s bandwidth

There are certain situations where you might urgently need more talent. For example, if your tech team is stretched thin and you're worried about missing product deadlines due to long hiring delays. In cases like this, staff augmentation can be a great solution.

Hiring permanent employees doesn't always make sense, especially if you only need extra help for a short period of time. Staff augmentation lets you hire freelance developers quickly and end the contract once the work is done. Plus, it can be more cost-effective than traditional hiring.

2. Stop-gap to hiring full-time developers

Hiring full-time staff can take a while, but in the meantime, you can't just stop all work. That's where staff augmentation comes in. You can hire developers on a contract or temporary basis to help out immediately, while you keep looking for more long-term solutions. This way, your product goals don't have to suffer.

Plus, if they do a good job, you can always try to negotiate a full-time role with the freelancer. Just make sure to check the contract clauses upfront so you know it's an option. And since you've already worked with the person, there's a better chance of compatibility.

3. Open up a broader talent pool

If you're only hiring in-house developers, you're missing out on a lot of great talent. There are plenty of high-quality freelance developers out there who are more than willing to work on a variety of exciting projects from their locations of choice.

Instead of limiting yourself to a finite pool of talent, why not leverage the staff augmentation model to hire quality remote developers on a contract basis throughout the length of your project? You'll be glad you did!

4. Eliminate overhead costs

Hiring staff comes with a lot of extra costs, like benefits, health insurance, and training. For a software developer, these costs can add up to twice their salary.

Staff augmentation can save you money on these costs. In a tight funding climate, some companies might have to implement a hiring freeze. In such cases, staff augmentation can be a good solution to keep up the pace.

However, it's important to remember that the costs of staff augmentation are subjective. The rates of developers depend on their skillset and location.

5. Bring in niche-skilled experts when they’re needed

Staff augmentation is a lot like dating. You might not be looking for something permanent, but you need someone with a very specific set of skills to help you out for a short period of time. And just like dating, it can be quite challenging to find someone with those specific skills that you're looking for as a permanent employee.
With staff augmentation, you can hire an expert on a temporary basis to help with specific projects. This is more economical and efficient than hiring new staff, and it can save you time and effort.

6. Higher flexibility – increasing your adaptability to the market

There are lots of benefits to staff augmentation, especially for smaller companies that want to stay nimble. By hiring freelancers or contractors, you can have a more flexible workforce that can be easily scaled up or down as needed. Plus, it helps you save on costs associated with hiring permanent staff. In today's ever-changing market, being able to easily adapt to new requirements is a major competitive advantage.

How does staff augmentation differ from project outsourcing?

Like staff augmentation, project outsourcing involves hiring an external agency to take on complete ownership of your project. However, while dev shops can provide full-fledged services for building software, they rarely have the time or resources to truly nail the fundamentals of a product. This often results in failed "project outsourcing" deals.

Staff Augmentation

Staff augmentation is all about giving you control. You stay in charge of the development process and can pivot as needed. That being said, it's important to have at least one team member who knows their stuff when it comes to product development.

For companies that want more control over the outcome, staff augmentation is the way to go. This method allows you to hire outside developers to supplement your internal team, rather than replace it entirely.

Is staff augmentation right for my company?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the staff augmentation needs of each company will be unique. 

However, in general, companies seek out staff augmentation when they need additional support to complete a specific project or goal. 

This could be due to a skills shortage within the company, or simply because the company doesn't have the bandwidth to complete the project with its existing staff. If you're considering staff augmentation for your company, the first step is to assess your needs and determine whether staff augmentation is indeed the best solution.

Staff augmentation would be a great fit for you if:

It can be helpful to augment staff who can work with your core team to help implement the road map. Project quality is the highest priority: 

By augmenting your team with external freelancers, you'll have more control over the product development process and can ensure that quality standards are being met. 

The budget is relatively more flexible: 

By hiring freelancers on a time-based compensation model, you'll have more flexibility to make changes throughout the course of the project.

However, this does require having a correspondingly flexible budget. 

There is a tech founder/member in your team:
A technical team member will typically be able to engineer the product roadmap and control the build. But even if that's not always the case, staff augmentation can still be a great option.

You should outsource your project if:
When it comes to project outsourcing, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, if you have well-defined requirements, it might be a good solution for you.

However, if the quality is a high priority, you might want to consider another option, as dev shops can sometimes struggle to balance cost and quality.

If you're working on a tight budget, project outsourcing may be the way to go. You'll need to negotiate and agree on a fixed price for the entire project upfront, but you won't have to worry about paying for individual developers' time.

This can be especially helpful if you don't have a technical founder on your team, as dev shops or outsourcing firms can manage the entire development process from start to finish.


Conclusion

There's a good chance your company is already working remotely, or will soon make the switch to working from home. Once your company has the adequate tools and processes in place to work remotely, you can use a hybrid team structure - a mix of permanent in-house team members augmented by on-demand staff. This way, you can get the best of both worlds - the flexibility of on-demand staff, with the stability of a permanent team.

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