Today’s business landscape is a fast-paced and unpredictable one. The pandemic has disrupted the way businesses operate, leading many to shift to remote or hybrid working arrangements. Today’s companies face challenges like limited resources and a growing demand for specialized skills. In the US alone, over 4 million workers left their jobs at the tail end of 2021 because of the disruption caused by the pandemic.
Staff augmentation is one solution that businesses have turned to because it allows them to scale their workforce by leveraging external talent to fill specific skill gaps within their organization. Delegating specific functions to an external team allows companies to meet project demands while also increasing efficiency and productivity.
What is Staff Augmentation?
Staff augmentation is the process of supplementing your existing team at a lower cost than hiring full-time employees. It helps companies find and work with external professionals who possess the necessary skills and expertise that will help meet project requirements. Instead of building an on-shore team, which could ramp up costs, businesses can tap into a bigger pool of specialized resources by partnering with an outsourcing company in a different region. This flexibility empowers companies to enhance their capabilities without incurring the long-term costs associated with recruitment, onboarding, and employee retention.
Working as an extension of your existing team, augmented staff are managed directly by the organization. It’s as if they are your very own employees, but without the high costs and liabilities involved in hiring and retention.
How Does Staff Augmentation Work?
Staff augmentation is essentially a straightforward affair. Whether you’re supplementing your team to develop and maintain an application or to complete a large, complex project, it’s vital that you understand its structured process so you know what to expect and can tailor the strategy according to your business needs.
Below are the key steps:
● Identification of skill gaps. Before you augment your team, you must first identify the skill gaps within your team. Conduct a thorough analysis of your project requirements and determine the specific expertise needed to achieve your goals. By clearly defining the desired skill set, you can ensure a targeted search for suitable professionals.
● Outsourcing qualified talent. Once you have determined the skill gaps and know what skills you need, the next step is outsourcing professionals who possess those requirements. An outsourcing company will be a big help in this regard because they are experienced in finding and hiring talent and they’re familiar with the talent market in your chosen country or region. Having an outsourcing partner will also save you time and money while you find the right talent for your project.
● Onboarding and integration. Successfully onboarding and integrating your augmented team is important so you can provide the tools and information they need to do their job well. Provide the necessary resources to help new team members integrate seamlessly into your existing workflows. Foster open communication and establish clear expectations to ensure a collaborative and productive working environment.
● Project management. To ensure productivity of your augmented team, a clear project structure should be established at the onset. Allocate responsibilities properly and define key performance indicators to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal. Regular communication, feedback loops, and performance evaluations can help maintain transparency and accountability throughout the project lifecycle.
What are the Types of Staff Augmentation
Depending on your requirements and your provider of choice, different outsourcing companies can provide a variety of staff augmentation services. They can be divided into three main categories:
● Commodity. This is a common choice when you don’t require a particular skill set or expertise. Sometimes a company simply needs more people to get ahead on menial and repetitive tasks so internal teams can spend time on more important tasks or projects. This helps you meet set deadlines without losing focus on your bigger goals and simultaneously streamlines your processes so you use available resources wisely. Ultimately, this type is ideal for those situations that require urgency over skill requirements.
● Skilled. As the name suggests, this is the ideal option when you require a specialist or someone with a specific skillset. Working with an outsourcing company to augment your team will help you bridge skill gaps and achieve your goals quickly and more efficiently. This type doesn’t require strategic or expert-level skills; however, your augmented team should at least have the necessary skills or experience required for a specific role or project.
● Highly Skilled. When you require professionals with specialized skills, this is the option for you. An outsourcing company can help you find an individual with a unique skillset that can also share knowledge within your organization. Highly skilled individuals can also contribute to sound decision making due to their experience in a specific industry and are able to handle tasks of varying complexity, further adding to the value they bring to the table.
Benefits of Staff Augmentation
The needs of a business vary and are constantly evolving, as it should. Often, it can be difficult to determine how your business will look in the future. Predicting the specific needs of individual teams can also be a challenge, since it often depends on current market trends and how your business is doing at any given time.
Augmenting your team has become a go-to solution when companies need extra people for a certain project for the long term. Whether you lack specific skills or just need extra team members to complete a task or project, an augmented team can provide access to both—and at a fraction of the cost of hiring full-time employees.
Staff augmentation offers several advantages that can give your business a competitive edge. Below are some of the key benefits.
● Reduced time-to-market. Augmenting your team with skilled professionals will not only help you meet deadlines, it will also allow you to accelerate your product’s time-to-market. By leveraging external expertise, you can streamline workflows, enhance productivity, and ensure timely delivery of high-quality projects.
● Knowledge transfer. Collaborating with external professionals through staff augmentation can facilitate knowledge transfer within your organization. Your existing team can learn from industry experts and gain valuable insights, improving their own skillset and boosting overall organizational capabilities.
● Access to specialized skills. With staff augmentation, you gain immediate access to a diverse talent pool of professionals with specialized skills and expertise. Whether you need developers, designers, project managers, or subject matter experts, you can quickly assemble a team that aligns with your project requirements.
● Cost-efficiency. Hiring and training new employees can be a time-consuming and costly process. Staff augmentation allows you to bypass these costs by bringing in experienced professionals who are ready to hit the ground running. This can significantly reduce recruitment expenses and minimize the risk of hiring the wrong candidate.
● Flexibility and scalability. Business needs often fluctuate, and projects may require additional resources at any given time—even mid-project. Staff augmentation provides the flexibility to scale your team up as needed, ensuring that you have the right talent at the right time. This agility enables organizations to respond quickly to market demands and stay ahead of the competition.
Staff Augmentation vs. Other Outsourcing Models
The available outsourcing companies today offer a host of varying services that it can be easy to get confused about what you’re really getting into. As such, it’s important to be able to distinguish between staff augmentation and the other staffing models. Below are the main staffing models typically used by outsourcing companies as compared to the staff augmentation model.
Staff Augmentation vs. Managed Services Model
In the managed services model, an outsourced team doesn’t work directly with your internal team but reports to a project manager or an internal team leader. Their scope of work is limited only to what you assign to them, and usually involves specific skills that you don’t have internally and don’t want to invest in. The people hired using this model don't become part of any internal team, however, and work independently.
Staff Augmentation vs. Project-based Model
In a project-based model, you delegate a project to an outsourcing company completely, from start to finish. You and the outsourcing company agree to a specific set of project parameters and determine the frequency of updates. In this staffing model, the outsourcing company provides a project manager, and this person is responsible for managing the project-based team’s workflow and ensuring that the final product is delivered on time and according to agreed upon specifications.
Why Choose Staff Augmentation?
For those who are considering outsourcing specific functions to a third party, there are two main factors that many consider to be the main advantages of augmenting your team: accountability and full control.
Because you are still responsible for managing an augmented team, you are accountable for their performance. This also allows you to make on-the-fly modifications to timelines and project requirements. This can be difficult with the different staffing models because, in those models, there are service level agreements (SLA) that are agreed upon at the onset of the engagement. The SLA is designed to protect both parties and ensure that specified objectives are met within a specified timeline. It can, however, be time-consuming to modify it and come up with one that won’t affect the project significantly.
An augmented team is essentially similar to your internal team, in that you have full control over what they do, what projects they work on, and who they report to. Typically, augmented teams report to an internal project manager that’s familiar with organizational workflows and procedures. They can also work closely with internal teams so collaboration is easy and miscommunication is avoided. This is especially useful if your augmented team is working on a large, complex project that requires close supervision and regular monitoring.
Is Staff Augmentation for You?
There are several benefits to augmenting your team, but it all boils down to what fits your current business needs. Other staffing models may not work for you, especially if you need to communicate directly with your team on a daily basis or want to familiarize yourself with the members of the team so they feel like part of your internal team.
An augmented team isn’t just for filling in skill gaps in your organization. For example, if you already have software developers but need more to meet a deadline, this model will work for you. It’s quicker and more cost-efficient to outsource a few individuals than to go through the recruitment, onboarding, and retention process. Looking outside the local talent market also gives you a wider pool of talent, from which you may find someone you wouldn’t have found if you limited yourself to a local talent search.
Evaluating the success of staff augmentation involves assessing multiple factors. Key performance indicators (KPIs) specific to your project can help measure the impact of the augmented team. These may include metrics such as project delivery time, cost savings, client satisfaction, and team productivity. Regular performance evaluations, feedback sessions, and stakeholder reviews can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of staff augmentation.
Ultimately, the success of any business strategy is dependent on how well you understand your business needs and how you choose to respond to the ever-changing demands of the industry you work in. While staff augmentation offers numerous benefits, it’s important to be aware of potential risks. Ensuring proper vetting and due diligence during the candidate selection process can help mitigate risks related to compatibility, cultural fit, and skills mismatch. Additionally, maintaining open communication and establishing clear expectations from the outset can minimize potential challenges.