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Staff Augmentation: What is it? How Does it Work? Does Your Business Need it?







Staff Augmentation: What is it? How Does it Work? Does Your Business Need it?

Published: 2023/06/12

Updated 06/11/2023

8 min read

The world of IT is full of names, phrases and terms used to inform today’s companies about solutions that may help them improve business performance or gain a competitive advantage. ‘Staff augmentation’ is one of them. 

But even though the term itself has become more and more popular in recent years, for some the meaning behind it is still a mystery. So, we are here to shed more light on this subject and explain – in great detail – what staff augmentation actually is. 

Keep on reading to find out why and when other companies use staff augmentation and what benefits it can produce for your business.

What is staff augmentation?

Staff augmentation is the process of adding external professionals to your team for specific periods, allowing better workload management and achieving business objectives. Unlike traditional outsourcing, it lets organizations retain project control while leveraging external resources. It differs from IT outsourcing, where external teams delegate entire projects. The aim of this practice is to enable an organization to handle increased workloads better, as well as to meet specific project needs and achieve particular business objectives (e.g. creating IT tools dedicated to a particular industry, such as finance development outsourcing).

Staff augmentation is sometimes referred to as  an outsourcing strategy, however, what makes staff augmentation different from traditional outsourcing models is the fact that it enables organizations to maintain control over their projects and remain the decision-making authority, while leveraging external resources.

To put it differently – staff augmentation is a way for companies to quickly get the support of highly skilled professionals without the need for long-term hiring processes.

Read also: How US Companies Can Benefit from IT Staff Augmentation

What is the difference between staff augmentation and IT outsourcing, exactly?  

IT outsourcing revolves around the idea of assigning entire projects, processes, or functions to external providers (who take responsibility for the outcomes), thereby allowing you to focus more on core business projects. Staff augmentation, on the other hand, is about being the overseer of every project that both your teams and external resources are working on.

In simple terms, IT outsourcing is about hiring dedicated development teams to work on your project, without having to be involved in the process yourself. At the same time, staff augmentation refers to getting external professionals to join your team for a specific period of time and contribute to the project you and your team are working on. 

Read more: Types of outsourcing

What is another word for staff augmentation?

Although it is not very popular, another term that can be used as a synonym for staff augmentation is ‘staff extension.’ Some experts say it conveys a similar meaning of expanding your workforce with external resources and filling in skill gaps to meet specific project needs. 

When should staff augmentation services be used?

There are many scenarios in which using staff augmentation services can prove beneficial to a given company. Here are the 5 most popular ones:

  • Scaling up your business projects: When embarking on a new project or facing a significant increase in workload, staff augmentation can help businesses quickly enhance their workforce. Organizations can tap into a pool of professionals (who have all the skills required to meet project requirements) instead of undergoing lengthy recruitment processes. This ensures timely project completion while maintaining quality standards.
  • Bridging the skill gaps: There may be times when companies will find themselves in situations where their internal teams lack specific skills or knowledge required for a particular task. Staff augmentation services enable businesses to access professionals with specialized expertise in, for example, software development, data analysis, marketing, or design. By expanding the existing workforce with such talent, organizations can bridge skill gaps without the need for hiring anyone in the long term. 
  • Reducing costs: Staff augmentation offers a more cost-effective approach compared to hiring talents. That’s because companies can avoid expenses associated with recruitment, onboarding and various benefits expected by long-term employees. Plus, by using staff augmentation services, organizations can optimize resource allocation and reduce overhead costs.
  • Bringing innovation: Engaging external professionals through staff augmentation can bring new perspectives, diverse experiences and fresh ideas to your organization. By collaborating with experts from all over the world, businesses can gain insights that they would have never discovered themselves (or it would have taken them a lot of time to do so). This mixture of new ideas can lead to improved processes and the creation of more innovative products.
  • Reducing risks associated with hiring permanent employees: Whether it’s covering employee leaves, addressing seasonal demands, or managing short-term projects, staff augmentation allows businesses to quickly adapt to ever-changing business needs – without compromising their productivity.

In conclusion, staff augmentation services offer a more flexible, efficient, reliable and cost-effective approach to managing workforce requirements. 

What is an example of staff augmentation?

Imagine a company has a specific project which requires specialized skills that go beyond the current capabilities of its in-house team. This could be something like establishing an offshore development center. Instead of going through the time-consuming and expensive process of recruiting and hiring new employees, staff augmentation can help that company quickly bring in external professionals with the exact expertise it needs. 

Read also: Staff Augmentation vs. Managed Services

These professionals will be carefully selected based on their technical proficiency and knowledge in a particular domain, which will guarantee that they possess the precise skills required to help the company create an offshore development center the way it wants.

Staff augmentation: benefits and challenges

The benefits of staff augmentation:

  1. Access to professionals: With the use of staff augmentation services, organizations can tap into a diverse pool of professionals with specialized skills required to carry out a given project. 
  2. Cost-effectiveness: Since augmented staff are typically engaged on a project-specific basis, companies can avoid recruitment and onboarding expenses — and thus significantly reduce their costs.
  3. Reduced hiring burden: As mentioned above, staff augmentation eliminates the need for extensive hiring processes, which enables companies to quickly get the support of well-trained professionals without investing any effort into recruitment.
  4. Flexibility: Staff augmentation provides companies with the possibility to quickly scale their workforce up or down based on their project needs. In other words, it ensures that the right experts are available at the right time.
  5. Knowledge transfer and innovation: Engaging external professionals through staff augmentation can bring new perspectives and ideas to an organization, which can then help it drive growth and gain a competitive advantage. 

The challenges of staff augmentation:

  1. Integration with existing teams: Proper onboarding and effective communication channels need to be established first so that smooth collaboration is possible.
  2. Project continuity: Companies must be aware that staff augmentation may result in knowledge gaps once augmented staff leave after completing the tasks assigned to them. 
  3. Alignment with company values: External staff may not be as familiar with a company’s culture, values and processes, therefore, it is up to the company to introduce augmented staff to them (and do that before they start working on a project).

Types of staff augmentation

There are various types of staff augmentation that organizations can consider, based on their needs and business objectives. However, it is fair to say that most companies choose between only two of these types.

The first one is ‘temporary staff augmentation’, which involves engaging external professionals on a short-term or project-specific basis. This approach offers flexibility and agility, which allows organizations to quickly scale their workforce based on ever-changing needs.

The second one is ‘skill-specific staff augmentation’, which focuses on accessing professionals with specialized skills and expertise to supplement existing teams and fill skill gaps. 

As mentioned, there can be other variations of staff augmentation based on the specific requirements and objectives of a given organization. The key to the whole matter, however, is to identify the type of augmentation that aligns with your company’s needs, resources and desired outcomes. Doing this will enable you to maximize the benefits of staff augmentation.

FAQ section

What is staff augmentation vs consulting?

There are distinct differences between staff augmentation and consulting, as both present a different approach to enhancing a company’s capabilities. In software development, staff augmentation involves hiring external IT professionals or programming teams to fill specific skill gaps or meet clients’ temporary staffing needs. These professionals work under the hiring company’s direct supervision, rarely integrating with the existing workforce, working more as “mercenaries than missionaries” (a term coined by John Doerr). Consulting in software development involves external experts providing strategic advice, analysis, and solutions for technical challenges. Experts assess existing processes, identify issues, and propose improvements. They usually work independently, offering insights and recommendations both for short and long contract periods. Staff augmentation benefits projects requiring specialized skills without long-term commitments, while consulting engagements focus on problem-solving, organizational change, or strategic planning.

What is staff augmentation vs IT outsourcing?

Staff augmentation involves temporarily hiring external IT professionals or teams, who work directly under a client’s supervision, to support the in-house IT team. Such an approach is a flexible way to address specific skill gaps without hiring permanent employees. IT outsourcing represents a different approach, where an external vendor acts as a software partner and handles specific IT functions or entire projects, sometimes for the long term. In IT outsourcing, an external provider is responsible for managing and delivering the outsourced services, which can include software design and development. This approach is often used not only to reduce costs and access specialized expertise, but also to allow a client to focus on core business activities or product development and take advantage of a software partner’s knowledge and involvement (a vendor becomes more of a “missionary than a mercenary”). Staff augmentation is suitable for short-term projects requiring specialized skills, while software development outsourcing can be used in various scenarios depending on the cooperation terms.

Is staff augmentation suitable for both short-term and long-term projects?

Staff augmentation in software development services works better when applied to short-term projects. The reason is that in short-term projects, such a solution allows businesses to quickly scale their teams with skilled professionals to meet specific project demands without the long-term commitment of hiring full-time employees. Staff augmentation is especially beneficial for temporary spikes in workloads or specialized tasks – a commonplace situation in software development and IT. Meanwhile, a staff augmentation solution might work for 12 to 24 months. However, the more extended the period, the more challenging it might get, with IT professionals becoming more detached from the project. In such a case, switching the participating members of the team requires an additional onboarding process.

How quickly can I onboard new team members using staff augmentation?

The speed of onboarding new team members through staff augmentation depends on the complexity of the software project and the required tech skills. However, staff augmentation generally offers a faster onboarding process than traditional in-house hiring methods. That’s because experienced professionals who participate in staff augmentation are already well-versed in their respective fields and can seamlessly integrate into an existing team. The professionals’ expertise and skills mean immediate project contributions and reduced onboarding time. Software partners already have a pool of pre-screened, battle-proven candidates ready to work immediately and start contributing after the client decides to take advantage of staff augmentation.

About the authorSoftware Mind

Software Mind provides companies with autonomous development teams who manage software life cycles from ideation to release and beyond. For over 20 years we’ve been enriching organizations with the talent they need to boost scalability, drive dynamic growth and bring disruptive ideas to life. Our top-notch engineering teams combine ownership with leading technologies, including cloud, AI, data science and embedded software to accelerate digital transformations and boost software delivery. A culture that embraces openness, craves more and acts with respect enables our bold and passionate people to create evolutive solutions that support scale-ups, unicorns and enterprise-level companies around the world. 

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