Of all of the challenges facing IT departments, recruiting, training, and retaining skilled staff is a particularly ongoing struggle. In any business, success depends on the ability to deliver projects on time, on budget, and to the client’s specifications. Developing in-house expertise is often a good solution, but it can prove to be both expensive and risky -- especially when needs are rapidly changing. And in today’s rapidly evolving technological world where falling behind the innovation curve can lead to disaster, very few companies have static needs. Even those that are content with business as usual can easily find themselves relying on outdated legacy systems which, if they failed, could cripple their business.
One solution to this challenge is staff augmentation, which “allows a company to add staff to their teams based on the additional skills required to support their initiatives [and] resources are employed by the staff augmentation firm.” It makes it possible for companies to more easily scale their staffing to meet changing demand without absorbing the cost and potential liabilities of additional full-time employees. It’s similar to outsourcing specific tasks to a managed services firm, but the difference is that with staff augmentation “companies bring qualified workers in-house to work side-by-side with full-time employees [and] firms that provide these staff often offer consultative services where they can help a business assess their needs.”
Pros of Staff Augmentation
- Control over staff: When there is a need to closely manage resources, staff augmentation is ideal because the added resources will be on-site and integrated with your team.
- Integration with internal processes: Similarly, companies can find it easier to integrate staff augmentation resources with existing business processes than to align those processes with external project teams. It’s generally easier for an individual to adapt more quickly to the processes of an organization than for two separate organizations to align with each other.
- Leverages existing resources: By adding new skill sets to the team, a company can take advantage of both external and internal resources for the benefit of their projects.
- Specialist expertise: When project team gaps mainly consist of specialized skills, staff augmentation can efficiently fill those gaps.
- Rapidly changing staffing needs: Companies with staffing needs that are in constant flux can meet those needs through staff augmentation. It’s relatively easy to add or reduce resources to match demand.
- Reduce cost of acquiring skills: Avoids the cost of investing in internal skill development.
- Reduce employer burdens: Avoids costs and liabilities of direct employees.
- Meet aggressive project timelines: When an active project has a need for more resources for it to be completed on time, staff augmentation is typically the best, and often the only, option.
- Internal acceptance: Existing employees often embrace a staff augmentation model more than a project outsourcing model as existing employees are less likely to feel threatened by augmenting staff with a few individuals than by outsourcing entire projects.
- Ease of adoption: It’s easier to adopt a staff augmentation model than a project outsourcing model. Companies are already used to hiring employees. Staff augmentation is just a small shift from what companies already do.
Cons of Staff Augmentation
- Can still be training intensive: Although companies avoid the cost of training staff augmentation resources in the skills they are bringing to the table, there may still be training involved in bringing resources up to speed with the company processes, tools, and general domain knowledge.
- Reliance on internal processes: If there are flaws in internal processes, staff augmentation resources will be affected negatively by these just as internal employees. Companies with process flaws are typically not going to enjoy the benefits of implementing industry best practices through staff augmentation.
- Lack of economies of scale: As a company’s need for more resources grow, the cost structure doesn’t typically improve in a significant fashion, since resources are added incrementally and rates are typically negotiated on a per resources basis.
- Management overhead: Adding resources through staff augmentation will increase management overhead due to the increased need to supervise the growing number of staff augmentation resources.
- Resource-centric model: Ultimately the goal of staff augmentation is to deliver results. While using a quality staff augmentation firm will aid in the delivery of those results, the responsibility for the results stays within the company when using a staff augmentation model. Companies are purchasing resources, ideally high quality resources, but not results. Companies remain responsible for planning and managing the project, tasks, resources and deliverables.
- Employee vs. contractor distinction: Companies shoulder the burden of ensuring that their staff augmentation resources cannot be construed as employees.
As technology evolves at a rapid pace and continually reshapes the businesses that leverage it, ensuring its effective management is increasingly critical. Sourcing and retaining hard-to-find professionals with the skills necessary to keep pace with these demands, minimizing the time and cost of training, is an ongoing challenge. While some organizations may be comfortable outsourcing some of this responsibility to a third-party, many seek to augment their in-house skills with external talent who can work under their direction and guidance. This gives them both the flexibility to scale their resources when and where they’re needed and the ability to bring on “hired guns” for projects that require specialized skills that don’t exist or can’t be leveraged internally.
Staff augmentation can help your business achieve a number of objectives, including faster delivery of projects, adding specific skill sets that accelerate quality and speed, and mitigating the cost and time required for internal training and skill development.