What is Staff Augmentation and how can you harness it?

Varun, author for staff augmentation blog
Varun Omprakash
Content writer at Flexiple. Passionate about sales. Loves reading.

In this blog post, we take a look at one of the hiring models that is gaining wide popularity - staff augmentation. We define what staff augmentation is, its pros and cons, and much more.

Table of Contents

  • What is staff augmentation?
  • Why staff augmentation?
  • How does staff augmentation differ from project outsourcing?
  • Is staff augmentation right for my company?
  • Which companies provide staff augmentation services?
  • What should I look out for while considering staff augmentation?

What is staff augmentation?

Put simply, staff augmentation is the process of hiring external staff on a non-permanent basis, to "augment" your existing staff or team of employees.

In the technology sector, staff augmentation is usually done by hiring freelancers or contractors, who will 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.

Staff Augmentation
Staff Augmentation can be key strength of your company

Why staff augmentation?

Staff augmentation is utilised by businesses for several use-cases. Some of the reasons why you would want to choose staff augmentation are:

1. Quickly increase the tech team’s bandwidth

In certain situations, an urgent need for more talent could arise. For example, in some cases the tech team's bandwidth has reached its limit. To ensure you don't miss your product deadlines due to long delays in hiring permanent employees, staff augmentation can be employed.

Further, hiring permanent employees also doesn't make sense each time, as it might only be a temporary spike in work. Yet again, staff augmentation works out well to fulfill that temporary demand for additional headcount. It allows you to hire freelance developers in a short duration and to end the contract once the planned work is completed.

2. Stop-gap to hiring full-time developers

It takes around 2-3 months on average to hire full-time staff in engineering roles, but during that period, your company's work can't be stopped.

In such cases, staff augmentation allows you to hire developers on a contract or temporary basis. They augment your tech team immediately while you continue to look for more long-term solutions. As a result, your product goals don't get compromised.

Moreover, you can also possibly negotiate a full-time role with staff, if they perform well. You should look into the contract clauses upfront to ensure that's a possibility. As you and the freelancer have already worked with another, there is a better idea about the compatibility too.

3. Open up a broader talent pool

If you're only hiring in-house developers, restrict your access to a finite talent pool in your locality or time zone. Several high-quality freelance developers prefer to work on a variety of exciting projects from their locations of choice. You'll be missing out on them.

Instead, you can leverage the staff augmentation model to hire quality remote developers on a contract-basis throughout the length of your project..

4. Eliminate overhead costs

Hiring permanent staff comes with a host of overhead costs like perks/ benefits, health insurance, training, as well as other costs like rent and equipment. Typically, these overhead costs for a software developer can go up to twice the salary that you pay them.

Hence, staff augmentation could potentially save you a lot of money in overheads. Further, in a damp funding climate, some companies might be forced to implement a hiring freeze. In such cases, staff augmentation can be an ideal solution to keep up the pace.

However, it is important to remember that the costs of staff augmentation is subjective, as the rates of developers are based on their level of expertise, skillset, and geographic location.

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

Some projects call for a highly-specific skillset that developers at your company might not possess. Finding permanent staff skilled in these niche technologies is quite challenging. Additionally, these skillsets might not even be needed by your team on a routine basis.

Instead, staff augmentation helps you hire an expert on a temporary basis, fulfilling the demand for specific projects. It works out to be economically better while also being more efficient in terms of time & effort spent in hiring.

6. Higher flexibility – increasing your adaptability to the market

Staff augmentation can also provide a competitive advantage for companies. By hiring freelancers or contractors, your company will have the ability to operate a more flexible workforce without the need to bear additional costs of hiring permanent staff.

This flexible team can be scaled fast and modified based on requirements. Overall, it enables your company to stay lean and to easily adapt to the changing needs of the market.

This is especially valuable for smaller companies that want to remain agile in order to iterate and execute fast product development cycles.

How does staff augmentation differ from project outsourcing?

Project Outsourcing

Unlike staff augmentation, project outsourcing involves hiring an external agency (like a software development shop or dev shop) to take up "complete ownership" of your project.

Dev shops are agile product development teams that provide full-fledged services for building software, either on top of existing products or from scratch.

While outsourcing projects to a dev shop, you just need to specify your requirements. Thereafter, a team of developers, designers, as well as product managers will take care of your build.

However, external agencies work on several projects with a lot of clients. Therefore, they are rarely able to dive deep and nail the fundamentals of a product. This results in many "project outsourcing" deals to fail.

Further, dev shops find it hard to balance cost and quality. Optimising for cost requires them to hire average developers with low salaries and reduce payroll during downtime. Focusing on quality requires hiring high-salaried developers, and compensating them during downtime results in high costs.

Staff augmentation

In staff augmentation, however, you manage the development process. Basically, you retain full control over the build and the freedom to make necessary changes as it progresses.

It follows that for staff augmentation, one (or more) of your team members need the technical know-how to plan and execute the product development process.

Companies that want to have a greater control over the product prefer to choose the route of staff augmentation. They hire freelance developers to work as an extension, rather than a replacement, of their internal team.

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Is staff augmentation right for my company?

Staff augmentation will be ideal fit for your company for these use-cases and criteria:

  • If you want to build the project in a collaborative manner: When you're keen to be heavily involved throughout the product development process, it's better to augment your team by hiring a freelancer to implement the road map chalked by your core team.
  • Project quality is the highest priority: If you opt for staff augmentation, you'll have more control over the product development process, allowing you to ensure quality standards are being met at all times.
  • Budget is relatively more flexible: By augmenting your team with external freelancers on a time-based compensation model, you'll get more flexibility to make changes throughout the course of the project. For this, you'll also need to have a correspondingly flexible budget.
  • There is a tech founder/ member in your team: A technical core team member will typically be well-equipped to engineer the product road-map and control the build. However, this is not always the case.

On the other hand, project outsourcing would be a better fit for the below use-cases and criteria:

  • You have well-defined and detailed requirements: If you are sure of the exact product specifications, and don't plan to make many changes during the build, project outsourcing might work out.
  • Quality isn't the highest priority: As we’ve mentioned earlier, dev shops find it hard to balance cost and quality, especially in a project-based compensation framework. Hence, you might have to compromise on the quality of the final product.
  • The budget is rigid: Project outsourcing requires you to work on a fixed-price model where the total payable cost has to be negotiated and decided upon before starting the build. This is not the case in staff augmentation, where you pay for the service of developers based on the time that they spend working on your project.
  • No technical founder in your team: Project outsourcing can be more beneficial if you don't have a tech core team member, as dev shops or outsourcing firms can take ownership of the entire development process and deliver the end product.

Which companies provide staff augmentation services?

There are several staff augmentation services available, but the best are online vetted talent networks.

These platforms extensively test the talent and only onboard the very best. As a result, they enable companies to augment their team with freelance developers within a week or two.

Further, they give personalised freelancer recommendations by understanding your requirements in detail. This greatly reduces the chances of making a bad hire.

Finally, quality freelancers developers, if effectively matched to the needs of the project, can hit the ground running. They typically require no training and can ramp up fast.

Some of the top vetted tech talent networks are:

  1. Flexiple
  2. Toptal
  3. Gun.io
  4. Arc.dev

You can find more such websites, as well as other types of online staff augmentation platforms here: Top 15 websites to hire freelance developers.

Finally, what should I keep in mind when considering staff augmentation?

It is very likely that your company is either already working remotely, or will soon shift to a remote setting. Once your company has the adequate tools & 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.

  • Hire from reputed platforms: The success of such engagements hinges on the quality of the freelancers you work with. So, before you opt for staff augmentation, you need to be sure of that. Hiring from reputed freelance platforms solves this.
  • Look for crucial value-added services: Ideally, you would want someone to take care of the ancillary tasks related to staff augmentation - like vetting developers, setting up meetings, drawing contracts, etc. This allows you to focus on the core product development work. So, vetted freelance networks would again be a good choice.
  • Choose fast-hiring platforms: Verify the time duration the staff augmentation platform takes to help you hire a freelance developers. Typically, they should be capable of fulfilling requirements within a week.
  • Look for personalised matching: Lastly, you'll want to save as much time as possible in the hiring process. So choose platforms that offer personalised project-to-freelancer matching. This way you can hire developers fast and ensure that the person you hire would be the right technical and cultural fit for your team.