One of the universal trends that is symptomatic of the world at the outset of the third millennium is growing competition in all industries and spheres of life. Globalization of markets and production opened undreamed-of opportunities before both consumers and manufacturers. The former enjoy a wide variety of options while choosing goods and services that suit their taste and wallet size to a tee. The latter are excited to obtain access to a billions-strong audience of end-users eager to pay for the product they need.
Trying to win over the client and outsell competitors, companies go all lengths to cater to their desires and whims, tailoring whatever they offer to fit the customers’ shifting purposes. The same is true of the IT field where software engineers experience ever-growing pressure to deliver a unique product within a short span. The shortage of hands (and brains) that any software development team feels from time to time compels them to enlist staff augmentation services, meaning to meet the deadlines and satisfy the quality requirements of customers.
What is staff augmentation?
To better understand staff augmentation meaning, it is necessary to have a look at how developers typically work on a software project. Ideally, an IT team receives the assignment, maps out a plan and its implementation schedule, chooses a technical stack, and gets down to work hammer and tongs. The endeavor proceeds neatly and orderly to yield the expected outcome within the stipulated period.
Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Well, having accumulated a vast experience of handling software development products, DICEUS experts know this picture to be only wishful thinking that once again shows that the map is not the territory. In the real-life, a lot of bottlenecks await developers on the bumpy path to successful project completion, attracting them to adopt the staff augmentation model.
How it works
Having started on a job, you may unexpectedly face the unsavory truth that it is a tad more complicated than you have initially hoped. If this is the case, you have to make a very simple but hard choice — either forfeit the project incurring financial loss and reputational damage or engage an additional workforce to live up to the customer’s expectations. In the highly competitive business environment, you can’t afford to take the first choice, so your only option is to hire qualified temporary employees ready to fall in immediately, and this is what staff augmentation basically boils down to.
Besides just increasing your headcount to handle the work influx (like hiring more nurses when hospitals have a deluge of patients), staff augmentation is an excellent solution when you lack the requisite expertise to accomplish the task. Of course, you may resort to classical outsourcing and hire a team to do the job for you, but it is sensible only if it is going to take quite a time.
Being at first mostly practiced in the IT realm, staff augmentation has spread across numerous industries, generating about $500 billion in 2019 alone. Yet, software development stays the core domain where staff augmentation is exceedingly efficient.
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IT staff augmentation benefits
Geography is no bar anymore
Wherever your office is located, you have access to a virtually unlimited workforce pool hailing from any place on Earth. Moreover, you may eventually end up having different members of the augmented team for your project working in various corners of the world for the common cause.
No human factor interfering
Having adopted this model, you may forget about such obstacles as vacations or sick leaves of the employees, since it is your partner who is responsible for the committed and uninterrupted effort of the onboarded staff. In case any member does have problems of that kind, other outstaffers step in to replace those who didn’t make it. Besides, there is no downtime to pay for, which you would do if you had your in-house developers handle a project.
Having access to the labor market from different countries, you can always select a suitable person cost-wise. Moreover, some companies offer discounts, in case you hire several employees. And you don’t pay for renting an office, utilities, hardware and software used by outstaffers, holiday bonuses, and office parties, to say nothing of investment in personnel training. All of these are the responsibility of your partner now.
Flexibility and scalability
You can regulate the number of employees, depending on different circumstances that may unexpectedly factor in. So, you may always onboard an additional workforce in case of an overflow and scale the team down when the tide subsides.
When your in-house team knows that the new employees will be with them as long as it takes to put out a fire, they won’t feel threatened that outstaffers can eventually oust them, so the cooperation between the two parties proceeds smoothly.
Despite the considerable boons that this model of remote cooperation brings, even staff augmentation best practices can encounter problems in implementation that will turn assets into shortcomings.
Top 10 staff augmentation challenges and solutions
Thinking of enlisting the help of a software expert your in-house team lacks? Before you embark on this voyage, you should be aware of IT staff augmentation risks and pitfalls that lie in wait for you.
Lengthy hiring process
Recruiting a specialist to join your team is never a one-day issue. Finding an employee for a regular position takes around three weeks on average. Holding interviews, checking the qualification and background, performing slews of tests is a rather time-consuming routine. And what does staff augmentation mean but an immediate filling the breach with requisite hands able to swing into action at once?
Well, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, hiring people to augment your staff may be as protracted as it typically happens with workers on your regular payroll. Unless you take the first candidate who responds to your call for talents but making hasty choices is never a good idea.
Addressing the challenge: If you enlist the services of a seasoned company that has on its roster a whole gamut of experts possessing requisite skills, your selection throes will soon be over and the new team members can join the project in no time.
Possible issues with onboarding outsiders
For any group of people who have been working for quite a time and have developed certain corporate culture and work ethic, co-opting a new member needs time and effort. For the new-comers, fitting in is also a trying experience that doesn’t always proceed smoothly. Yet, since staff augmentation usually occurs under the condition of time-squeeze, all stakeholders simply have no time to waste for long adjustment.
Addressing the challenge: While holding preliminary interviews with the colleagues-to-be, try to get them interested and excited about the project as well as assure them of the friendliness of the working climate at your company. They should approach your temporary merger with a positive outlook and enthusiasm.
Your regular team should also realize that the organization needs the services (albeit, short-term ones) of the new employee and be out there to support them, making them feel at ease.
Outstaffers’ lack of expertise
Sometimes, the haste you hire new hands with may turn to your undoing when you realize that the performance outstaffers display is worse than what you bargained for.
Addressing the challenge: Meticulous selection procedure is the only solution here. It doesn’t mean that you should spend weeks weighing all fortes and deficiencies of the developer you are going to hire, though. Inspecting the portfolio, paying close attention to the experience of the candidate in the domain you are interested in, asking for certificates that validate the skills are the obligatory steps called to provide information on the expertise level of an outstaffer.
Once you have hired an expert, your selection procedure is far from being over because staff augmentation is the approach that allows you to change your mind as to the employee you have onboarded. The first couple of weeks will determine whether the new person fits you. Assessing their hard and soft skills, as well as the ability to work in a team, will be vital in your ultimate decision to continue cooperation with him (her) or try to find another person that will suit you better.
Possible communication issues are among the top staff augmentation challenges since in the remote work model they are likely to eventually crop up. Such issues may be caused by both inadequate command of English or (more often) inability of the parties to get their message through. As a result, the reporting is unclear or absent and the successful completion of the project is in question.
Addressing the challenge: Discuss and agree on the workflow, with a comfortable communication manner and channels for both parties to be stipulated. In the IT world of today, you can’t do without specialized software that facilitates interaction and streamlines project management. Also, it is important to establish rules of rapport where routine communication sessions should happen at least twice a week. In such a case, all stakeholders stay on the same page and problems can be promptly dealt with in case they appear.
Your augmented team has worked hard for months and the completed product is finally lying in front of you on your virtual desk (or rather home screen). You gleefully inform the customer about it and submit it for their perusal. However, instead of sharing your excitement and expressing gratitude for a job you’ve done, the customer starts finding fault with your perfect (as you believe) creation, stating that they have imagined it in a completely different way.
Addressing the challenge: The only recipe to avoid such situations is to make sure from the outset that both parties to the process see eye to eye as to the way the final product should look and function. So before signing the contract, the document of a kind must be agreed upon where all expectations are to be made clear and parameters of the future project described.
Yet, getting such an arrangement doesn’t totally rule out the possibility of mismatched expectations appearing. While implementing the project it is vital to keep regular communication with the client (see Challenge 4) to let them keep track of the chief milestones in your progress. In case there is something that doesn’t sit well with them, it should be immediately mentioned for the team to introduce corrections at once.
Vendors mustn’t be afraid to make a nuisance of themselves (as they think) since over-communication at early stages is the best tool to ensure they are on the right track as fine-tuning is always better than revamping or even overhauling.
High turnover rate
In the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, mobility isn’t only the fundamental characteristic of gadgets but the symptomatic trait of the workforce as well. People (especially younger ones) aren’t likely to stay at their job for more than two years, which causes a considerable attrition rate and problems with upholding institutional memory. The latter is vital information enabling usage of the past experience to avoid recurrent failures and predict successes in the future. With outstaffers, this problem is even more acute.
Addressing the challenge: Valuable employees should be incentivized to stay at their job through a system of bonuses, promotions, and perks. At the same time, every company must make it a rule of thumb to store essential data for future use. Here belong instructions for dealing with routine tasks and the scope of responsibilities each employee performs.
A more high-tech approach to maintaining institutional memory is the introduction of special software. It is strange indeed that clients’ data are collected and processed by CRMs, while the internal regulations within an organization aren’t handled adequately via digital technologies.
Typically, outstaffers are hired on an hourly basis. Yet, enlisting their services to augment your team, it is hard to accurately estimate how long your project will take. Moreover, the amount of work may differ from month to month so you can never know what budget to allocate.
Addressing the challenge: If you want to be sure how much staff augmentation will cost you, opt for fixed-price contracts. Yet, this model works well for long-term employment, although the fee usually includes commissions and overhead expenses. For one-time projects that are comparatively fast in completion, the hourly-rate scheme suits better.
Since you onboard third-party actors, security considerations will be compromised and total privacy of your corporate data will become nonexistent.
Addressing the challenge: A wise tradeoff between efficiency and security must be sought. To mitigate possible risks of data leaks and fraud attacks, cooperation with augmentation employees should proceed under NDA regulations.
Uncertainty of legal issues
Since staff augmentation is a comparatively novel practice, you can never be sure about the legal foundation of such cooperation.
Addressing the challenge: Regulations as to the legal background of staff augmentation vary from country to country. For instance, the US-based employers hire foreign outstaffers through the W8 form issued by the Internal Revenue Service. Since legislative differences may be unfamiliar to the contracting party, it is preferable to leave obtaining all permits and resolving legal procedures to the service provider.
Time zone discrepancies
If the onboarded members of your augmented team hail from the other side of the globe, synchronizing your schedules will become a real headache.
Addressing the challenge: Some outsourcing companies transform their schedule to fit in with the working hours of their employer, so before enlisting an employee find out if they are ready to alter their working mores. However, the best option is to employ the services of outsourcers whose time zone has an acceptable difference with yours. For Western European customers, such an optimal solution is to hire outsourcers from Eastern Europe, whose rates and performance are an excellent example of the balanced price/quality ratio.
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How to start using staff augmentation services
There is a foolproof algorithm to follow while adopting a staff augmentation model for your company.
- Identify problem zones within your team that require staff augmentation
- Formulate a job description to be presented to the potential outstaffers
- Hold interviews with the candidates to find out their level of expertise
- Select the most suitable applicant
- Agree upon the terms and conditions of your cooperation and sign a contract
- Onboard the new team member and put them in the way of things
- Harmonize schedules of the entire team to work in-sync
Staff augmentation is a flexible model to solve the employee shortage problem. Being somewhat tricky to employ, it is still widely practiced in the IT world, since it is cost-effective and fast in implementation. DICEUS offers staff augmentation services and is always ready to lend a helping hand in developing a top-notch software product.