What Is Staff Augmentation and How Does It Work?

08 DEC 2020
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Hiring in-house IT specialists takes time: from a couple of weeks to a few months or even a year. Namely, when you need middle to senior-level software engineers, Scala developers, or Big Data experts.

So the traditional hiring approach may not work if you need to find a specialist fast.

Outsourcing development companies have a solution. They offer trained IT experts who can join your in-house team, closing the recruitment gap, or bringing new expertise. That’s what the staff augmentation model is for.

Let’s see how exactly staff augmentation works, what pros it offers, and when it’s the right time to use it.

Table of contents

How Does Staff Augmentation Work?

Staff augmentation model means that a company expands its in-house staff by hiring one or several outsourced IT specialists. They’re usually hired for a certain period of time like three months or half a year.

Let’s say you have an internal CRM system and you want to modernize it. But your current team lacks developers or expertise to reengineer such a large-scale solution. Instead of going through the standard hiring process—searching, interviewing, onboarding—you contact an outsourcing company.

The staff augmentation firm picks engineers that have enough experience and worked on similar projects before and passes their CVs to you. Then you or your company's CTO/CEO interview the candidates and sign a contract if everything works for both parties.

Augmented specialists become a part of your in-house team and cooperate with your employees. You either manage the team yourself or delegate it to an internal project manager who’ll be assigning tasks to remote engineers.

How staff augmentation model works

Staff augmentation: definition of how it works

Note! Staff augmentation firms do not assign a project manager, control the development, or bear responsibility for the project. You need a tech lead or a CTO with enough experience and domain knowledge to manage the team.

The staff augmentation model works best for short-term projects that take less than two years to finish. Let’s say, when you need to replace an engineer who’s on an extended vacation. Or there’s a huge demand for Flutter developers and you can’t find enough candidates locally.

Your engineer won't be vacationing forever, and you may not need Flutter specialists at all in a few months. Besides, there’s a risk your augmented staff may turn over within a long period.

With staff augmentation, you temporarily fill a skill gap in your team and save time when hiring in-house employees takes way too long.

In case you need engineers on longer projects, it may be better to choose a dedicated team or even project-based development. You can still start with an augmented team, then switch to another model. Most staff augmentation providers are ready to negotiate such agreements.

We’ve compared three popular outsourcing models—augmented team, dedicated team, and project-based approach, and explained how to choose between them.

The staff augmentation model is incredibly common. The global staffing industry, one of the primary suppliers of staff augmentation talent, is estimated to support $490 billion annually.

When to Use Staff Augmentation

Staff augmentation has quite a few benefits compared to more common project-based or dedicated team approaches. A dedicated team means the outsourced specialists won't communicate with the rest of the in-house team and may even have their own PM.

While project-based approach stands for A to Z product development, fully delegated to a third-party vendor. The vendor provides a project manager, helps with documentation, sprint planning, and ensures the development is on schedule.

Staffing augmentation, on the other hand, offers more flexibility and more control over the developers as the management is being done on the clients’ side.

Augmented model will work best if you:

  • Have an in-house team
  • Have a CTO, PM, or are tech-savvy yourself
  • Need expertise you don’t currently have
  • Need highly skilled specialists temporarily
  • Don’t have time to spend on hiring and training
  • Want to communicate directly with the team

Let’s take a more detailed look at each.

Have an in-house team

Hiring an augmented team without having an in-house one contradicts the sole definition of staff augmentation. You can’t extend a non-existing team. The first requirement is having an in-house development team and temporarily needing to expand it with people, expertise, or both.

Have a tech-savvy manager on your side

Working with an augmented team means doing management on your side. You stay fully in charge of product development and team management, which means you have to be both a good manager and a tech-savvy one.

However, in most cases, augmented staff reports to the company's CTO or PM with enough experience and domain knowledge.

Need expertise you don't have in-house

The augmented staff model is for businesses that need specific expertise—automated QA, back-end development, blockchain, IoT, data science, and so on.

Or need people with specific tech stack, for example, MEAN or LAMP.

Need people with high-level skills

Software engineers have skills that take time, training, and experience to hone. The skill level is also important: staff augmentation projects rarely include junior developers as there's no time to train them. It's easier and faster to adapt an experienced engineer to the project and working environment.

Need to expand the team fast

If you need a person with expertise in IoT, Dart, or deep knowledge of healthcare software development, be ready to spend months searching.

With the staff augmentation model, you find the person much faster—you just contact the company, look through the developers' CVs, and interview them. Much faster compared to looking for the right people locally.

Need better communication with the augmented team

There can be two reasons:

  1. You want to communicate with the remote team directly, daily.
  2. You want to know what people you're working with, want the in-house team to be acquainted with outsourced programmers, and make sure they feel like part of your local team.

Staff augmentation roles and responsibilities

ParametersStaff augmentation model

Control

High

Flexibility

High

Scalability (team)

High

Client involvement

High

Tech expertise (client)

Must-have

Communication

Daily

Project management

Client

Responsibility

Client

Staff Augmentation Benefits

Staffing augmentation benefits start from the obvious ones like no hardware and software expenses, no office rent payments and taxes up to faster and most cost-effective recruiting.

Let’s see what other staff augmentation pros are there.

Save Time on Hiring and Hire Best Talents

With staff augmentation, there's no need to throw money at recruiting agencies. They usually charge a high percentage for their services—and there's no guarantee they'll find the right candidate in two days.

Even if your company does have internal recruiters, they use costly tools to find the right candidate. LinkedIn, for example, charges for the number of views your job receives.

And you also spare team lead or senior developers' time on looking through the test assignments and interviewing each person.

The augmented model helps to save your time and cut down hiring-related expenses. Of course, it depends on your requirements. You'll find two middle-level Swift developers much faster than five senior-level Scala or Ruby engineers.

The time depends on the augmented staff vendor and their experience in such matters. At Cleveroad, our clients get the right candidates in 1-3 days on average.

Affordable Outsourcing Rates

Although staff augmentation firms include office rent, hardware, software, and training expenses in the hourly rate, the price is often lower than in-house employment.

Enterprises have enough money to cover whatever specialists they need and keep in-house staff retained. Not all startups or mid-sized businesses do, though.

For example, best US-based developers get ~$8,700 per month, according to PayScale. Average developers ask for $6,000/month or $71,771/year. It may not be a problem if you need 1-2 mid-level developers, but what if you need 5, 10, or 20 engineers?

Same for tech vendors. Top-rates US, Canadian, or Oceania firms charge $100-150/hour depending on developers' skills and experience.

Outsourced developers charge far less.

Staff augmentation vendors in Western or Eastern Europe don't need to pay each middle-level developer $71k or $105k per year. In fact, senior Swift or JavaScript developers’ salaries in Ukraine, a popular outsourcing destination, are around $3,700/month.

In Ukraine, as in the rest of Eastern Europe, software development rates don't usually exceed $25-$50/hour.

Development cost by hour

Average hourly rates worldwide

Flexibility in Management

With staff augmentation, you have as many IT specialists as you currently require. It’s easy to scale the augmented team up or down. For example, you may start with two iOS developers, two QA engineers, and a UI/UX designer but continue working only with iOS or Android developers.

Same if you need more specialists or have specific management requirements. For example, when you want all employees to use Jira for time-tracking or organize daily meetings with the whole team and outline what needs to be done. This model is also pretty flexible with a sudden change of plans. For example, you need to allocate people for bug fixing as soon as possible.

The augmented model is flexible when it comes to budgeting, too. With the augmented vendor, you agree on the schedule of payments—weekly or monthly—hourly rates and additional perks like sick days or vacations.

Direct Communication

Dedicated team and project-based models work great if you want to delegate the development to a vendor and forget about it. (At least to some extent.)

For example, when you're working on two products at once and delegate the second one to an offshore team. The outsourcing company will take care of everything, including management.

That doesn't work if you or your CTO/CEO/PM want to personally assign tasks, plan sprints, and control the process via corporate project management tools—Jira, Confluence, Trello, and others.

Staff augmented projects offer full control of your team—both in-house and remote employees. Aug developers report directly to you, and they’re always in touch.

How Staff Augmentation Works at Cleveroad

We get staff augmentation requests quite often, so we’d like to explain how this process goes in our company.

Clients contact us when they realize they need to enlarge their in-house team. Our managers check the request and schedule a meeting with the client to clarify all the requirements in detail.

It's important not just to figure out what tech skills the client requires but also to understand the team's very attitude. What people are they? Which person can fit straight back in?

Oksana Mishchenko
Oksana Mishchenko
Resource Manager at Cleveroad

“ Not every developer fits such a project. The person will work remotely from the rest of the team which means we need a specialist who works hard and solves problems on their own ”

After our managers have talked to the clients, they choose employees who fit the profile.

Next, we send developers' CVs with detailed information about their experience, projects, and roles on each project to our clients.

The clients approve CVs and schedule a tech interview with the candidates. Sometimes interviews are divided into two stages—a technical interview with CTO and another with CEO or product owners.

If things go well, we sign a contract and involve the selected developers in the project.

Staff augmentation process: how it goes at Cleveroad

How we process staff augmentation requests from our clients

The specialists we provide have good communication skills and an Upper-Intermediate to Advanced English level. They're usually middle or senior-level engineers or team leads if there's a need to oversee the team's work.

Need to augment your team?

On average, our clients get the right candidates in 1-3 days.

One of the recent staff augmentation projects we’ve worked on is Blockbuster, a Danish video-on-demand service. The clients required a few Android and iOS developers to help their in-house team make an iOS app and reengineer Android and Android TV apps.

We provided iOS and Android engineers who became a part of our clients’ team and worked until the project’s release. Our developers got a list of tasks they had to complete and reported to Blockbuster’s managers.

Henrik Loop, CTO at Blockbuster, gives feedback about our cooperation

Frequently Asked Questions

Staff augmentation is a cooperation model where a company expands its in-house staff by temporarily hiring one or several outsourcing IT specialists.

Augmented specialists become a part of an in-house team and cooperate with the company's employees.

After the first meeting with the client, the staff augmentation firm picks engineers who have enough experience and worked on similar projects. Then the client or their CTO/CEO interview the candidates and sign a contract if everything works for both parties.

Augmented specialists become a part of the in-house team and cooperate with client's employees. The client either manages the team themselves or delegates it to an internal project manager.

Staff augmentation has quite a few benefits compared to project-based or dedicated team approaches. A dedicated team means the outsourced specialists won't communicate with the rest of the in-house team and may even have their PM.

The project-based approach stands for A to Z product development, fully delegated to a third-party vendor. The vendor provides a project manager, helps with documentation, sprint planning, and ensures the development is on schedule.

On the other hand, staffing augmentation offers more flexibility and more control over the developers as the management is being done on the clients' side.

First of all, you already have an in-house team and temporarily need to expand it with people, expertise, or both.

Here's when the augmented team model is a good choice:

  • You have a tech manager on your side
  • Need expertise you don't have in-house
  • Need people with high-level skills (middle or senior programmers, solution architects, team leads)
  • Need to expand the team fast
  • Want better communication with the augmented team

The staff augmentation model offers quite a few benefits:

  • You save time on hiring and get access to the best talents
  • Outsourcing is often more affordable compared to local hiring
  • You can scale your team up and down whenever needed
  • You communicate directly with the augmented staff and point out what needs to be done
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