IT Staff Augmentation: the Solution to Tech Resources Shortage?

With workforce flexibility becoming the ultimate buzzword, it’s no surprise that IT staff augmentation is gaining popularity. In fact, by 2027, the global IT services outsourcing market is estimated to grow by $937.67 billion at a CAGR of 7.7%

IT staff augmentation is an important part of this category, which also includes outsourcing and managed services for IT. 

Let’s look at what exactly it means, when it is preferable to full project outsourcing, and how it’s filling gaps left, right and center for technical teams. 

What is IT Staff Augmentation? 

For most of us, it’s a familiar situation. 

You’re trying to execute a project, product, or feature release but you just don’t have the technical resources to make it happen. 

You may not have enough trained team members, or you may lack someone with a specific expertise in a particular software or hardware. In any case, you need to scale up your workforce. 

There are different types of on-demand talent, and not all come under the term ‘staff augmentation’.

You could outsource a whole project to an external Managed Service Provider (MSP) or an independent contractor, but you’re likely to lose a lot of control and visibility over the process. Also, when you outsource work to independent contractors, they work alone and have their own processes and tools. This is not augmentation. 

Alternatively, you can augment your existing team with on-demand staff who will work alongside your existing team based on the way they already work,  which will give you greater control over the process. In the field of IT, staff augmentation means bringing technical talent in to work alongside your in-house team, aligning them with your existing processes, technologies, people, and tools. 

By using IT staff augmentation, you can ensure that all your staff are using the same standards and processes, while enjoying flexibility in terms of filling gaps and upscaling or downscaling as necessary. 

Why is IT Staff Augmentation Specifically on the Rise?

Of course, staff augmentation isn’t limited to IT or technical roles. However, it’s certainly true that technical staff augmentation for IT-related roles has taken a leap in recent years. 

It’s not news that technology is the driving force behind any company, even those that are non-technical at first glance. How could a hospital survive without its electronic records, or a school or university manage without online systems, grading, compliance, and more? More than 10 years after the famous “software is eating the world” conversation began, technology is mid-way through its entrée and not looking to slow down any time soon. 

Executing IT projects is therefore a critical concern, and as technology advances at an ever-increasingly rapid pace, opening up new niches in everything from web development and cloud, to AI and machine learning — there’s no shortage of areas in which companies now need niche talent. 

And as we said, the challenge of niche talent is exactly where staff augmentation is a perfect fit. 

What are the pros and cons of using IT staff augmentation vs outsourcing?

The greatest benefit of IT staff augmentation is that your whole workforce is aligned with the systems and processes of how you work, which provides control and visibility over the work process and not just the end result.

If you work in a heavily regulated industry for example, you can rest assured that even on-demand workers are only sharing data through pre-vetted channels. You don’t need to worry about a freelancer sending or sharing sensitive data through a system or a tool that you’re uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. After all, even if they signed a data processing agreement, you can’t control how they do their work.

Augmentation is also a very transparent and simple model in terms of pricing. You will usually pay augmented IT staff a set price per hour. With an outsourced team or independent contractor, you may not have the same amount of control over hours or scope of work.

In some cases, however, you might find that using IT staff augmentation isn’t the fastest way to onboard new talent as you’ll need to get them up to speed with your processes and tools. This takes time when compared to hiring an experienced independent contractor that has his or her own way of working.

Working with independent contractors who have their own processes and ways of working might help you get talent onboarded quicker and therefore a project delivered faster. 

It’s also harder to judge the value of IT staff augmentation, as they are not working alone. For example, if you outsource a website design project, you can see exactly what the outsourced team or contractor has achieved in a set number of hours or for a set cost. When the staff are augmenting an existing team of a designer and copywriter, it’s harder to isolate their value and deliverables in a silo. 

As you can see, while they are both flexible options to take advantage of a contingent workforce, the two approaches answer different needs. 

What Kinds of IT Staff Augmentation are There?

IT staff augmentation is not exactly one-size-fits-all. 

There are different models you can use, depending on what you’re looking for. 

Technical or Functional staffing

Looking for some seriously specialized skills? Functional or technical staffing is probably your jam. Think of the function or technical gap you want filled, and then lean on independent contractors or staffing agencies to fill the gap, with talent that works alongside your team. Need a new website? Get a web designer in. Want a cybersecurity audit? Call in a network security consultant. 

Functional augmentation is usually best for short-term needs, where you’ve found yourself saying “We don’t really need to hire a whole person for that, but they do need to work as an extension of our team, so…”

With this kind of staff augmentation, you might augment your team for a short-term need, but you could also bring in consultants or contractors longer-term, to manage and monitor technical implementation or updates. 

Infrastructure staffing

Behind the scenes, your company works because your networks, servers and IT systems work. It’s kind of like relying on the sun rising and setting every day. Still, despite the criticality, a large number of companies don’t worry about that background stuff — until they have to. Many companies have a single IT guy, or a very small team handling IT and infrastructure, and they don’t have the expertise or skills to do it all. When it comes to more niche items like cloud infrastructure, risk assessment, or hardware maintenance – they often come unstuck. 

Infrastructure staffing is augmenting existing lean IT teams with additional staff who can manage networks, servers and on the cloud — PaaS, IaaS, and everything else that keeps the wheels turning. It’s not directly related to your business, but you can’t make business happen without it. 

Project staffing

Have a specific technical project that absolutely needs more hands to be completed? Project staffing is your new best friend. You might have the skills in-house, but not enough of them. Use IT staff augmentation to bring in more talent for a specific project, getting you over the line to scope and on time. 

When is IT Staff Augmentation the Right Choice?

Deciding whether you need to utilize IT staff augmentation is a multi-stage process. 

Start by asking yourself, “Do I need a full-time employee, or a contractor? 

If you don’t think a full time employee is correct, because you only need 80 monthly hours or because you have only a short-term need, the answer is likely to be a contractor. 

Now that you’ve narrowed it down, you’ll need to decide whether augmentation is a necessary route to go down. 

Here, you’ll ask “Do I need the contractor to use my own processes and tools?” In many cases, you’ll be happy to outsource the entire project to a freelancer who works according to their own song sheet. For example, you might find that you’ll find more niche talent or skills by outsourcing to an independent contractor who works on their own terms. 

But if your projects include handling sensitive data or direct interaction with customers, you may need to choose staff augmentation which offers more control over work processes.

Our suggestion is to focus on the below 3 question to answer whether augmentation is the right call for your project:

  • Do I need my team to work alongside the talent, or can they simply submit their own deliverables?
  • Do I want to manage the work and output closely, or can I be more hands-off? 
  • Should they be using our in-house tools and technology, or is that unimportant? 

When you can be hands-off and allow the freelancer to work their own way, augmentation may add unnecessary onboarding and time to the process. 

In contrast, where you need talent to align with your processes, technologies, and team – staff augmentation is starting to look real good.

Written by
Stoke Talent

Team