Software Development Staff Augmentation: How to Grow Your Technical Team in Six Months

When you’re in the business of helping companies with IT staff augmentation, you learn a thing or two about building up tech teams quickly and efficiently. Growing your software development team might seem easy — post the job online, conduct a few interviews, hire, and you’re done, right? Not quite.

Depending on your own technical know-how and the needs of your business, the type of developer(s) you hire may vary. And when it comes to building software solutions that benefit your business, you need more than just a warm body in the office. You need someone who understands the vision of the product you want to build as well as someone who can mesh with your existing team and provide essential skills and talents that may be missing.

Many companies run into growing pains as they scale up their development team. Here’s what you need to know about software development staff augmentation to avoid costly hiring mistakes.

Software Development Staff Augmentation

7 Common Reasons You May Need Software Development Staff Augmentation

Understanding why you need to grow your technical team will help identify the best solution to meet your business objectives. Here are some common reasons that an organization needs staff augmentation to  add to its development team and support business growth:

  1. Your agency has increased visibility, and the current team doesn’t have the capacity to handle the volume of incoming projects from new and existing clients. In some cases, some clients may be waiting too long for deliverables and you risk losing business if you don’t turn around projects faster.
  2. Your startup has a great idea for an MVP (minimum viable product), prototype, or first-round software product. You have secured funding and now need to hire technical talents to help your team build it.
  3. You have a defunct engineering team or team member that needs to be replaced.
  4. Your business is experiencing rapid expansion and needs the right team augmentation to support its growth. For example, you may need to expand an existing team to ramp up development for additional core and non-core projects.
  5. You need to fill a critical technical skills gap(s) in executing highly-specialized projects that may not be within the core competency of your current tech team (e.g., developing a mobile app).
  6. You need more coverage in specific areas within the development process, such as quality assurance and software testing.
  7. Your operation is expanding, and ad hoc processes are impacting cost-efficiency. You need to hire business analysts and project managers to streamline workflows, create product documentation, and ensure that deliverables are on track.

Hiring and Outsourcing and Outstaffing, Oh My!

There are three proven ways to expand your technical team. Understanding the pros and cons of each can help you decide which method can solve your current challenges most cost-effectively:

Hiring an In-House Team

While hiring full-time employees to add to your tech staff may seem an obvious solution, it also comes with some operational challenges.

Pros

  • You can assure long-term cooperation and don’t have to worry about company secrets being leaked through third-party employees.
  • It gives you access to a dedicated and consistent team of talents that can respond to business needs quickly.
  • Team members have institutional knowledge about the business so there’s minimal ramp-up time when starting a new initiative.

Cons

  • You have to account for the time and costs associated with recruiting, hiring, managing, firing (less flexibility), benefits, training, etc.
  • You need to hire support staff to manage administrative tasks, such as payroll, benefits, etc., which adds to the operational overhead.
  • You incur more office space costs.
  • The long hiring process may not allow you to respond to immediate needs.

Key takeaway: When considering the traditional hiring model, you want to balance the security of taking on a new long-term employee who is fully integrated into the company with the time and dollar resources required to recruit, add to payroll, and cover overhead and benefits commonly associated with a new hire.

Outsourcing

When you outsource design or software development work, you’re transferring a whole line of business or project to another company. You don’t necessarily have control over who is doing what, only that the work is getting done.

Pros

  • It can be more cost-effective, especially for one-time tasks or projects.
  • You can find a freelancer or contractor relatively quickly to fill immediate needs.
  • You don’t need all the internal competencies to manage a large team.
  • You can target the exact skill sets you need immediately.

Cons

  • Time zone, location differences, and language barriers can make collaboration more challenging.
  • You still have to manage payments made to each outsourced team member or agency.
  • You don’t have complete control over the quality of the solutions. Low-quality deliverables may require rework and lead to delays.
  • The total cost may be higher than hiring an in-house team.

Key takeaway: For a long time, outsourcing got a bad wrap. In the 21st century, however, as more pools of high-quality tech talent develop around the world, outsourcing has become more mainstream for companies looking to expand their development departments quickly. Working via an outsourcing agency may provide more security than hiring a solo freelancer; however, the outsourcing option does offer key cost savings.

Outstaffing/IT Staff Augmentation

This is the practice of having third-party dedicated team members to work directly for your company. You manage the employees directly and have complete control over how they work. Meanwhile, the outstaffing company will handle payroll, hiring, firing, benefits, etc.

Pros

  • It’s a cost-effective solution because you only have to deal with one outstaffing company, which will coordinate finding, recruiting, and hiring all the team members for you.
  • You don’t have to worry about managing payroll, taxes, benefits, time-off, etc.
  • You have the flexibility to adjust the number of technical specialists on your team, depending on the number and nature of projects you have at any given moment.

Cons

  • You may still need to engage on some level with the employees’ day-to-day activities, either yourself or via a staff member who can handle project management and resource management if the agency doesn’t do that for you.
  • In some cases, the external employees may rotate (e.g., during holidays), and you’ll have to spend time and resources on onboarding the replacements.
  • The total cost could be higher than hiring an in-house team.

Key takeaway: Outstaffing feels like the best of both worlds, where the control you get with hiring meets the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of outsourcing. Spiral Scout has successfully oustaffed multiple companies with distributed technical teams that serve them for years, helping to design and develop new software products as well as refactor and maintain existing ones.

Best Practices When Adding Members to Your Development Team

Adding a new member to your technical team or outsourcing development work can be a significant investment, and you want to make sure it’s paying off. Follow these steps to optimize your ROI:

Share Your Company Vision and Goals

It’s one thing to share what you want a developer to build for you. It’s a whole other thing to explain why you want them to build it and what it means for your business strategy and growth. When you onboard new recruits, whether they are full-time hires or outstaffed workers, empower them to take initiative by clearly communicating your company’s vision and values. By making sure they have a good grasp of your business objectives and feel like a part of the team, you also sell them on your future goals and generate excitement.

Note: Be realistic about what can be achieved within a certain timeline and budget. If you’re sharing an impractical idea, it may be harder to attract and retain the best talent. Great software developers tend to look for opportunities that have the best chances of succeeding and look good in their portfolio or resume.

Listen To Experts

Adding team members isn’t just about increasing headcount. If you don’t know exactly what you need on the technical side of things, then find experts who can help you. Tap into your professional network, ask friends with technical backgrounds, and consult your existing team members about the best way to achieve your business goals (the HOW) and find the right technical people to turn your vision into reality.

In development, the process often follows that the leadership/owner will establish a vision and formulate a strategy (e.g., WHERE is our business going? WHY?). Then the management team will determine WHAT needs to be done to achieve the vision. And finally, development teams will take the reins on HOW to implement (and WHO will implement) the strategy and meet the business objectives.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Find employees or outsourcing and outstaffing agencies who have done before what you want to achieve now and see how they structure their teams. Make sure to ask them about past projects and work related to the challenge you are giving them. This is particularly important if you’re not technically inclined because there are many pitfalls you may not even be aware of. Reach out to a friend or colleague with the right knowledge and experience for support and do your due diligence to explore all the options.

Create Synergy By Hiring the Right Team Members

The right team dynamics enhance collaboration and create synergies that foster innovation. You need to break the status quo by adding team members of various ages, cultures, genders, and backgrounds to introduce different input and transformative perspectives.

In addition, look for developers who are eager to learn and prioritize training and education. Their willingness to grow and advance their skill set will benefit your product development and business growth in the long run.

How to Set Up a New Dev Team Member For Success

After you have found your ideal team member, the job isn’t done yet. Make sure they (and you) are set up for success by:

  • Communicating roles and responsibilities clearly to set the right expectations.
  • Establishing communication practices, providing the right project management and collaboration tools (e.g., Jira, Asana, Slack, etc.), and fostering a collaborative environment.
  • Setting measurable goals, milestones, and expectations for various tasks and activities through regular meetings, messaging tools, and project management platforms.
  • Reinforcing the company’s vision and culture by walking your talk. Also, encourage team-building activities and make sure both on-site and remote team members are equally involved.
  • Empowering team members with trust and autonomy. Let them do their job and don’t get in their way!

Final Thoughts

Businesses are undergoing intense digital transformation and implementing new technologies at a rapid rate to stay relevant and competitive. In fact, according to one survey, 70% of companies have (or plan to have) a digital transformation strategy, 60% of enterprises believe that IoT will play an important role in their businesses, and 68% of organizations believe that the future of business will involve the collaboration between people and Artificial Intelligence.

To properly execute a digital transformation initiative, from cloud computing and business process automation to artificial intelligence and IoT, organizations need to have the right technical team in place, and building that team is not the easiest thing to do.

Whether you decide to assemble an in-house development team to meet ongoing demands, hire individual contractors to fill immediate needs, or use IT staff augmentation companies to streamline operations, you need to look for team members with the right expertise to develop your products and meet your business objectives.

John Griffin

John is the CEO and co-founder of Spiral Scout, a software development company based in San Francisco, California.

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