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May 16, 2024

Effective Strategies for Mitigating Risks in Staff Augmentation Services

 When it comes to staff augmentation, it is down to you to get it right.

In the world of software development, augmenting your in-house team with contractors is a great way to plug gaps in expertise and can be a cost-effective way to get development work done.

But as I explained in part 1 of this series on staff augmentation, you really need to know what you are doing. In this scenario, it is entirely up to you to recruit, onboard, and manage your team. 

Even if you have done it numerous times, it requires a discipline and approach that many businesses just don’t have the bandwidth to support, in which case working with a professional services firm that can become your dedicated innovation partner is a better option.

Having witnessed customers employ staff augmentation and outsourcing teams over the years, I’d say the failure rate when you compare the two models is ten to one. With staff augmentation, there are many more failures to launch, a higher turnover of people, and more scope for a project to go off the rails.

Still, if you know exactly what you want and how to find it, and if you are looking for specialist skills to plug into an existing team, staff augmentation delivers results.

Here are six things you should do to mitigate the risks involved with pursuing the staff augmentation model in software development:

Thoroughly vet your hires

Conduct rigorous vetting and screening of the staff augmentation vendor and individual contractors to ensure they have the necessary skills, experience, and cultural fit for your organization. Check references, portfolios, and certifications thoroughly. 

Require new recruits to undertake tests if necessary to determine their proficiency as developers. You want to avoid recruiting a team of ten, only to find you’ve got three superstars and seven team members that aren’t up to the job. Then you have to start all over again rebuilding the team. If you have excellent HR policies and practices in place, your chances of success are much greater.

Offer comprehensive training

Provide comprehensive training to augmented staff on your company's processes, tools, coding standards, and best practices to ensure consistency and quality. Have a good induction program. I’ve spoken to staff augmentation hires before who literally knew next to nothing about the firm they’d recently joined and had only rudimentary knowledge of the project they were assigned to.

This is more common than you’d think and goes for senior as well as junior hires. Some companies are just terrible at inducting and training new staff. This can set new contractors up to fail, because they don’t understand what you are setting out to achieve, and can bring their collective assumptions from their previous working life to bear on you and your organization. Invest the time to get them up to speed.

Clear processes and documentation

Establish clear processes, documentation standards, and communication channels from the start. This ensures that augmented staff understands project requirements, deadlines, and your company's workflows for seamless integration. This is actually crucial for offshore staff augmentation settings, where remote team members may be scattered around the world, and you expect them to become a cohesive unit quickly. 

Without clear documentation that everyone understands, people will default to what they know, which may not serve your organization well. 

Dedicated project management

Assign a dedicated project manager to oversee the augmented team, facilitate knowledge transfer, monitor progress, and address any issues or risks promptly. Your project manager should be adept at working with a mix of in-house staff and contractors, and know how to get the best out of everyone.

You simply can’t wing it in this sort of staffing arrangement. You may be short of a tester. Recruiting a person to fill that role quickly is imperative, otherwise it might slow the whole project down. Without a good business analyst in place, you may not get requirements documented accurately, setting the project off on the wrong foot.

Employing a professional services firm, you tap into a team that has these skill sets covered. With staff augmentation, it is typically up to you to assemble the skillset, person by person. 

Performance monitoring and feedback

Implement mechanisms for regularly monitoring performance, providing feedback, and addressing any skill gaps or misalignments with augmented staff members. 

Agile is a commonly used methodology in software development, but it means different things to different people. Continuous feedback, iteration, and improvement help keep projects on track, and this goes for the process of evaluating the team’s effectiveness. 

Robust security protocols

Implement robust security protocols to protect your company's data, intellectual property, and systems when working with external contractors. This includes secure access controls, data encryption, and non-disclosure agreements.

Clearly define intellectual property ownership and implement measures to protect your company's IP, such as non-compete clauses and confidentiality agreements. A contractor you hire this week could be back on the market in two months once the work is done, fresh with your company’s IP in their head. 

Be sure to protect yourself, ensuring that contractors need only access to information they need to get their work done, and legally protecting yourself from having sensitive company knowledge exploited by contractors.

It’s all about managing risk

In a conventional outsourcing arrangement, the firm you hire will have processes to mitigate the risks outlined above. When it comes to staff augmentation, it is down to you to get it right. If you are willing to provide that overhead to manage contractors, you can reap the rewards of staff augmentation.

On the other hand, you may find that costs are more predictable overall and the quality of software is higher when working with a software development outsourcing firm. 

This is the approach we favor at Accelerance. We’ve identified the best software firms in the world, vetting them to assess their suitability to partner with our customers. 

Get in touch to find out how finding an innovation partner can counter many of the risks associated with staff augmentation.

Rich Wanden

As Chief Customer Success Officer, Rich oversees Accelerance marketing and sales operations globally with a focus on helping customers make the best decisions for choosing a software development team and working together. Prior to joining Accelerance, Rich has worked in management consulting, IT advisory and...

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