In a staff augmentation agreement, one or more employees work half-time or full-time for your organization for an extended period of time (typically six months). The employee acts as an extension of your talent pool, available for anything you need and in close daily communication.
In a traditional project-based model, there is a constant tension between scope, budget, and shifting priorities. As a client, you need to know what you’re getting, when, and how much it will cost. You also need the flexibility to give feedback and deal with the reality that new details and needs are discovered during the process.
Managing all of these aspects inevitably adds overhead to projects, requiring project management time on both sides of the relationship. With a staff augmentation arrangement, you bypass much of this management, allowing everyone to focus on the work at hand instead of making estimates and managing scope and budget.
A staff augmentation arrangement typically comes at a lower hourly rate because it provides benefits to the vendor, guaranteeing an employee’s allocation and reducing overhead in the internal need to match employee time with project requirements. Think of it as a bulk purchase. The larger and longer a staff augmentation agreement, the lower the hourly rate can be.
When you abstract a business or a project, you can create the illusion that people are resources that can somehow be interchanged. In the real world, people are not interchangeable at all, especially when it comes to complex projects and knowledge work.
In a staff augmentation scenario, you minimize the loss of efficiency that comes from changing members on a team. You work with the same person or people every day, and that person’s knowledge of your organization and project become invaluable. When your staff augmentation person is on vacation or sick, you can still get coverage from others familiar with the project.
Many clients utilizing staff augmentation services are unable to find full time talent at the appropriate level of expertise. The talent pool is limited, and many qualified engineers prefer the challenge and support they get working closely with peers in the same field rather than working on a small web team at a larger organization.
Which will get you better results: two engineers working half-time or one working full-time? Engineers require deep focus to be effective, and lose significant time to the context switching required on multiple projects. You get the best results when your engineer is able to focus solely on your project for a long period of time.
With staff augmentation, your virtual staff member is closely connected to your organization as well as to the vendor’s. When she encounters a new challenge on your project, she will bring it to the other experts on her team for their thoughts and experiences. If an emergency occurs, she will bring in backup. With the whole team on her side, no challenge can stop her.
Staff augmentation typically makes the most sense for larger organizations with significant ongoing needs. It can also work for any organization with quickly changing priorities that would make a traditional estimation and scoping process a constant burden.
To get the best of both worlds, use staff augmentation for your ongoing needs but ramp up a project team when you have a larger chunk of work with a pressing deadline. Business relationships are all about finding the best ways to work together to make both parties successful.
Jody is a full stack Drupal expert. She does technical architecture, strategy, development, consulting, and developer training. Jody has worked on hundreds of Drupal projects since she began as a freelancer in 2006 and co-founded Zivtech in 2008. Jody grew up in the Philadelphia area and graduated from Harvey Mudd College in California in 2000.
View the discussion thread.
Tell us about your project