Staff Augmentation vs Outsourcing in Uncertain Times

In the immediate aftermath of global COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, job postings for software engineers fell by 20-30 percent. Clearly, many firms put hiring plans on hold. At the same time, postings for cybersecurity engineers rose, and .Net developers spiked as many businesses scrambled to adjust infrastructures to create remote-first versions of themselves.Uncertainty and change are the only things certain right now, and managers that do need to hire are going to be extra cautious about bringing on full-time staff. “Outsourcing” is often the answer to adding resources and reducing risk amid uncertainty and change. “How” is the question, as multiple versions of outsourcing are available.Outsourcing Software Engineering ProjectsOutsourcing a project to an overseas firm is usually done to reduce costs and/or to accelerate timelines when internal resources are already tapped. If your only concern is the price, this might work for you. But it is inherently risky, as you hand over a project to the outsourcer and wait for delivery. “A lot of outsourcing companies will nod their head to any and all requirements, in any time frame and under any budget,” says Hackernoon. “This is where the risk starts.”Software development is increasingly a team sport. In the age of agile development and continuous delivery, long-term partnerships are preferred over a transactional engagement. Once an outsourcer delivers your product, in most cases, your team will need to work with the code. One more thing: the COVID crisis exposed the fact that outsourcing firms in some countries cannot or do not support remote work, which caused some projects to be canceled during national lockdowns.Hire a Contractor or Freelance Software EngineerThe advantages of hiring a freelance engineer are straightforward, especially in uncertain economic times--you only pay for the work that needs to be done, with no long-term commitments. The risks are just as obvious, as there is no long-term commitment by the engineer. Lack of effort, missed deadlines, engineers leaving for greener pastures mid-project, and security are among the pitfalls, according to are also freelance agencies that manage networks of pre-vetted engineers for specific projects. These are different than gig marketplaces where you pick your freelancer based on their star ratings--buyer beware. Freelance agencies offer curated senior candidates to fill short-term knowledge gaps or for temporary development support.Software Engineering Staff Augmentation TeamsStaff augmentation is an “outsourcing strategy that organizations use globally to rapidly scale up their internal teams and better meet their project development and technology needs” (Hackernoon). Think full-time hire without the risk. You get experienced, engineers from regions where talent is abundant, but the opportunities are not. Staff augmentation firms are accountable to you, and you maintain control over the work, schedules, and roadmaps. It’s an ideal solution when you need long-term resources for mission-critical software in a continuous delivery environment.Staff augmentation is turnkey: firms are able to quickly and cost-effectively recruit, vet, onboard, and provide HR support for engineers in compatible geographies to create win-win partnerships. Because the firms maintain a network of qualified candidates in many disciplines, you always have the flexibility to scale up or down, or to shift to different skill sets if needs change in volatile times. This model is best used as a low-risk way to hire proven, high performing senior developers to extend your team, not as a quick fix for a short-term project.It’s All About QualityIn the new world of uncertainty and change, you need reliability and commitment. If what you have is genuinely a commoditized, one-off project, project outsourcing or a freelancer might work. If your software is critical to the success of your business, or if it is your business, quality is paramount. If you are looking for a partner to accelerate velocity to and be accountable to you for developing the product that you need to compete and win, without the financial risk or overhead burden of a full-time hire, staff augmentation can be an ideal solution.Andela has provided software engineering staff augmentation services for hundreds of businesses. To learn more about our partners have transitioned to augmented, distributed teams, download the e-book, “Making the Shift: Experts Share How to Rapidly Build and Scale Distributed Teams."

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