The False Choice Between Outsourcing and Hiring

The choice between outsourcing and hiring full-time engineers is often characterized as a choice between quality and speed. The shortage of skilled developers has made for extended hiring cycles for in-house developers--we're talking months--when roadmaps are urgent. On the other hand, many CTOs associate outsourcing with low quality--either via offshore projects where you lose control over the development process or via freelancers that bring reliability and consistency issues.

The combination of the shift to all remote work caused by the pandemic and emerging outsourcing models has exposed this narrative to be a false one. First, the epidemic has made the geography of employment nearly irrelevant. Everyone is remote. Tech workers are already moving out of expensive cities and tech hubs for more affordable locations that offer different quality of life experiences. And employers found that remote teams are just as or more productive than when everyone was in the office. 

"We might be more effective than we were working in a traditional way," said Mike Burns, CIO of 1000-employee Benco Dental. "Folks can focus, and they can collaborate with people with geographic barriers completely dissolved," he said. "It's been a really remarkable change for us."

At the same time, a fresh take on engineering staff augmentation provides businesses with access to global talent that places full-time engineers from talent-rich regions with talent-starved teams for long-term, sometimes indefinite engagements. These firms are not offering freelancers and are not offshore development houses. They focus on placing fully vetted, experienced developers who are trained and equipped to join teams, and hit the ground running.

The model has been dubbed Staff Augmentation 2.0 by some, contrasting it with traditional project-based outsourcing or short-term freelancing. The emphasis is on providing high-performing teammates with companies that need them, and fully supporting engineers and their clients with everything from IT resources to career development to performance measurement and monitoring. 

Four key elements characterize Staff Augmentation 2.0:

  • Long-term, embedded engagements
  • 360-degree vetting and intelligent matching
  • Hands-on support with onboarding, planning, and replacement
  • Rapid delivery of talent

The reality is that there is a world of engineering talent outside of tech hubs and outside of the United States, with developers that are hungry to work with leading companies and challenging products. In fact, the U.S. placed just 28th on HackerRank's ranking of companies with the best software engineers. Staff Augmentation 2.0 provides businesses with access to this talent and carefully matches engineers with companies to assure cultural and technical fit--both are critical for long-term assignments. It gives the client full-time senior engineers faster, and with little added management or HR overhead. 

"We focus on two things when hiring. First, find the best people you can in the world," said Matt Mullenweg, founder of all-remote WordPress creator Automattic. "And second, let them do their work. Just get out of their way."

Staff Augmentation 2.0 makes the best people in the world available to just about any business, with the support needed to ensure the team is successful. It is more like hiring a global recruiter with no fee than it is like outsourcing a project. It gives U.S.-based companies access to the skills they need when they need them, and for as long as they need them.

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