Building a Development Team for Growth
by Jenny Karkowski · Published on January 12, 2021
We recently completed a project that required full-time development resources to build native iOS and Android apps for a company’s membership base.
Short story: Their team lacked mobile expertise, so they chose to augment their staff with our development agency.
For the longer story, read the case study on that project.
This got us thinking about the imbalanced supply and demand of skilled software developers.
In today’s digital economy, the need for experienced software developers touches every industry and market. A quick look at any job hiring site reveals the glaring need for developers across every city, from large corporations down to small businesses and growing startups.
If hiring (and keeping) highly-sought-after developers isn’t hard enough already, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for software developers to grow 21% from 2018 to 2028, much more than the 5% growth across all occupations in the U.S.
So if a company is starting a project that needs some technical expertise, or maybe they’re mid-development on a mobile initiative that’s been stalled by developer roadblocks, what’s another option?
Enter IT staff augmentation.
What is staff augmentation?
Staff augmentation is often considered a partial form of outsourcing, but we view it more as a collaboration of strengths. When the fundamentals of what a company does best are paired alongside what a development agency does best, together they can create useful, valuable products where everybody (clients, users, and collaborating teams) is made to be the hero.
Take the project that inspired this post, Profile by Sanford, for example.
To create a better mobile experience for its members, Profile needed to redesign their poorly-functioning cross-platform apps into native iOS and Android apps.
Train in-house employees on iOS and Android platforms.
Hire additional staff fluent in mobile app development.
Partner with a technical team to augment their development needs.
The technical team on staff wasn’t fluent in custom mobile app development. Teaching them to develop for iOS and Android would not only delay the start of their project, but would also mean pulling these team members from other important work.
Profile is located in a small urban community lacking strong developer resources, so hiring experienced developers would be competitive and costly.
Weighing the challenges and available resources against their budget, Profile determined the best way to accomplish its project goals was by supplementing its team with iOS and Android experts from a development agency willing to work hand-in-hand with them on their project.
They knew their customer base best. We knew the technical aspects of their vision best.
So how does staff augmentation differ from outsourcing, managed services, or using a staffing agency?
With a fully outsourced project, you are trusting a team to deliver a final product without constant input and guidance from you and your team.
Yet unlike a completely outsourced project, augmented team members work in collaboration with your existing staff, under your direction, typically alongside a company’s project manager. You’re involved in every step of the process, maintaining control of your project and providing direction along the way.
While a traditional staffing agency embeds a developer within your company, with all the orientation and training that goes along with any new hire, staff augmentation is ideal for shifting project requirements by filling gaps when and where needed.
When the project wraps up, you don’t need to worry about how you’ll keep developers busy; by leveraging an augmented development team, you can bring them in when they’re needed and let them go when the project is in maintenance mode.
What are the benefits of augmenting your development needs?
Taking what we’ve learned from lending our development resources to many projects, we compiled a list of benefits for augmenting your development needs in today’s market, along with things to consider to ensure you have the best experience.
Of course this would be the first benefit. Using an augmented staff for your development projects allows you to get the most out of your budget by reducing costly administrative overhead from hiring in-house engineers, especially if you don’t need them all the time.
With an augmented staff, you have full-time resources available when you need it, and once your product is in maintenance mode, you can reduce your contracted hours as needed.
Let’s say your company outgrew its out-of-the-box CRM platform and needs a custom solution that works the same way you do. Yet your internal team is focused on growth and doesn’t have the time, or maybe the experience, to build it.
Augmenting your staff with experienced developers alleviates the training and support of new hires. Seasoned developers are well-versed at hitting the ground running. You can confidently give them a task and know they have the knowledge and capability of delivering results on time.
Since augmented teams aren’t involved in the day-to-day operations of a business, they remain objective and bring an unbiased, outsider’s perspective to your project.
In addition, an augmented team with experience in your industry can share insights they’ve gained on similar projects. These insights can help your organization stay innovative and provide an impact on your business beyond the single project for which they were originally hired to build.
Working with an augmented IT team provides the highest degree of flexibility: Use them when you need them. Let them go when you don’t.
If your company needs software built yet doesn’t have the budget to hire a developer or enough work to support a full-time team, borrowing a team to execute on an innovative solution is a great strategy.
Immediate access to resources
Maybe you have stellar designers on staff, but your project needs technical expertise around iOS and Android development.
Perhaps you have a project that needs to interact with another device via Bluetooth.
Maybe you’re located in a small city or rural town where resources are limited and finding someone available and capable is challenging for any role, let alone an experienced technical role.
Using an experienced tech agency to augment your IT needs gives you direct access to many niche skills without the worry of recruiting new team members or overloading existing staff.
Meet your deadlines and reduce risk
Skilled iOS and Android developers are in high demand nationwide - we already hit that point home several times, and this leads to a lot of employee attrition within organizations as developers switch gigs or get headhunted. Using a tech agency’s team alleviates the worry of replacing a developer mid-project and keeps your project’s timeline on track.
Edge out the competition
Anytime you bring in a specialist with proven experience, you broaden your organization’s ability to stand out in the marketplace.
What should you look for in an augmented development staff?
Now that we’ve outlined some benefits to boosting your project with a supplemented team, here’s some tips on selecting the right vendor to give your project the highest chance of success.
Superior communication skills
Chances are, your augmented team members will be working remotely, unless you’re working with a staffing company to physically put a temporary developer in your office. With remote work, a project will live or die by the remote team’s communication skills.
Even before a national pandemic made the majority of the workforce remote, many tech agencies like ourselves already operated remotely, so open and frequent communication comes naturally to those with years of experience working remotely.
Some questions to ask: How often will status updates be communicated? How responsive are they when you have a question or an impromptu call with stakeholders?
Honesty and transparency
How will you know where your project stands at any given time? Will you have the ability to see what the developers are working on? Are developers devoted solely to your project or are they working on other projects too? How many hours will be allocated to your project each week? How will roadblocks be communicated and overcome?
Level of experience
What projects have they lent their services to before? Where have they seen success and where have they experienced failure? Are they asking a lot of questions to understand your business objectives? Are they bringing potential speed bumps to your attention, along with suggested solutions?
These are just a handful of questions to ask before hiring a development team. When you’re ready to start vetting development agencies, download this free guide of 22 Questions to Ask a Development Team to help you choose the right team for your project.
If you’re worried about supporting a full-time development team, or just need someone to step in occasionally, give your project some oomph with our full-stack team of iOS and Android experts. We’re an experienced team of mobile software developers proudly based in Minnesota, and with communication and transparency our top priorities and greatest strengths, successful remote projects have become our specialty. Let’s chat.