Staff augmentation is a way for companies to fill in the gap between the skillset they have and the missing skills they need for a particular project. Though businesses around the globe enjoy the benefits of this alternative, the service still raises doubts among many users. Are you skeptical about IT staff augmentation, too? Then read a comprehensive talk of Alena Kuptsova, our blog contributor, with Slava Ovchinnikov, CTO at Modsen. He comments on the most common myths about the service and reveals how Modsen tackles possible disadvantages.
Alena: Hi, Slava! Hope you’re doing well. Thank you for joining me for an interview!
Slava: Hi, Alena! I’m fine, thank you. It’s my pleasure to answer your questions!
A.: One of the services that Modsen offers is augmenting the in-house teams of our clients with top-class software development specialists. The service is quite popular globally. But the truth is, some businesses are afraid of engaging outstaffed specialists on their projects because of myths circulating around the topic. I suggest we find out if these misconceptions have anything to do with reality and clarify all the uncertainties.
Slava: Sure, let’s bust those myths!
A.: My first question is related to the cost of staff augmentation. Is it more expensive than hiring an in-house team?
S.: It depends on the type of task. As a rule, properly arranged staff augmentation is cheaper. Hiring an in-house team requires expertise and certain resources, including time.
Here’s a vivid example. A company needs mobile app developers to build a product. The active development stage takes six months, and the support stage requires one in-house engineer. Is it sensible to hire a full team that you’ll have to disband in half a year? And what if the project time is about 2–3 months?
In this case, staff augmentation acts as the rental of a tool for solving a problem or as a serverless solution. The client pays only for the resources used and doesn’t get involved in setting up and maintaining the environment. These tasks are delegated to the outstaffing company that handles the hiring, training, equipping, and staffing. As a result, the client can swing into action much faster and with fewer expertise risks if this is, for instance, a new field for the client.
A.: It turns out that it’s possible to save both time and money. Great! How can one save money by augmenting staff with Modsen?
S.: The price depends on a developer’s location, specialist area, and skill level. To save our client's budget, we at Modsen consider every request individually finding the ideal price-to-quality balance and offering various options for team composition and skillset based on our client’s needs.
Let me illustrate it with a real-life example. A client of ours asked us for 8 senior backend engineers. After several rounds of thorough discussion with the Architect and Head of .NET Department, we decided to involve only 2 senior and 4 middle engineers. This definitely affected the price but not the quality or timeframe of the solution. In that case, there was no need for a large team of highly qualified engineers with huge job experience.
A.: That was unexpected! I’m sure the client was happy. Now, that we’ve covered the topic of money, let’s move over to the next myth.
A.: Many business owners believe too much time is wasted on selecting engineers and getting them familiar with the company. Please tell us more about the integration of outstaffed engineers.
S.: As a matter of fact, it’s a two-way process that depends on a developer’s professional level and experience, on the one hand, and on the documentation, specificity, and complexity of the domain or project, and onboarding process, on the other hand. Speaking from the perspective of an engineer, there is no difference in the adaptation speed between the regular hiring and staff augmentation service.
A.: And what about Modsen teams? How much time does it usually take to join a project?
S.: Modsen teams can join a project within several days. On-project adaptation correlates with an engineer’s experience. Senior developers need less time for integration. As a rule, they show strong results during the first days of work.
Our engineers have extensive, diverse experience in various industries, tech stacks, and architectural approaches. That’s why they adapt very quickly and effectively as compared to engineers with narrowly-focused backgrounds.
A.: I see. Now, let’s talk about the quality. This matter is even more serious than fast staff integration. One may conclude that as long as staff augmentation brings a decrease in costs, the quality of the developed software is poor. Is it really so?
S.: The quality of software can suffer for several reasons. First, lack of expertise or experience. To understand what good code is one needs to study a lot of literature and deal with different approaches and projects. A good architect always sees what a product needs and how it will develop in the long run. They also should be practiced in project implementation and after-release watch.
The second reason is low priority or no requirements to code. Sadly, to comply with the extremely tight implementation time limits, less time is sometimes devoted to the quality of code as well as to testing. Consequently, the code quality is thrown under the bus.
Modsen pays close attention to the professional growth of our technical specialists. A highly-qualified mentor is assigned to each engineer. We run step-wise technical interviews, create workflow charts, and hold technical meetups. Our developers take specialized courses, study advanced technical literature, and eventually get certified.
A.: Seems like an all-around approach. Let’s go further.
A.: Businesses can be worried that they’ll lose all control of their project if outside developers do the job. Can they actually follow the project's progress?
S.: No doubt, they can!
A.: What options do you offer to our clients in terms of project control?
S.: Flexible project management methods are actively used in software development. I won’t surprise anyone if I say that it’s better to use something you’ve had experience with and what has proved to be effective historically with products of other global companies.
In most cases, we work using classic Scrum and Kanban methods (according to the specificity of a project). These methods, if used correctly, make it possible to transparently control and improve team performance and plan task completion time.
A.: Right. We’ve spoken about managing the entire project and tasks, and now let’s switch to managing the team. Is it too difficult to communicate and coordinate with augmented staff?
S.: I would say it's no more difficult than managing any other team, including your own.
The coronavirus period also allowed many companies to pay more attention to effective management of teams in a remote work format.
I believe that soft skills are just as valuable as hard skills. We at Modsen pay special attention to the communication process and do our best to make it easy, fast and efficient, so I can say with certainty that you will get a positive experience from coordination with Modsen augmented staff.
A.: How exactly? Do you use any special tools?
S.: In our day-to-day operation, we use a wide array of trusted communication tools, such as Slack, Teams, Skype, Jira, Confluence, ClickUp, Zoom, AirTable, Google Meetings, Calendar, and others.
A.: What a list to choose from! Digging deeper into the topic, we’ll see that some other aspects of staff augmentation as a business strategy may seem risky. Companies may have worries about working with a team from another country or be afraid that their staffing partner won’t be able to deliver the project in time. What steps do you take to mitigate these risks?
S.: Actually, we apply risk management techniques and interim deadlines to handle this. Modsen focuses on planning and complying with the time limits. We always discuss all possible risks with our clients in advance and offer solutions targeted at meeting the client’s requirements.
We develop our software transparently using flexible methods. This enables us to control and plan the workload for a distributed team.
Usually, the time difference is not a problem. We always find a middle ground between the client and the remote team and choose suitable times for meetups to discuss project planning, ongoing evaluation, and analysis.
A.: As they say, there's always room for common ground. I’m proud that this is Modsen’s priority. But we’ve got several more myths to bust. The next one is that the augmented staff won’t guarantee data security. How can one be certain that confidential information will not be disclosed or lost?
S.: We take the security of our solutions very seriously and follow the latest approaches and requirements for safe software development and testing.
Data security is regularly and rigorously highlighted at our internal technical meetings. For instance, our last meeting was dedicated to the OWASP Top 10 standards of the most critical security risks to web applications.
Training, certification, external expert audit of our solutions, and pen testing – these are the major activities our team performs to ensure security. After all, our clients see for themselves that our engineers have a high level of proficiency in security as proved by external audits and certifications.
A.: True, customers don’t lie. Speaking of customers, how important is the size of a business that wants to enhance their software development team? Can a small or medium-sized company benefit from staff augmentation?
S.: Definitely! As engineering helps automate and simplify any business processes, it benefits any business.
In some industries and fields, it takes enormous effort to hire a dedicated expert only for a certain stage of product development or analysis. Few engineers wish to join a project or part of the project for just a few months. Modsen helps quickly handle this issue and offers high-level specialists with solid experience and expertise in one or another area.
Have a look at our portfolio, and you’ll see a lot of use cases and solutions that helped small and medium businesses achieve their goals!
A.: Is there a specific industry where staff augmentation can be applied best?
S.: Staff augmentation fits a huge number of domains and depends mainly on a client’s needs. So businesses from any industry can enhance their in-house team with outstaffed professionals
The only possible limitation is the use of unique, private commercial instruments. But this limitation, as a rule, is overcome by the training and adaptation of an engineer with a strong foundation in the given field. The result is smooth and fast inclusion into the production environment and adaptation.
A.: So, the size and sector of a business don’t matter. What about its location? Often, a client and the outstaffed team are located in opposite corners of the world. How do different locations and time zones affect the final project?
S.: Modsen tries to turn the time difference to our advantage. As I’ve mentioned, we always reach a compromise with our clients finding an acceptable communication channel and time windows for our teams to work together.
Additionally, different time zones make monitoring, “on-duty watch,” and continuous software development possible, bringing positive effects to the entire project.
A.: Very practical, I must admit. Then, do culture-related issues occur between the client’s in-house team and the augmented staff from a different country?
S.: This issue depends on the outstaffing company’s communication standards and soft skills. Our engineers value and respect our clients’ cultural backgrounds, processes, approaches, and teams.
As the CTO, I often help find a balanced way out, and I know for a fact that Modsen is flexible in the contacts with our clients. And their feedback proves this.
A.: Fair enough. And we’ve come to the last myth. Many businesses are reluctant to engage outside software developers because they don’t know what to expect and how to be sure of their skills. How does Modsen address this problem?
S.: We treat every contract individually – from selecting a proper engineer to offering suitable terms and conditions. Our clients have an opportunity to check our engineers’ qualifications. You can run multi-level examinations, such as technical interviews, tests, and practical problems. Also, you’re free to meet with the team online and even enjoy a software development trial period.
A.: Thank you so much, Slava, for your answers! That was an all-encompassing clarification of the logic behind the myths about staff augmentation in software development. Hope to see you soon for another talk.
S.: Anytime! Take care!
Scaling up your team may be just what you need to boost your business growth. The crucial thing is to find the outstaffing partner that will suit you.
Modsen offers simple and effective staff augmentation services to strengthen your in-house team expertise and deliver top-notch projects. To learn more about enhancing your team with us, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to making your ideas come to life!