Simply put, staff augmentation is strategically adding resources to your teams, while outsourcing is contracting entire teams or project functions. Let’s take a more detailed look at these two software development strategies. In the end, both may have a place in your planning.

Staff augmentation

Staff augmentation refers to the process of adding external resources, such as contractors or freelancers, to an existing in-house organization to address specific skill gaps, accelerate project timelines, or leverage different talent pools. This approach allows organizations to augment their workforce temporarily, without the long-term commitment or overhead costs associated with hiring employees. Staff augmentation services are commonly engaged to enhance team capabilities, meet project deadlines, or access niche skills that may not be available internally.

Project outsourcing

Outsourcing involves contracting out entire functions or teams, such as project management, quality assurance, or DevOps, to external vendors or consultancies. Unlike staff augmentation, outsourcing entails delegating specific tasks and ownership to external partners, who assume responsibility for delivering defined outcomes or services. This approach allows organizations to focus on core business activities while leveraging the expertise and resources of external providers to handle non-core functions or special projects.

Highlighting the differences between staff aug vs. outsourcing

Let’s take a detailed look at the differences between both engagement models so you can better decide which one is the right fit for your project. 

Control and oversight

  • Staff Augmentation: In staff augmentation, the client organization retains direct control over the project, including decision-making, project management, and quality assurance. External resources, such as contractors or freelancers, integrate as part of the internal team and work under the client’s supervision. This may be important where adherence to internal processes and compliance are required.
  • Outsourcing: In outsourcing, the client organization delegates entire functions or processes to external partners. Outsourcing partners may have their own processes and workflows, and the client organization may have less visibility into day-to-day operations. However, effective governance mechanisms and communication channels can help maintain accountability and ensure alignment with business objectives.

Onboarding timing

  • Staff Augmentation: Onboarding in staff augmentation is typically faster compared to outsourcing. Contractors can be brought on board relatively quickly to seamlessly integrate with the existing in-house team and begin adding value and velocity.

Outsourcing: Onboarding timing in outsourcing may vary depending on the complexity of the function being outsourced and the need for knowledge transfer and alignment with internal processes. It often involves a more structured onboarding process to ensure effective collaboration between the client and the outsourcing partner.

Cross-team collaboration & cultural Fit

  • Staff Augmentation: Staff augmentation allows organizations to prioritize cultural fit by selecting contractors or freelancers who align with the company culture and values. This ensures that external resources seamlessly integrate with the existing team dynamics and contribute to a positive work environment. Communication frameworks in staff augmentation typically involve daily stand-ups, weekly status updates, and collaboration tools like Slack to ensure alignment and transparency.
  • Outsourcing: Cultural fit may be less emphasized in outsourcing arrangements, as the focus is primarily on selecting vendors based on their expertise and capabilities. Often there is a lead resource, Project Manager or Team Lead, who spearheads communication and reporting. Communication frameworks in outsourcing arrangements often include regular status meetings, monthly progress reports, and dedicated points of contact between the client and the outsourcing partner. While communication is still essential, it may be more formalized and structured compared to staff augmentation, given the separate nature of the organizations involved.

Both staff augmentation and outsourcing offer benefits in terms of flexibility, access to expertise, and resource optimization. They differ in terms of scope, control, and level of involvement. Understanding these differences and considering factors such as onboarding timing, cross-team collaboration, cultural fit, and communication can help organizations make informed decisions about which approach best suits their software development needs.

We are happy to discuss our take on these strategies and how a trusted software development consulting partner can help drive quality and value at your organization.