Re-Defining IT Staff Augmentation and Managed Services

Managed services vs IT staff augmentation. The internet is littered with articles discussing the pros and cons of each. These two models are the typical go-to’s. But it seems regardless of which direction you go, you’re probably not going to be satisfied with either.

Why? Because if you’re facing a talent shortage in your office, it’s most likely a symptom of a bigger problem that many face in the tech industry. It’s incredibly difficult to hire and retain the right people on your team. IT staff augmentation and managed services both sound good in theory, but neither is a viable, long-term cure.

But why shouldn’t these options be good long-term solutions? If we re-define each, we’ll find a solution to the tech talent shortage which takes the strengths from each outsourcing model, and answers objections to each.

Old definition of IT Staff Augmentation:

IT Staff augmentation is typically used as a quick solution to fill a gap in your team’s skill set. Designed as temp work, engagements usually last between three and six months. However, augmentation has been seen as a, “faceless, replaceable skill,” and many people have a sense of negativity when it comes to supplementing teams this way. In theory, though, the temporary hand should not be distinguished from other members of the IT department. A common praise of this outsourcing model is that it’s the best way to have control over your staff and development (compared to managed services, which I’ll get to in a moment).

So why it isn’t augmentation a long-term cure? It’s often project-based and paid at a high hourly rate.

Old definition of Managed Services:

Many people feel that managed services are a more viable long-term outsourcing solution. Managed services is when you contract with a company and they take care of whatever service you need provided. Scope, pricing, and other terms are all negotiated at a monthly price. The service provider provides training and strengthening their staff, and also delivers a product that aligns with the needs of their clients. These teams are scalable, which means they can grow with you.

With a regular outsourcing model, the client relinquishes all control, but with a managed service model, the client expresses more interest in how the job is completed. However, there is still not nearly the degree of control that the client has in an IT staff augmentation model.

So why is this model not good for the long-term? According to Chris Samuelson, a developer with Varsity News Network, “A lot of times in the new market, week to week you can have shifting goals, you can have shifting strategies, and so a lot of people are a little more rigid in scope, so want to change that all of a sudden you’re re-negotiating rates and the whole thing becomes kind of a mess.” Long-term relationships are built on a reliable ebb and flow, which many people don’t find to be a strength of managed services.

Redefining Managed Services and IT Staff Augmentation:

Each model has it’s strengths, each has it’s weaknesses. The way our company does outsourcing combines augmentation and managed services in an effort to use the strengths of one to address the weaknesses of the other.

What we like about IT staff augmentation:
-high degree of client control
-integration of the augmented staff into existing team
What we don’t like:
-short-term solution
What we like about managed services:
-it’s a long-term solution
-it’s a scalable model
-the contracted company is responsible for staff training and knowledge.
-the contracted company takes time to understand the specific needs of the client
What we don’t like:
-lack of control
-lack of communication
-developers often work for more than one client at once


So how do we integrate them? We begin with a simple change. Rather than us as a “managing service vendor,” we provide all the services, but our clients manage their own teams. Hiring specifically for their team means a better fit. Direct control and communication lead to a stronger team and development. Over time, “augmentation” of a team feels more like an “extension” of a team. To address Chris Samuelson’s concern, when your extra hands are an extension of your team, they’re just as integrated into the development as the rest of your team, so there should be no worry of coordinating with a busy contractor with developers working for many clients.

What does this mean for us?

We have
-high degree of client control
-integration of the augmented staff into existing team
-a long-term solution
-a scalable model
-responsibility for staff training and knowledge.
-we take time to understand the specific needs of the client

But what are our weaknesses?

We don’t fit those who are looking for a short-term fix. The best fit for our model is someone interested in our services for at least a year.

We commonly ask our clients what sort of challenges they face with this model. Many say this and only this: make sure to be ready for your new team members. Some of our clients have had to re-evaluate their internal processes because of their new remote team members (for the record, they said afterwards that it had been a good exercise for them which resulted in helpful changes). They also said it was helpful to have work lined up for their new team members.

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