Staff Augmentation vs Consulting in Cyber Security

Staff augmentation and consulting are both ways to use outside help to achieve your business goals and complete projects, particularly in information technology. They operate in different ways meaning that, although both have benefits, one may be much better suited to your needs than the other. Here’s what you need to know and how to decide which is right for you.

What is staff augmentation?

Staff augmentation means hiring extra staff on a temporary basis. It’s not simply a case of getting extra people to perform general work during busy periods. Instead staff augmentation usually means bringing in people with specialist skills to perform a particular task, for example when you have a one-off project to complete.

What is consulting?

In an IT context, consulting means hiring outside experts to carry out a project on your behalf. Rather than hire staff and tell them what you do, you tell the experts what you need to achieve. They then work out the best way to do it and use their own facilities and staff to complete the project.

What are the similarities between staff augmentation and consulting?

Both approaches are based on using external staff temporarily rather than hiring permanent employees or being limited to achieving tasks with your existing staff.

In both cases, you’ll normally deal with specialists in the field. Recruitment agencies who know your industry well can help with staff augmentation by finding candidates with the skill set, experience and temperament to perform the specific role you need. Consultants have the expertise to manage a goal-based project and have access to the right staff to carry it out.

In both cases you’ll pay a specific fee, either to the agency handling the staff augmentation or to the consultants handling your project. They’ll then take care of additional employee-related costs such as taxes and benefits.

What are the differences between staff augmentation and consulting?

The main difference is the amount of control you exercise. With staff augmentation you decide how to achieve your goals and then tell your additional temporary workers how to achieve it (within reason.) With consulting, you decide the outcome you want to achieve and leave it up to the consultant how best to achieve it.

Another difference is that staff augmentation involves staff coming into your set-up (whether remotely or in person), meaning they’ll need to learn your corporate culture and the way you work. With consulting, the staff are normally working directly for and with the consultant and won’t interact much with your own employees.

Staff augmentation offers more flexibility, particularly with scaling a project or business. You can decide exactly how many extra workers you need and for how long. You may have more options for growing a project’s scope or cutting it short. With a consultant it’s often more of a package deal where you need to commit to the project to make it worth the fee.

With consulting, the workers will normally be using the consultant’s infrastructure, systems and equipment, though you may need to give access to your system for the finished product. With staff augmentation, you normally bring the staff into your infrastructure, subject to any security limits.

When is staff augmentation better than consulting?

Staff augmentation works best when:

  • You have a specific idea for a project: not just what it achieves, but how you want go about doing things. While you aren’t downplaying their expertise or ideas, the staff you bring in are effectively a resource for you to use.
  • You want to keep everything in-house and under your control. This may be important if you want to change your project’s schedule or focus as you go along.
  • You need 24/7 communication and updates so that you know exactly how the project is proceeding at any given moment.
  • Budget is an issue, either because you want to keep costs low or you need flexibility and control over how much you spend.

When is consulting better than staff augmentation?

Consulting works best when:

  • You need somebody to oversee the project, making decisions about how staff work, using their experience in managing such projects, and dealing with any unforeseen problems or barriers that mean the project approach has to change.
  • You have limited staff available to work on the project. This isn’t just about the number of employees, but also their skill set. For example, if you have a full-time cybersecurity team you could use them to design new network controls but use staff augmentation to bring in experts in installing physical network infrastructure. However, if you don’t have any staff with experience in network controls, you might be better off outsourcing the entire project to a consultant.
  • You are worried about tensions or resentment among your existing staff if you bring in external staff to work alongside them temporarily. (Although consulting will be the right short-term solution in such a case, you may need to review your work culture and management structure.)

Summary and next steps

Consulting and staff augmentation are both effective ways to boost your capacity to carry out a project: the difference is which set-up is right for the way you want to (and can) achieve the project’s goals.

If you opt for staff augmentation, you need to find people with the specific skills, technical and personal, for the tasks you need them to work on. You also want people who are readily available and happy to work on a temporary basis rather than looking for long-term positions.

Trying to find such workers yourself may take up so much time and effort that you undo the benefits of using staff augmentation. Instead, look for a specialist recruiter such as Intercast that understands your industry and can find the right candidates to meet your requirements.