Staff Augmentation vs Professional Services

Staff augmentation and professional services are both ways to boost your workforce for a short-term, specific need. The main differences between the two involve who decides how to use the extra workers and where they operate. The real key is to think about what you need doing and which model best serves that need.

Staff Augmentation Defined

In the broadest sense, staff augmentation simply means taking on extra staff on a temporary basis. This could include seasonal workers and other staffing to cope with a general spike in demand and workload. However, in the IT sector “staff augmentation” usually refers specifically to taking on staff to work on a specific project. These workers will often have particular skills or experiences that make their hiring different to simply bringing in temporary staff to work in a general capacity.

Professional Services Defined

In the IT sector, professional services involves using an outside company to oversee and deliver a specific project. This will usually be a one-off requirement rather than an ongoing need. For example, it could be designing a new network, installing hardware or setting up an e-commerce site. Unlike with staff augmentation, you simply set out your end goal. The professional services provider will decide how to get there and will provide and direct staff to work on the project.

The Risk of Confusion

One of the main reasons people get confused about staff augmentation vs professional services is that they are mixing the two models up with one called “managed services”. This involves getting an outside company to take responsibility for some or all of your IT needs. They will not only select the staff to work on the tasks but will decide how to achieve your requirements. The big difference is that managed services is a long-term, ongoing arrangement that deals with day-to-day IT rather than a specific project.

Similarities and Differences

The main similarities between professional services and staff augmentation are the scope and the hiring logistics. Both involve working on specific projects, usually with a defined end goal and a fixed timescale. In both cases, you will usually rely on somebody else (either a specialist recruiter or a service provider) to find workers and to take care of many of their payroll and human resources requirements.

The main differences between professional services and staff augmentation are about who decides what the workers do and how to run the project. In very simple terms, staff augmentation means you get extra resources in the form of workers and decide how to use these resources. Contrastingly, professional services means you outsource a degree of both control and responsibility for the project.

Pros and Cons

Advantages of staff augmentation include the following:

  • You retain full control over running the project and assigning tasks to staff.
  • You can use extra workers with specialist skills that match the project, even if they wouldn’t be the best all-round candidate for permanent, day-to-day roles.
  • You have more flexibility about changing either the desired outcome or the means of achieving it as you work through the project.
  • You don’t necessarily have to take care of the payroll or HR issues with the additional staff.

Drawbacks of staff augmentation include the following:

  • You still need to either recruit the staff or use a recruitment consultant.
  • You may still need an element of on-boarding the new staff to your setup and culture.
  • Not all expert workers want to work within the staff augmentation model: some may prefer the consistency of a permanent role with a business or a consultancy.

Advantages of professional services include the following:

  • You don’t have to worry about the day-to-day hassles of running the project.
  • You don’t have to spend time or resources on recruitment or HR.
  • The service provider may have staff with specialist skills who know new or more efficient ways to achieve your goals.

Drawbacks of professional services include the following:

  • You’ll have to be comfortable giving up control of the project.
  • You need to develop precise and specific requirements for the project’s outcome and then clearly communicate them.
  • You may need to think about data privacy regulations when passing on any information to the service provider that helps them complete the task.

Which Model is Right for You?

Only you can decide whether staff augmentation or professional services is a better fit for your needs (or if an alternative model such as hiring permanent staff or using managed services may be more suitable.) However, as a rule of thumb staff augmentation is often better for the following cases:

  • You are managing a project and simply need extra staff.
  • You need people with specialist skills to work as part of your team.

Professional services could be a better fit in these circumstances:

  • The project is outside your normal scope, and you aren’t sure of the best way to run it.
  • You’re more concerned with the project’s outcome than the specific way to achieve it.

The Next Steps

If you’ve decided professional services is the right model for you, look for a specialist provider. For a good fit, don’t just look for providers who have experience and expertise in the particular area of IT that your project involves. Look also for ones who have a track record of working in your industry and with businesses of a similar size. This will help make sure they have a good understanding of the best way to run a professional services project and to properly appreciate your goals, requirements and restrictions.

If you’re opting for staff augmentation, a recruitment consultant can save you time, money and hassle in finding suitable staff. Look for a specialist such as Intercast that has worked both in the IT industry and with the staff augmentation model. This means they can identify candidates who are happy to work on this basis and have the specific experience and skills you need, given how you plan to deploy them.