Signs telling you it’s high time you scaled the product team
Among many good reasons to bring more people to your team, a few of them should make your heart beat faster and your head look for new options. Let’s take a look at the common scenarios that push startups and mature companies to start looking for team augmentation services.
When your customer base grow overnight
Crazy as it may seem, now, in the COVID-19 economy, we’re observing a sudden bloom of some industries like medical companies, e-commerce businesses, and delivery applications which benefited from the forced and sudden change in global lifestyle.
Growing demand for your services will probably demand better performance, more server resources, or new features. What’s more, you’ll need to deliver them faster than ever.
When your product is scaling up
Even with the most talented in-house team, you may be looking for new forces to join your squad. One of the signs to scale your team is when your product or service is reaching out to new markets (which often require adding new features relevant to new users in those markets).
Another, when the complexity of your product increases which makes your product backlog bloat. As a result, your team can’t keep up with producing new features – or modernizing the existing components of the system – as fast as your leadership expects. If you know your global success relies on the development speed of your overloaded team, it’s time to seek support.
When your local market is drained from talents
As Code Institute states in their report, even 40% of employers face difficulties in finding and hiring the right talents. Software companies and product companies are also affected by the economy of the shortage funnel. If there is not enough expertise on your market, you might want to look ahead and engage outsourced talents.
This way, you’re reaching out to developers who have mastered the technology stack your team is familiar with, and who after a well-prepared onboarding, can quickly become valuable assets in your project team.
What is team augmentation?
In software development, we often refer to team augmentation to define a cooperation model in which people from another, remote company, complement your own in-house team. They work side-by-side with your engineers like they were your own remote employees. Except they are not on your payroll.
As opposed to a “dedicated product team”, in team augmentation model companies look for particular roles, usually engineering ones such as frontend or backend developers. The rest of the team is on their side. Such an approach of hourly-based or monthly-fee for a person has some traps you can easily bump into, especially if you’re dealing with team augmentation for the first time. It’s not for everyone.
Looking on the bright side: pros of team augmentation
The fact that you need to scale fast doesn’t mean it needs to be furious. Team augmentation (or IT outsourcing) can be one of the ways to set your product for success. The list of benefits of such an approach is quite powerful.
- Flexibility. Having the opportunity to scale your team up and down gives you leverage, especially if your service is seasonal. Educational or travel businesses often need to refresh their product offering either in or before the summer to attract new users.
- Expertise. Not many people can be Jack-of-all-trades. Some functionalities, redesigns, or changes in the app architecture may demand the skills you never needed in your team. IT outsourcing helps you reach out to the brightest minds outside of your local pool and use their technical expertise, creativity, or analytical skills right when you need them.
- Cost-effectiveness. A typical recruitment process takes up to 42 days and is often backed by a recruitment agency with even 20% commission. According to Forbes, the cost of a single software development recruitment reaches 14k pounds. Add annual leaves, sick leaves, and other holidays to the pool. That’s insane! No surprise, in most of the cases, team augmentation can be much cheaper than finding, hiring and employing a software developer in the local market. With team augmentation, you can receive pre-qualified profiles in only 2 days!
- Greater control over the project. You keep the product’s roadmap, storyboard, designs source code in your repositories, and on your servers. On top of that, at Merixstudio, you get a 4-week risk-free trial period!
A fly in the ointment: cons of team augmentation
Software development is not only sugar and roses. Team augmentation comes with some additional work to do. Otherwise, you risk that despite growing your team, you won’t grow its productivity even after several months of cooperation.
- Need for in-house supervision. Your new team members will be working away from the core team. Remote cooperation with new developers will require supervision both on the client’s end (just like in the case of in-house developers) as well as on our end (because your additional team members are after all our employees).
- Need for proper onboarding and introductory training. It’s said that new hires who went through a structured onboarding process tend to increase their productivity by 50% compared with their counterparts who didn’t experience such onboarding. The same refers to outsourced specialists, also the ones hired to help you modernize the outdated system and grow your business simulatneously. A proper introduction to a company's work environment, processes, safety procedures, tools, and best practices requires a lot of work on the client’s end but pays back with better team integration, higher productivity, and improved profitability.
- Need for the impeccable communication process. Working remotely with new colleagues can be a challenge. A lot depends on the ability to build trust through frequent and transparent communication. Experienced outsourcing teams can help you build communication channels and touchpoints, however its execution depends a lot on communication habits on your end.
What is the process of a successful team scaleup through team augmentation like (from Merixstudio’s perspective)
Our team has helped many startups and growing companies speed up their development with new expert forces. Based on our experience with the small and dynamic as well as with the big and stable, we found a working approach to team augmentation.
Start with the basics
Everything starts with understanding the client’s needs. I know, it sounds a bit cliché, but that’s the starting point not only for a fully self-managed project development team but also for team augmentation service. Digging into our clients’ current situation, goals, and expectations towards their team’s competencies gives us the opportunity to cherry-pick the right candidates to join their team.
How do we do it? By having one (or many) open conversations over real or virtual coffee. We make sure that the objectives and expectations of our clients are clear and that the client feels comfortable with the way we compose the best teams. Who’s involved on our end? An account manager, a technology lead, and a project manager as long as it brings value to the conversation.
Choose the right competencies
Knowing why, when, and who should strengthen our client’s team, we start an internal recruitment process by reviewing the skills and competencies of our employees to offer the best possible match. Our goal is to select the right team composition with regards to their professional experience, participation in similar projects, and tech stack match. On the human side, we always aim for choosing people who like to work together as it increases the chance for better performance in the client’s team.
Since our in-house team crossed the magic line of 150 full-stack agile software experts, the number of possible team configurations is enormous. The most common scenarios we worked with were:
- Developers only (full-stack, backend, frontend, mobile-only or mixed)
- Developers + Designers
- Developers + Quality Assurance Specialists
No matter the configuration, there’s always a project manager involved on our end to take care of transparent and frequent communication. We find their participation substantial for the outsourcing project success.
Make the paperwork work
Once the team composition is set and approved, we can move to the legal matters. At this point, our clients already know our way of work and our rates, so signing the deal is a matter of discussing the details between our legal departments. We make sure that the contract benefits both parties and properly indemnifies their businesses.
Onboard the team
When all is set and done, we can move to making the new team members aligned with the in-house team. At this point, we schedule a kick-off meeting for the entire team to get to know one another and handover some basic information about the project.
The augmented team will go through several internal pieces of training, instruction meetings, and mentoring sessions to foster efficient cooperation between the local and remote crew. If you decide to work with us, we’ll show you how to efficiently onboard the team in only 1 week!
How to increase the chances of success with team augmentation?
Companies that successfully incorporated staff augmentations to their modus operandi know how to leverage the expertise of remote developers. There are four things they do differently. You can do them, too.
- Define your expectations as clearly as possible. No matter if you’re hiring directly, through a recruitment agency, or team augmentation, you need to know what you, your team, and your business is expecting from the new developers. What traits, attitude, and competencies do they need to have in order to bring added value to your product?
- Prepare the onboarding as well as the project onset. In other words, make sure that no one needs to wait for access to your project tools, saying hi to your in-house team, or the introduction to the project structure, deadlines, and deliverables. Keep in mind to set two separate meetings for the team and project introduction to allot enough time for going through project documentation.
- Don’t be surprised by a temporary decrease in the team’s velocity. According to psychologist Bruce Tuckman, every team goes through four development stages: forming, storming, norming, performing. What does it mean in practice? That every new team member on board needs time to become productive in a new team, new project, and under new circumstances. Luckily, the better you prepare for onboarding new members and including them in your project communication, the shorter the time before your team’s velocity increases.
- Take care of your team’s professional development. Equally. In successful augmented teams, all members share the concern and the opportunities for development provided by the client’s company. If you’re not able to include your remote staff in your product training, brainstorming, or other activities, you’re missing out on leveraging from an integrated and motivated team. In such a case, consider rotating the outsourced developers at least once a year to avoid unnecessary burnouts that can be risky for the entire project.
Team Augmentation success stories
Team Augmentation can be an effective solution for scaling up development teams regardless of company size or industry. In fact, we cooperated with a whole range of clients and diversified projects using this model of collaboration. The key is always to adjust it to particular needs and specific requirements.
The founders of Sheepblue, AI-driven software for employee scheduling, decided for our team augmentation support after collaborating with us on their previous project. This time they needed reliable and talented experts to take ownership of frontend development of their SaaS solution. Our engineers were responsible for the implementation of the Sheepblue’s key features like managing shift boards and displaying resources overviews. One of the biggest challenges of our cooperation was to keep ongoing and smooth communication between the Merixstudio frontend team in Poznan and the client’s in-house developers in Vienna. To achieve this we attached great importance to maintaining information flow, anticipate issues, and react quickly to the problems.
What does our client think about our collaboration?
Whenever there was a feeling of something not going well, such as the communication with a team member, Merixstudio had a good sense of it, and they had an excellent process to escalate issues in the best way. They addressed issues right away before they became problematic.
Read the whole Sheepblue review on Clutch.
Moneyfarm is one of the leading digital wealth management companies in Europe. Having almost 40,000 clients onboard they were looking for a way to scale the team fast so that their app could adjust to the growing customer base. Their core requirement toward external React developers who were meant to support their in-house team was to quickly adapt and participate in performing key tasks like redesigning the existing dashboard. We were highly aware that in this case, fast onboarding plays and super effective work will crucial role to meet the client’s needs.
What does our client think about our collaboration?
I would say that they're self-starting. They pick up work quickly and take it through to the end—often in less time than we had required. They met and even exceeded deadlines that we set so I'm very happy in general.
Read the full Moneyfarm case study.
Burrow, the Y Combinator seeded company that produces and distributes innovative furniture, is the best example of how team augmentation can help in scaling a digital product and introduce changes to improve it. With only a few (but well-chosen!) external employees you can gain access to valuable expertise and a fresh look at your problems. To find reliable, talented developers Burrow compared 16 companies in terms of technical skills as well as culture fit. The company was about handing over a responsible and advanced task of updating the app, moving from a legacy state management system to a cutting edge solution, and increasing the performance of their application. We needed to accommodate and balance new solutions we recommended to perform frontend refactoring and picking up the client’s approach.
What does our client think about our collaboration?
Prior to Merix Studio joining our team, it would take us months to launch new product lines on our e-commerce application. After integrating with them and updating our infrastructure to support the new state management framework and a headless content management system, we are now able to launch new products in a matter of days and provide our e-commerce team a way to do so without the need of engineers!
Read the whole Burrow review on Clutch.
Final thoughts on scaling your product development team - it’s all about people
No matter how you’ve decided to scale your team, you’re on a difficult but also a rewarding journey. To squeeze the juice out of it, make sure you get the best possible people on the market and you lead them to success as one team, no matter if they work in-house as your employees or remotely as outsourced specialists.
The good news is that if you decide on a team augmentation model, you don’t have to find the right people alone. With access to the top world talents and the proven processes and practices from established and awarded IT outsourcing companies such as Merixstudio, you can easily benefit from fast team composition and more.
Still not sure if team augmentation is a way to go? Have a virtual coffee with our team and ask for more examples of successful outsourcing.