The Proof is in the Output: Outsourcing vs Staff Augmentation

To call the work pace of today ‘hectic’ would indeed be an understatement.  A few decades ago, they called the corporate scenario the ‘ratrace’, mainly because it seems like a never-ending cycle of work done at a pace that defies (at the time) the norm.  The speed and sheer amount of work done by any good sized company today would probably be deemed as ‘impossible’, when viewed by those who were already working during the ratrace era.  This is the inevitable price of progress.  Business owners wanted to make a better profit, to churn out more products, do faster service, so automation was invented.  Seeing as how beneficial automation was, it was deemed that the workforce could now be minimized, hence the phenomena of downsizing.  This reduction in the workforce, however, often left the company severely undermanned, so companies learned to ask other groups to do the work for them, for a price.  Thus the advent of outsourcing.

Now another work phenomenon is going around the corporate scenario: staff augmentation.  There is a common misconception that it is actually one and the same as outsourcing.  Truth be told, the similarity stops at how it benefits a contracting company.  Both measures are intended to bolster productivity of a company, while keeping the accompanying expense at a manageable level.

Staff Augmentation

As the name suggests, staff augmentation works by augmenting your existing staff with qualified, and oftentimes certified professionals.  These professionals are brought in to collaborate with the existing team or department.  Depending on the agreed upon duration, these professionals can work for the length of the project, ensuring that it reaches the targeted goal, and for some, stay long enough to ascertain that the project can still run well enough with the team it will be left with.  In other scenarios, these professionals can work for the duration of a specific contract, and only for the specific agreed upon duration.

There are companies who prefer this because the presence of the professional working alongside the in-house group allows everything to be done ‘within the home court’, so to speak.  There is the opportunity to see how things develop, and also the chance that the internal group working with the professionals may pick up some of the tricks of the trade.  For companies concerned with keeping certain corporate strategies and methodologies a secret, this set up would indeed work well for them, as everything is still done in-house, and the professionals themselves are made to sign a non-disclosure agreement that binds them even well after the accomplishment of the project.

This set-up is often also viewed as good for the morale of the team as the professional taken on to work with the team poses no ‘threat’ to any of them, in the context of the professional being made to replace a member of the in-house team.  Depending on the provider of the staff augmentation service, staffing needs are usually flexible, allowing a contracting company to ask that the augmentation service be ‘flexible’, so as to adapt to the specific needs of the team of project.

Outsourced Service

Outsourced services normally take on a specific project and utilize their own resources and staffing to accomplish it.  This means that a specific task, such as sales, marketing, creative services, accounting, HR, or even administration can be done by another team located outside of the company, and sometimes even well away from the country of the contracting company.

While this may sound a bit unnerving to those used to micromanaging company operations, it may give the benefit of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ scenario: by allowing another entity to handle the concerns and issues of a task, the in-house personnel may focus more on other concerns unhindered and with full focus.  This is because reputable outsourcing groups bank of the quality of their work, supported by a ‘satisfaction guarantee’ in the agreement with them.  This means that the outsourcing group is expected to meet and even exceed the expectations set on them by the contracting company.

Outsourcing companies today are also as varied as the various needs of a company, allowing them to take on a diverse array of tasks, utilising professionals within their own locale.  These providers are also aware that contracting companies may have their own standards and methods of doing things, and are quite amenable to adapting their own services to adapt to this.  As most, if not all, operations today are data-driven, these outsourced providers deliver periodic comprehensive reports, allowing the contracting company to track the progress, or lack thereof, of a project or task even when it is being done in a far-off location.

Regardless of the choice made between taking on a staff augmentation service or an outsourced provider, what is most important is that there is a clear goal as to why a specific department needs either one of these services.  An estimated timeline for completion of the project or task can then be derived, and as the project goes along, benchmarks can be made, so as to determine if contracting the services of either one is beneficial to the company.

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