Why Work with a Development Agency as an Extension of Your Engineering Team

Jenna Rodrigues
December 27, 2022

Batman has Robin; Deadpool has Bob; Snoopy has Woodstock.

Even if your in-house software team is the cream of the crop, they still need a sidekick to help them deliver the best products... to get them out of a pickle, keep them honest, and help them see things from a fresh perspective. That's why many A-teams work with a development agency to extend their capacity and capabilities. If you're on the fence about working with an extended team, here's what you need to know.

Is Extended Development Team Just a Fancy Way of Saying Outsourcing?

Not exactly!

The extended team model, also called staff augmentation, is a long-term collaborative approach that combines in-house resources with an external team of engineers to work on the same projects together. Unlike most outsourcing models, where you'd hand over the entire project to an offshore team and hope for the best, your extended team will work closely with your developers in an ongoing partnership to achieve a shared goal.

Most team extension models favor onshoring or nearshoring to ensure seamless communication and close collaboration between the two teams. They're structured to help you achieve optimal cost-effectiveness and high-quality output by avoiding issues such as language barriers and time zone differences.

The Benefits of Using an Extended Engineering Team

Here's why you should consider working with a development agency and using the team extension model to support your in-house software team:

Save on Hiring Costs (and Headaches)

Hiring talent in today's tight labor market is challenging. It takes an average of 43 days to fill an engineering position. During that time, you could face a productivity loss of $33,000 and a recruitment cost of $32,000. Once you have made a hiring decision, you must jump through the administrative hoops and onboard the employee. On the other hand, a development agency sends you the right talent when you need it. You can scale up on a dime and only pay for the resources you use.

Access a Large Talent Pool and Fill Skill Gaps

Today's software development projects require a wide range of expertise. Hiring an in-house team that can cover every aspect can become cost-prohibitive. When you work with a development agency, you can tap into a vast talent pool, access various areas of expertise on-demand, and find developers with niche skills to gain a competitive advantage. Moreover, your agency will vet all the candidates before sending them your way to ensure they meet your standards. 

Stay in Control of the Development Cycle

Unlike traditional outsourcing, which often lacks transparency, team extension allows you to have complete control over the product development process and monitor the quality of the output. Direct communication between the in-house and extended team builds trust and improves collaboration, while shared responsibilities create accountability to ensure optimal productivity and quality of work. Since you'll manage the project in-house, you'll have complete visibility into the development timeline to avoid surprises at the eleventh hour.

Lower Overhead Costs and Faster Time to Market

Your agency will handle payroll, employee benefits, equipment, workstation or home office setup, tech support, and other administrative tasks. This helps you reduce operational expenses while eliminating various one-time costs required to get a new employee up and running. Thanks to a much shorter ramp-up period, you can expect a faster time to market — which could make the difference between gaining first-mover advantage or becoming a follower.

Grow Your In-house Skill Sets

A reputable development agency will provide you with experienced engineers who are up to speed with the latest techniques and technologies. They can also introduce new perspectives to support process improvement and innovation. Your in-house team can learn new skills and experiment with fresh ideas by collaborating closely with these resources, so they'll not only get more done but also improve the quality of your product in the long run. 

Lower Attrition Rates

A reputation development agency understands that happy developers make high-quality products, which, in turn, yield satisfied clients. They invest in training, benefits, and retention to foster loyalty and ensure that their engineers stick around. The low attrition rates mean you can access a consistent team of experts to support you through long-term projects to maximize cost-efficiency while avoiding issues that often happen when team members move in and out of a project.

How To Avoid Common Team Extension Pitfalls

A team extension model isn't without its challenges. Many clients make the mistake of searching for a short-term bandaid solution. However, this mindset won't help you reap the most benefits. Instead, you should build a long-term relationship with your development agency — giving your extended engineering team the time to align with your internal processes and business objectives to achieve the best results.

While using an extended team is often a cost-effective solution, you shouldn't focus on cutting costs and choose the cheapest option. Instead, consider the value you get from the relationship and the return on your investment. Choose an agency that will give you the best talent to augment your team's capabilities and propel your business forward with high-quality products.

Another common mistake is assuming the extended team will swoop in and "run with it" without clear direction. You must clearly communicate your business objectives and expectations for each project to set the team up for success. Define roles and responsibilities for each team member and provide detailed documentation to guide the development process.

While your development agency handles the mechanics of hiring and payroll, your extended team is part of your team. If you want them to row in the same direction and work seamlessly with your in-house engineers, you must treat them like your internal team so there will be no "us vs. them" situations in the collaborative process.

How To Choose a Development Agency For Team Extension

Your development agency should take the time to understand your business objectives and recommend a staffing strategy to help you augment the capabilities of your in-house team. Its culture, structure, talent pool, and company size should align with your product roadmap and vision. It should be able to support you throughout the entire product development cycle — from strategy and prototyping to engineering and QA.

While remote working and asynchronous communication has become the norm in today's work environment, you should consider time zone differences that could make synchronous collaboration impractical. As such, consider the location of your extended team, and make sure there's a structure to support seamless communication.

Additionally, verify that the agency has a track record of developing similar products for clients in your industry. If you're in a highly regulated sector (e.g., healthcare, finance,) ensure the agency can provide resources with relevant experience. Start by reading through client success stories or case studies on the agency’s website. Then, ask to speak with a few client contacts to get a sense of what it's like to work with the agency. 

Ready to add an all-expert team to support your in-house resources? Get in touch to see if we're the right fit. 

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