By Pete Schmitt, CTO, cStor
5 Proven Tips for a Successful IT Staff Augmentation Initiative
If you’ve spent time working on a big IT project with challenging deadlines, or lost a key member of your staff amid such a project, you know all too well the value of having the right people in the right roles to get the job done. Without skilled staff, even the easiest of IT projects becomes daunting… never mind if there are other complexities you’re dealing with such as budget and time constraints.
Finding the best IT staff augmentation partner for your organization is an intentional effort that gives your company the necessary ‘safety net’ it needs to ensure IT projects get executed on time and on budget to deliver on the expected business benefits and outcomes. It’s like making sure you have the right equipment for the big game – and more than ten minutes before it starts when everyone in the company is in a state of panic.
Recently a cStor client faced an unusual situation with one open system administrator position, another sys-admin out on vacation overseas (can you say, “spotty wi-fi in Thailand”?), and the IT director on a remote camping trip with his son (can you say, “seriously off the grid?”).
It was the perfect trifecta of IT support challenges.
Since the ship doesn’t steer itself, they knew they needed an advanced IT resource who was familiar with their environment to keep things stable while key team members were away. Worse still, there was very little notice to fill the gaps.
The client contacted cStor after learning of the company’s staff augmentation services and broad talent pool of engineers. The cStor team quickly conducted a scoping call, and in less than thirty minutes, defined a clear engagement that could be properly staffed with the specific skill sets the client needed. After outlining a quote and within twenty-four hours, the engagement was booked and ready to go.
If you’re still wondering, “Why IT staff augmentation? Why not just hire more full-time employees?” Quite frankly, you may not always need additional staff around the clock. But having a partner in the wings who can respond quickly with the right staff, create a fast quote and schedule the right resources for you quickly can go a million miles towards the delivery of seamless support to the business.
Most companies also have peaks and valleys in their project load, so keeping some IT skills full-time while being able to add temporary staff to support a burst of activity is often just what the business needs, much like the client example above.
Beyond that, IT staff augmentation helps IT departments:
- Keep Costs in Check: don’t pay for full-time resources if they simply aren’t needed full time.
- Stay Flexible: this is arguably the most important attribute, so you can respond quickly to changing business needs or unplanned urgent projects.
- Maintain Control: focus key resources on the important work and source minor tasks or specialty projects to augment staff without losing control of who’s working on what.
- Minimize Risk: keep internal staff in charge during major projects while adding needed man-hours and skills rather than full-blown outsourcing of the entire project.
What to Look for in an IT Staff Augmentation Partner
Aside from such key benefits of IT staff augmentation, there are several important attributes to consider while looking for the right sourcing partner for your organization.
1. How quickly can they respond with exactly the right skills and resources?
Sometimes your staff challenges hit at the same time, such as having them out unexpectedly for emergencies, overlapping PTO schedules or illness. Be sure your partner is both familiar and skilled in your specific environment’s infrastructure so everything can be kept stable while resources are out of the office and/or while a rush project is underway.
2. Build the partner relationship before you actually have a need, whether it is routine or in an emergency.
There’s nothing like trying to build instant rapport and deliver a complete knowledge transfer to the new staff your partner brings to the table while in the middle of an emergency. If you have an existing relationship and the partner knows your environment and internal team skills, then getting their help “at the last minute” for an emergency or unplanned need is light years easier than doing that with a stranger.
In other words, you don’t want to put the fate of an important project in the hands of a partner you just met ten minutes ago. Be sure the partner can respond quickly with a quote and deploy the resources you need almost as quickly — ideally within hours if not minutes — but certainly better than days.
3. Make sure service levels and references reflect rock stars, not just warm bodies.
The truth is many staff augmentation firms staff mid-level resources with moderate skills and just enough ability to keep the lights on and the place from burning down. But some staff augmentation firms have highly skilled staff that not only keep the lights on but add new insight and value to their efforts, even if they’re only temporary.
Be sure the firm has a reputation for delivering on promises, offering highly skilled staff, and can provide references that can attest to the quality and value. Once you find that, the partner is no longer just a vendor to fill the gaps, they become a partner in your success, and that’s exactly the goal.
4. Be sure you clearly define what success looks like.
Once you have a relationship with the IT staff augmentation partner and have a project need, be sure to document and clearly articulate the goals, expectations and timeline for the engagement to ensure success. Also set aside time at the onset of the project for a team meeting to review Q & A with your internal staff as well as temporary staff.
Getting started without those in place and the opportunity for knowledge transfer can be a recipe for disaster. Don’t leave goals and expectations to chance.
5. Look at it as a long-term partnership, not a short-term band-aid.
The more you view the IT staff augmentation partner as a true, long-term component of your success rather than a short-term, quick-fix for an immediate pain, the better off you’ll be.
The time and effort you put into sharing details of your organization, building that trust and helping the partner’s resources understand your environment, workflows and culture can be leveraged in subsequent projects. That means you can save significant time, budget and likely headaches when future needs arise.
IT staff augmentation partners should be a key component of your strategy, helping you create a resource ‘safety net’ that understands your business and can fill needed gaps when, how and where you need them. Whether it’s a rescue mission on a floundering initiative or an upcoming high-visibility project that your business goals are depending on, staff augmentation partners should be trusted advisors that help get the job done on time, on budget, every time.
If you have questions about other criteria for finding the right IT staff augmentation partner for your organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out, I’d love to connect.