COVID-19 continues to be a challenge for all of us. For many companies, the present challenge is how to keep employees safe while they reopen their offices and bring staff back onsite.
At the same time, IT departments must continue to support their organizations by developing new business capabilities. Traditionally, IT organizations have created new capabilities using a mix of employees and outside resources. Outside resources are often split between staff augmentation contractors and consulting teams engaged through a statement of work.
But is staff augmentation still a feasible approach during COVID-19?
Staff Augmentation Before COVID-19
Traditionally, IT organizations have used staff augmentation to supplement their employee base and as a first step in hiring new employees. Previously, you could bring staff aug resources onsite and orient them to your company. You could put them on an existing team, have them absorb your methods, and learn what needs to be done from an existing member of your team. Pre COVID-19, this made perfect sense and could be an efficient approach to supplement internal expertise and capacity.
Staff Augmentation During COVID-19
During COVID-19, there are new factors that leaders must examine when considering the use of staff augmentation resources. Here are the top 5 staff aug considerations:
During COVID-19, every person you bring onsite increases the risk of exposure in your office. Further, many employees are resisting coming back to the office until COVID-19 is past. Naturally, everyone wants to reduce the possibility of bringing COVID-19 back home to their loved ones. IT employees in particular are resisting coming back, because they feel they can be just as productive working from home. And they have proven this during their time away from the office. For your IT workers that do come back, are they open to sitting alongside non employees brought in on a staff augmentation basis while COVID-19 cases are still among us?
2. Limited Space
As offices reopen, the CDC has instructed businesses to implement social distancing procedures. In addition to reducing capacity, the standards also encourage staggered shifts, increased sanitation, and a host of other new protocols. Following these new procedures, you’ll be working with more limited facility space with social distancing measures in place. While fewer employees may want to return to the office, you’ll have far less space to house them. You’ll need to think through how you want to use that limited capacity. If you do use staff augmentation contractors, can they fit in your facility, potentially instead of internal employees?
Onboarding has the potential to be more challenging with staff augmentation during the pandemic. If you bring staff augmentation resources onsite, you may have limited onsite employees to conduct necessary orientation and training activities. Remotely, this could be time consuming and overall less successful in getting your staff aug workers ramped up and productive.
Similarly, management of your staff augmentation resources can also be more challenging remotely - or even onsite with potentially few staff onsite. You want to closely monitor your external workers for productivity and value given the price tag that comes with them. This is more challenging without being able to embed them in a full team of your employees onsite that would help create accountability. Remotely managing any employee is more time consuming, but for those that are contracted, it’s even more difficult.
5. Remotely Inexperienced
Ultimately, most staff augmentation resources have exclusively worked for clients onsite and have limited to no experience working remotely as a contractor. Likely their only experience remotely delivering has been the last few months. While you may not experience challenges onboarding or managing remote staff aug resources brought on before COVID-19, these are challenges you’ll need to face and weigh when engaging new staff augmentation placements.
These factors will make it much more complicated for IT organizations to continue to use staff augmentation as a vehicle to get work done during the pandemic. By some accounts, COVID-19 won’t be fully in our rear view mirror until 2022.
Changing Your Approach to Staff Augmentation
One idea for IT leadership to consider is to pause the use of staff aug resources until COVID-19 has passed. This would mean delivering new IT capabilities to your organization either using your own employees - who are already formed into effective teams - or using a consulting firm that has its own teams that can be assembled into the right set of resources to complete your critical projects.
If you decide the latter approach makes sense, the key will be choosing a consulting firm with experience working remotely without an onsite presence. Given that most consulting firms traditionally embed their teams onsite at a client’s office, many are still figuring out how to work without in-person day-to-day contact with client teams and stakeholders. Find a firm that already has a proven track record of delivering high value with a remote delivery model.
How are you working with outside resources, whether staff aug or consultants, during the pandemic? We’re conducting a research effort to understand the ways enterprises are coping with the challenges that COVID-19 has posed and the ways their use of third parties is changing. We’d love to include your input! Reach out to participate in a 15-minute interview with our research lead, Lisa Bruce. We'll provide our findings to all participants to help benchmark your approach against competition.