What is the Difference Between Having a Comprehensive Software Engineering Partner and Simple Staff-Augmentation?

In the decades-old industry of software development, there has become a wide continuum of professional services readily available. This article examines how the industry has evolved into a spectrum of capabilities, from providing minimal task completion resources on one end, to providing comprehensive engineering resources, systems, and processes on the other end.  Therefore, this reality begs the question:

Difference Between a Comprehensive Software Engineering Partner and Simple Staff-Augmentation

What is the right “kind” of Software Development Partner for you?

The simple answer to the difference between comprehensive software engineering and simple software development staff-augmentation is this:  Proactivity versus Reactivity.

Simple staff-augmentation service providers are essentially staffing agencies.  It’s more of an HR function, helping to fill open positions where perceived to be needed, and in this case filling open positions and requirements for software development team members.  That can be as few as one or two resources, or perhaps many more.  But the common denominator in this scenario is that these resources are coming into an existing operation to fulfil specific, already identified task requirements.  They do what they’re told.  They are reactive in nature to what they deliver.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself.  It just might not be the best thing for what is really required.

Now contrast that reactive model to the comprehensive Software Engineering organization.

This type of vendor is highly proactive in nature.  Their initial common point of engagement with a client is very early in the entire development process, often at the point of ideation, when you are still trying to figure out what the best decision and approach might be to solve a genuine business problem with the use of software technology.

This is a consulting and design function.

A key element of this process typically starts with client education, informing you of all the various technological options available to solve the real problems on the table, helping you to better understand the financial ROI parameters to fit any potential solution into existing budget constraints, timetables and deadlines, etc. It is from this exploration and analysis function that the best solutions can be uniquely designed.

Could your business challenge be better served by implementing leading-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Extended Reality (Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality, Augmented Reality), Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things (IoT), QA automation, and more?  Are you fully up to speed on all of these things and understand how they might help?

Please realize that it is only on the other side of this consultative Discovery and Design process that it can reasonably even be known what kind and how many development resources might be required, their tech stacks, their skill sets and expertise, etc.  And from there, the actual resource positions needed can truly be determined.

But the work doesn’t stop there.  That is but a proper beginning.

Discovery and Design is followed by Onboarding and Engagement.  Far too many software development services providers do a poor job of turning great ideas into reality.  That doesn’t happen by chance, but by careful planning, execution, and project management.

The Onboarding process involves setting up the working, reporting, and communications parameters that best ensure that the work gets done most effectively, most expeditiously, delivered on time and within budget, at the highest levels of quality.  Obviously, that’s what every client wants, and is rightfully entitled to.  Isn’t that ultimately what you want?

But yet again, the work doesn’t end there.

Core software development (writing the code) is but one of three key areas that must be addressed to successfully deliver on that value proposition of getting the job done on time and within budget, at the highest levels of quality.  The other two areas have to do with acknowledging the other two major stakeholders in the software development process.

The first of those two other stakeholders is IT Operations.

To build a piece of software (not “shelfware”) may be a fairly straightforward proposition, which is all well and good; but was the first iteration/version of that new software perfect?  Surely not.  There’s no such thing.  Every piece of new software put into production will have its own unique performance characteristics, remaining bugs, opportunities for optimization, and cybersecurity needs (another critical path item).

Hence, the existence of Development and Security Operations (Dev/Sec/Ops, or sometimes referred to separately as DevOps and SecOps).

Dev/Sec/Ops comprises the dialogue and feedback loop that exists between your IT Operations and the development team that wrote the software.  Based on continuous monitoring, measuring, and analysis, improvement feedback is provided back to the software development team and is then added to the Product Development Roadmap, such that subsequent major and minor version releases incorporate these improvements and optimizations.

And yet, the work still isn’t done.

That’s because the third group of stakeholders is yet to be heard from, and this is the actual Users of the software.  They, too, get a vote.  That all-essential voice falls into the overall Quality Assurance (QA) process.  QA is looking at more than just “broke-fix” bug issues, but also how software performs relative to the expectation of those using it.

Additionally, other professional services may be layered into a solution to take the quality and overall ROI to new levels.

For example, is your solution Cloud-based?  If so, then chances are you’re paying a lot more for Cloud services than you have to.  Most companies do.  But you would never know that without the tools and the talent to use those tools to measure your actual usage and monthly bill and to compare that with your real-world requirements.  A comprehensive solution provider should be able to provide that for you.

Thus, a full-circle triad of voices can then all come together – the voice of the Business, the voice of IT Operations (inclusive of your infrastructure), and the voice of the Users.  Heeding these three voices allows software development to engage in the process of Continuous Improvement and Continuous Development (CI/CD).

This perspective is what facilitates the entire Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC).

Simple Staff-Augmentation may get you extra hands to do the work, but little more.  And perhaps that’s all you feel you need.  However, most importantly, staff-augmentation doesn’t ensure that what is being worked on is the right solution.  The worst ROI of any such development endeavor is to build a new App or System, deploy it, only to discover that it really doesn’t solve the original problem; and then have to scrap it and start all over.  Nor does it doesn’t guarantee quality, nor an ongoing process that fosters continuous improvement and innovation.

So what are you really looking for?  Raw talent alone?

Or, do you really need a true Solutions Provider, with the wherewithal to facilitate any or all of the entire Software Development Lifecycle both now and long into the future?  In the long-run, the latter always ends up representing the greatest ROI.

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