Staff Augmentation, or outsourcing, can be a great fit for many projects. Because custom software development requires so many skillsets, that generally means you have to hire several people and you have to be enough of an expert to tell if they are quality candidates in each of the areas of expertise. That’s really hard to do! On top of that there’s the overhead of HR, payroll, benefits packages. With Bixly, you get a vetted team, with tons of experience, the brain trust of our entire company, and the ability to add and remove team members when needed.
Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday, Cris here, CEO, along with Andrew Savala, COO of Bixly. I appreciate you guys joining up on these episodes and we’re excited today to talk about doing outsourcing versus hiring internally. And here at Bixly, we refer to outsourcing as staff augmentation. So Andrew, this is the first question for you. Explain a little bit more, what is staff augmentation?
Sure. So, staff augmentation is when we bring our experienced developers alongside your team to help you get the coding done that you need to get done. So, it might be that you already have an existing team of developers, but you just are overwhelmed, you don’t have the time you need to kind of get those extra projects done. Maybe you’ve had a big one sitting in the backlog for quite a while. And it’s been sitting there for a year and it’s time to get that project done, or it could be that you don’t have any developers but you know you need developers for this next phase of work for you, but maybe the work is kind of [inaudible 00:01:09] it’s not super well-defined. You just kind of know you need a team of people to kind of get in there, understand the requirements better and kind of build your sort of startup version of your project.
Okay. That makes sense. And again, here at Bixly for those that are not aware of that haven’t worked with us, is our model more of by a pool of a few hours, kind of do one-off fixes as the required for that actual resource or is it fall in line more of a regular kind of employee schedule of 40 hours a week kind of thing?
Right. So, it’s definitely not like buying a pool of hours. These are developers that are going to be on your team. They’re going to be available to you in many cases 40 hours a week. You might need two devs full-time for the next six months. We can go ahead and provide those dedicated resources so you get to know them. They are in many cases, California-based developers. And so, you get to build relationships with your team. It’s basically as if they’re on your staff without you having to have the expertise on how to hire them and kind of all the overhead that comes with putting people on payroll and benefits and all those things.
Yeah. You touched on obviously one of those is I think the speed and being able to have some flexibility with getting people on quickly and also having kind of a depth to the bench. So, you mentioned maybe having one, two, more people on a project, we have a really deep bench here of different development stacks. So, whether using React or Angular on the front-end, we can obviously help out with that. If you’re looking to use Python on the back-end or maybe do some Dot Network or PHP, that sort of thing. Again, we are primarily a Python house, so that’s our bread and butter.
And we’re very focused on that, but we do have the ability to work on other languages on the back-end. So, having that depth of knowledge is so crucial and useful to doing the staff augmentation model as opposed to having to go out and hire each of those people individually. You mentioned kind of startup companies as well. They probably don’t have a team. I know we didn’t have any kind of an HR department. We didn’t really have a strong hiring team at the very beginning. And so, going through the paces of onboarding someone is just a tedious, expensive process.
So, being able to come and just call Bixly and say, “Hey, I need X, Y, Z people.” Now, we’ve done this for 12 plus years. We can spin up those multiple resources very, very fast. And there’s even projects too that you don’t want to hire someone that may only be a six month phase and you… Yes, you can again go out and try and hire some independent contractor yourself and try and find them online somewhere. But it’s so much better to go with a vetted well-established agency like us that has done all the legwork, and can get you out there quick with a strong team.
And obviously you’re going to get some knowledge too. It’s not our first rodeo. We have a huge deep, deep bench of projects behind us. There’s so many people that you might hire that they’re very good and they’re very qualified, but they only know what they know. You are now getting not only a very strong bench of people that can pivot in and out of the projects. But if one of my developers or designers runs into an issue with your project, just a question or something that they maybe haven’t tackled before they can go talk to the other like 20 people in the office and say, “Hey, have you dealt with something similar to this?” “Oh yes, I have. Here.” “Have you tried this, tried that?” So, you’re always getting a little bit more than even the designated team that you’re working with when you come to Bixly.
That makes a lot of sense. Though, I think most people don’t understand or they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t realize that they don’t have the expertise to even know how to vet the developers to know if they know what they’re talking about. And like you touched on, if you go to an individual consultant, they’re going to recommend what it is they know.
And of course that’s going to be the right solution. Like you said, we have a very deep bench. And also we just really have the benefit of, if you need someone for two weeks to help you secure your servers and do a particular deployment, we can pull that person in. Whereas if you’ve worked with a consultant or one individual and they don’t have that expertise now, you’re supposed to on your own go find someone who’s an expert in administering servers and convince them to only work for you for a very short period of time. Most likely that consultant is going to do it themselves, and you’re going to get a very subpar experience.
Makes sense. And that for me kind of leads I think a little bit into our hiring process at Bixly and who we actually bring on board. We care a lot about expertise. It’s obviously great to have that wide knowledge I’ve touched on, but we establish that through lots of individuals, as opposed to trying to just hire a Jack or Jane of all trades right out of the gate. Those people exist and they’re there and we do have multiple of those on staff, but a lot of that happened because of years and years of projects and then building along with us. But they came in the gate as an expert in a particular area.
There’s a lot of peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re getting good experienced people.
So, obviously not every project is going to make sense to do the staff augmentation model. So, in those scenarios Andrew, where the client, who is watching us, is going to go out and hire someone internally. What are some things that you think we’ve kind of learned and picked up over the years through our hiring processes, bits of advice that they can use when they’re going out there and looking to hire somebody internally?
One of the really big things that we put emphasis on is the developer’s communication skills. It’s really important that they can articulate their ideas, that when you provide instructions to them, that they can relay back to you that they understand this. And this is extra important if this developer’s going to be working remotely which is fairly common nowadays. But that they can also, when you hear your ideas, they… When they hear your ideas that they can provide back their own ideas. They’re not just for lack of a better term, “yes men”. You don’t want a developer that’s going to do exactly what you say unquestioningly. Particularly, if you don’t know the technical ins and outs of what’s involved in the project. You want someone who’s going to hear what your business objectives are, but then be able to translate those into technical requirements.
So, that’s something important to look for. And also someone that can just kind of think critically that they really take the time to understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. And maybe they’ll bounce back against you like, “Well, I wouldn’t do it like that because these are the problems that we’re going to run into.” So, you want someone who’s good at looking ahead down the path, identifying pitfalls. So, that’s really important. Someone who’s particularly good at debugging who can kind of find all the different ways to break the software. What are different edge conditions you could run into? So that’s, those are more like soft skills. Also, as far as hard skills go, you need someone who’s competent at the different skillsets that are going to be involved in the project.
So, you might want someone with some design skills who can actually make it look pretty because you don’t just want something that works. You want something that is a pleasant experience for your users to engage with, whether it be a mobile app or a website or a piece of desktop software, it needs to be usable and visually attractive. So, there’s the design aspect for it you’re looking at. Then most applications are going to involve a server and kind of a back-end database. So, you need someone who can design a database. Presumably you’re not building this because you only want to have 10 people using it. You might want 10,000 or 10 million people using it.
So, you need someone with experience at structuring databases and systems to be scalable over time. So, that’s back-end server type experience there. And then you also need someone with more front-end experience who can actually build out the user experience in the website, can build it out in the mobile app and actually make the portion of the software that the people are going to be interacting with. So, there’s as you can probably tell there’s a variety-
There’s a lot of stuff happening there.
Yeah. There is a variety of stuff happening there. There’s a variety of different — you’ve got what we call it referred to as the front-end to being what the user sees. We’ve got the back-end to being like the server and the database. And then we’ve got kind of this design aspect to do it all coupled with good communication skills. Which is why it especially valuable if you’ve got a pool of people you can pull from, because, as you can imagine, knowing someone who knows all these different things is going to be quite the unicorn.
That’s hard to hire for internally.
And what I also kind of picked up on is you were talking about that communication piece, that it’s also important to know who this person is going to be communicating with. And that’s a big thing for us when we do our hiring process here. One of the things that we’ll do is we’ll try and make sure that obviously you’re in the room with the person that is going to be interviewed because as the COO, you’re highly involved in operations here, and you’re going to be interacting with this person.
It’s also important that maybe I drop in for some particular reason depending on the position that we’re hiring, because I might interact with that person or another lead dev that we think might have some high touch. It could be very difficult if this person ends up getting hired, ultimately works with those people down the road and they never built some of that rapport on the front side, and they also just don’t know how to talk with each other.
Yeah. And kind of dovetail off that something that’s important to us as a company is we want our developers to be able to interact with the clients. We don’t want developers that we have to hide in the closet and be like, “Don’t let them in front of people.” Another tip I’d have too is during the interview process, what we’d like to do is put the interviewee in a stressful situation because the reality is all projects are going to have bumps. People are going to get… Clients are going to get upset. Things are going to happen that are going to be stressful. There’s going to be crunch time, different things like that. And we want to just at least get a little view into how they react under pressure.
And so, what we’ll do is we will give them a problem to solve that’s not a particularly difficult problem. Someone who’s interviewing for this job should be able to solve this problem with a pen and paper. No problem. But then what we’ll do is happen to go up in front of a whiteboard in front of the two people interviewing them and tell them, “Okay, you have about 10 minutes to do this. And also we want you to say your thought process to us as you’re going through the thing.” And pretty much everyone inevitably gets nervous when this happens and you can see that their function kind of reduces.
And so, it’s really interesting to see if they’re the kind of person that is just like, “I can’t do it.” Or if they power through it, if they ask questions, just kind of how they respond to that. So, that would be a tip I would have is put them in a stressful situation to have them solve some problems under pressure with people watching and see, can they still communicate? Can they still articulate their thoughts or do they just shut down?
When we are interviewing for someone internally to hire, we’re not looking for the perfect answers. We are looking for people that can solve problems. Ultimately though, if someone does want to work with us and they want to kind of start going down the road of staff augmentation, how would they get in touch with us and how would they kind of start to engage with Bixly initially?
So, the easiest way would just be to go to our website bixly.com and then go to the contact page and you can reach out to us right from there.
Cool. And I know we also have a free consultation button up on the front page. We’ve mentioned this in other videos. If you click on that, that’s a complete no commitment. It just gets you in front of usually myself and potentially Andrew as well, and we can talk about your project in more detail and basically just help you start on that journey of finding out is Bixly going to be the right fit for you? So, anything else to add as we close up on hiring internally versus staff augmentation?
I think that staff augmentation makes sense in most scenarios. I mean, if you want to contact us, we can help you identify whether staff augmentation is a good fit for you.
Cool. Thanks everyone. I appreciate you joining us again on another episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday. As always feel free to go check us out at bixly.com and hopefully we can work on your project soon.
Originally published at https://blog.bixly.com on January 13, 2021.