Team extension allows you to fill your team’s gaps when you need them. But the key is to find a reliable partner first.
Gartner (2021) reports that according to IT executives talent shortage has become the most significant adoption barrier (64% of emerging technologies compared to just 4% in 2020). Finding and retaining talent is not only costly and time-consuming now, but it’s also plain hard in today’s market setting.
Team extension is an opportunity to help your product grow and find talent when you need it, despite the present market challenges. It gives you access to pre-vetted developers and designers, with similar work culture, industry expertise, and ones that take ownership of your product, just like your in-house team.
But how to be sure you’ve chosen the right partner that can keep up that promise? What tangible benefits can team extension give you when you choose right? And what does the process look like? We’re answering these questions, sharing some tips, and our approach to the team extension setup.
What is team extension?
In simple words, team extension or team augmentation, is a hiring model that’s supposed to supplement your in-house team with pre-vetted experts you can’t find on your own. The main difference when compared to outsourcing or recruiting through an agency is that the software agency team members integrate into your team — they report to the same people as your team, they use the same tools to enable smooth and unobstructed communication, and they onboard the same, so they can understand your project’s core value — goals, acceptance criteria, and everyday workflow.
Software agencies benefit from establishing partnerships for the long haul. Their approach is focused not only on giving you the developers, but also delivering quality results long-term, sharing know-how, and improving processes and communication on all levels.
Team extension benefits (and how to get them)
Experienced talent available on the go
The core team extension benefit is access to talent that does not only match your tech stack, but also your company’s culture, processes, and approach to software development. The teams can integrate with each other seamlessly, share knowledge and know-how for mutual benefit.
An established agency never hires developers & designers based only on their tech capabilities, as soft skills are equally important in product development (as is English proficiency). Culture fit, effective communication, an open-minded approach, and teamwork are extremely important, especially in an Agile environment.
Tech stack match is a must-have, but a fruitful cooperation is based on more factors, e.g. culture-fit, communication skills, and teamwork.
If you’re screening companies to find your match for team extension, check if (and how) they showcase their internal processes, delivery, team setup (e.g. self-managing teams) and how they approach software development in general.
You might even want to have a look at their Careers page to see their own approach to hiring talent: what qualities they’re looking for, check if they are offering personal and team development for their teams. A quick look should give you an overview of how a company understands quality and product ownership, and what their approach to testing and refactoring is.
Industry-specific expertise and proven track record
With team extension, you get access to matching tech talent that possess industry-specific experience. In many cases, developers that possess domain expertise are able to speed up your development process significantly, also helping and tutoring others on how to solve problems along the way. They are usually more involved and show more ownership as the product is aligned with their expertise.
The tip to find the best company for your team extension is to look through their portfolio and check if they have projects from your domain industry. In some cases, like at EL Passion, companies work in specialized self-managing teams, where every team has its own speciality (B2B, healthcare, entertainment). This setup ensures access to Senior and Mid developers that have the expertise, but also allows for effective Junior developer mentorship, so they learn quicker and always under the wing of someone more experienced.
Combined with access to talent, team extension’s scalability potential is the clou of the setup's popularity. You can scale your team up when your product’s needs change. This allows you to ship features faster and keep your product going.
There’s little risk involved since you don’t need to invest in long internal recruitment processes, onboarding, and retaining the people you hired. You’re not restricted by your internal headhunting performance and you don’t need to spend time and resources on verifying your developers’ skills. Your software development partner will do it for you and provide you with shortlisted candidates that will complement your team best.
Knowing who you’re working with is one of the core values of the team extension model, so pay attention to how the agency’s handling the process and what techniques they employ to ensure you get the best-fitted team for your needs (e.g. team fit assessment, previous experience & expertise, code sampling, pair programming).
Team extension simplified: how to get it right
Team extension may come in many flavors as every company faces different challenges. The key here is to establish a partnership that fits your business and your ways of doing things, and takes both the tech stack and the cultural fit into consideration. But when you choose the preferred agency for cooperation, you can elicit 4 main steps that should definitely not be omitted.
Finding the right partner consists of more elements than just the tech stack match.
Matching you with the right people for the job
Before the start of an actual cooperation, the agency of your choice should have the time and resources to understand your main business requirements so they can match you with the right people for the job. It’s often much more than just developers’ tech stack, but also their seniority, soft skills, industry expertise, experience in similar projects etc. that are taken into the equation.
Picking your team
The agency should provide you with the developers’ bios, so you can decide if they’re a right fit for your project. Usually it’s possible to meet the people you’ll be working with, and it’s a good idea to do so, to make sure the people are the right fit for your team. You can also establish recurring meetings to keep the team integrated face-to-face or remotely.
Meet the people you'll be working with, so you can be sure they're a good addition to your team.
Establishing communication guidelines & project management
Since the developers will work on your project and become part of your team, you need to agree on your preferred forms of communication and the tools you will be using. It’s also time to introduce the agency and your extended team to your workflow (meetings, deadlines etc) and any management guidelines you have for the project.
Real-time project evaluation & on-demand scaling
The last yet very important step is staying in contact with your partner regarding the project’s progress, developers’ happiness and engagement, and reacting to any problems that might appear real-time. Some agencies schedule recurring meetings to stay informed about the project, so they can react quicker if your needs change.
The key: choosing the right team extension partner
Team extension allows you to get the benefits of an in-house team without the potential risks on your side as it allows you to fill the gaps when you need them. It has proven to be an effective setup for many startups and scaleups, however, choosing the right potential partner is the key to success. The learning is, as always, to take the time to screen the agency you’re planning to work with, so you can benefit from the team extension setup fully and long-term.