Navigating your options when you need to grow your software team
To hire or not to hire?
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Which story fits your business? You’ve been running a successful technology company for years - Other businesses model themselves after you because of the things you have achieved. You also have a great team, but you need to got some new talent on your team fast to keep up with demand. Or, maybe this is more familiar: You’ve bootstrapped your business for years and have now reached the size where you can hire some real development talent to help you accelerate your growth and bring you to the next level.
At Collective Idea, we’ve worked with both of these types of clients. We know, that at some point, someone in an organization in this position asks, “Should I hire a developer or designer in-house or hire an outside consultant?” That’s a very important question. What is the decision process when you find yourself faced with a staffing need? Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of several scenarios.
Hiring in-house seems like the best option to many people. On an annual basis, it’s often cheaper than hiring consultants. Additionally, you will be able to train and integrate them fully into the culture of your team. Those aren’t necessarily good reasons to choose this option however. Let’s take a look at some other reasons for hiring your next team member in-house.
You already have an awesome software or design team
There are many awesome engineering and design managers working in the software field. If you are lucky enough to have such a person on your team today, you are in a good place. Good leadership establishes a culture, creates team rhythms with planning and retrospectives, and invests heavily in team members and hires to make sure that everyone is growing in their career. These are the companies that sell themselves, and you will be well served to directly hire new members onto these teams.
You don’t have a software or design team, but you have hired team managers
Maybe you are a younger company without a software or design team, but you have hired a CTO, Director of Development, or Director of Design. It’s important that these individuals are empowered to build a team that works well under their leadership and adheres to the values that they raise up on their team. They may actually decide to hire an outside team to bootstrap the process, but it’s important to defer to your technology leadership for this decision. The best teams we’ve worked with have strong leadership that is held accountable and owns the responsibility for the composition and performance of their team.
Hire an outside consultant
Now let’s shift and take a look at some of the reasons you would hire outside individuals or teams.
You don’t have a team
If you a vision for ether transitioning your company toward a technology model product, but lack a software team to execute it, it may seem like a great idea to bring in an outside software development consultancy to help you out. When we first engage with individuals in this position, they have often conceptualized our relationship as one of them providing guidance, and us providing the muscle. Sometimes this is true, but I’d like to expand this understanding a bit.
If you don’t yet have a product or solution in mind, but know that software is going to be part of your solution, this is a great time to chat with a software development consultancy because the services they are able to offer go far beyond design and development work. You may not know it yet, but you are making a huge transition from your previous business model and becoming a software company! In this scenario, you don’t just need people to write code or implement design. You also need the context and experience of a software agency to influence your business plans as much as your business plans steer the software.
Software development consultancies like Collective Idea are able to provide not only the development and design services you need, but also the technical leadership to help you transition your business. In practice, this could mean bringing in a full, established team to guide you through the discovery process, who then complete the work and leave you with a finished product. But maybe it’s a shorter-term engagement to help you design a team, hire leadership and developers in house. That could also include looking at your processes to ensure they are in-place and your business is on a path to success.
You have a software team, but need additional help
Ok, this may seem like an edge case, but it’s actually very common and represents the bulk of agency work we’ve done over the years. Let’s break down a few reasons why you may need to hire consultants to work with your existing software or design team.
Increase Team Capacity
Many companies face short to medium term staffing needs over the course of a web or mobile application’s life cycle. There are a few common reasons this happens. First, your department may have a hiring freeze, while still expecting you to increase the pace of your development. Oftentimes funds can be allocated to temporary contractors in these scenarios to bring on talent without all of the expense and responsibility of a full time employee. Or, perhaps you are operating in a tight hiring market and cannot hire enough people, even though you have an awesome company with good compensation. Finally, maybe you are making a short term investment in an application that will only require a larger team for a finite period of time.
In these scenarios, it’s time to reach out to established software development consultancies with demonstrable work using your technology stack or can work within your design paradigm. You may hear this referred to as staff augmentation from some providers, but at Collective Idea, we take a slightly different approach because every person joining your team brings the backing of our entire team. We frequently partner with teams doing Ruby programming, operations work, graphic design, and UX design - some of these are quite short term and some go on for years because we develop a strong working relationship.
Bringing new ideas on to your team
An often overlooked benefit of hiring an outside consultancy is to help you achieve large changes on your team. Sometimes teams need outside perspective to achieve rapid change.
Maybe you have been working with a dated legacy application. Making changes to this application is very expensive, and moreover, the technology used to implement it is either unsupported, or impossible to hire for. In times like these, an outside consultancy can bring their experience to your team and help train and orient them around a new technology or approach. In this way, you are able to keep the benefits of your established team’s relationships and rhythms, while jump starting their future in a new, more modern tech stack.
Or maybe, your team is in a rut. Your project velocity has tanked, you have missed the last three release dates that have been set, and you are growing concerned that you are about to start losing staff out of frustration. Coming to this realization can be very challenging - the various causes of these issues are not always apparent from the inside of an organization.
Adding outside developers or designers from functional teams can be transformative in a short amount of time. After building trust, the root causes of your issues will start to emerge. Maybe you have been shipping an application without using a version control system, causing lost work and frustration. Maybe you need to implement a two week sprint cycle to set concrete goals for each team member to organize their efforts. Or maybe your team is too junior or inexperienced to execute function correctly. Outside resources from trusted consultancies can bring the best practices from established, productive teams into your organization.
So what decision do you make?
The decision to hire a full-time employee or to contract with an outside individual or organization is complicated, and one that should be made with the full knowledge of what your options are. You may be in a great position to hire direct and scale your team within your current organization. But, as we have explored, there are many cases where bringing in outside individuals on a short or long term basis is a smart business decision, and may be just the strategy to achieve your goals. If you’d like to explore this opportunity, we’d love to talk more with you at Collective Idea. We have been providing full stack development, design, and infrastructure services for over a decade and look forward to partnering with great companies like yours!