Brian Haskett

Vice President

Sparking Innovation through Staff Augmentation

As surprising as it might seem, two trends can be married together that most businesses are overlooking today; the need for CIO’s to fuel business innovation and the shift of the workforce towards more temporary workers.

The news headlines have recently been peppered with articles about how the job rebound is partially fueled by temporary workers – with technology being a top contributor.  In fact, according to a recent report, the technology field contributes 23% of all temporary workers, second only to the combined category of manufacturing and warehousing.  Within technology, this workforce is typically termed “staff augmentation.”

This shift has developed as a natural outcome of the ever-accelerating pace of business and the requirement that technology departments stay nimble to support that pace.  Rather than going through the complicated, expensive, and elongated process of hiring employees who may not be productive and may not be needed long-term, firms are turning to suppliers to fill their expert needs quickly.

Simultaneously, businesses are struggling to fuel competitive innovation through their technology staff.  Business executives complain that the computing department acts like order-takers, offering limited unique insight or value-add back to the business.

The increasing use of temporary workers along with the need for IT to deliver innovation should not be viewed as two separate and distinct items, but rather merged together to build upon each other.  When applied appropriately, temporary technology workers can be a catalyst for innovation in your firm.

Think about it.  You have highly skilled personnel doing work on your behalf that very possibly have worked in more IT departments, with more business processes, in more industries, than entire groups of long-term employees you have on staff.  They have a very unique perspective.  That diversity of experience and background is largely untapped.  Sit down with team members and ask them plainly for their thoughts.  What observations do they have about the business they are supporting?  If they were in charge, what would they change?  What have they seen elsewhere that might fulfill an opportunity in your environment?  You might be surprised at some of the brainstorming that results.

But don’t stop there, that is just the beginning of the innovation value being overlooked.  Untapped is the ability to try high risk endeavors while limiting downside.  The innovation process is not normally a single, eureka moment, but rather the painstaking task of trying many unconventional ideas until you find one that ignites.  Innovation means doing risky things as you attempt and fail at many endeavors.

Spinning up an application development team costs a lot of time and money, so you probably only budget and execute those projects that have the highest risk of success.  But what if you leveraged your suppliers in short turnaround, limited budget projects that are more risky than normal?  Spin up small agile scrum teams to try out ideas.  Given that agile scrum will drive working code quickly with high stakeholder interaction, you will know if you are onto something within weeks, not months or quarters.  If the first few iterations demonstrate success, then fuel the fire.  If the results are not coming, disband the team and move on to the next idea.  Isn’t that what innovation really comes down to… trying multiple high risk paths looking for the one that leads to success?

If you and your suppliers are already operating at the intersection of innovation and staff augmentation, then I applaud you.  However, if you are intrigued by the possibility of upping the game, perhaps I can help.  I’m proud of the thousands of expert consultants that I work with.  If you would give me the opportunity, drop me a line and I’ll introduce you to some of them.  Who knows what may come of it?

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