Having too much work and not enough people to do it is a common problem for IT and development teams. While racing to meet a challenging deadline can be exciting, it’s not a sustainable way to operate. And to get the best results when you need them most, you also need the best people on the job.

Most teams are understaffed or don’t have the full set of skills needed to take on a wide array of projects. Plus, recent economic uncertainty has resulted in downsizing or hiring freezes, but the work doesn’t slow down.

If a big project is in the works, you can call on an outside agency for support. But what if you need help on a consistent basis to manage your workload? Freelance platforms like Toptal can provide full-time developers, but incorporating new talent into your existing team is a delicate process. Plus, there’s no way of knowing whether the most qualified contractor is an effective communicator or collaborator.

In situations like these, you should consider staff augmentation. This flexible approach to staffing will allow you to grow your team and add new skills without the extra hassle. It’s the best way to bypass administrative headaches when you really need to deliver.

How staff augmentation differs from consultants and contractors

Whether you’re eying additional skillsets for a specific project or simply need more hands on deck, consultants and contractors are often your first call. Both involve short-term agreements with outside experts to help your team, but the two options have critical differences.

Consultants evaluate a specific situation or problem and deliver their expert opinion. Once this advice is given, usually in the form of a report, any effort to follow their recommendations remains in your hands.

Freelance or independent contractors contribute additional expertise, but at an administrative cost. Each contractor you bring on board will require different levels of overhead and management—everything from defining the project’s scope to the number of hours expected per week, working around the contractor’s schedule, and negotiating hourly rates.

In addition, contractors must be vetted just like any new hire. While work samples and previous clients offer a partial picture of a freelancer’s history, you have no idea how well they will integrate into your workflow or company culture until they start working with you.

While it’s relatively easy to end a contractor relationship, finding a new freelancer is a time-consuming, uncertain process. When you’re backed up on multiple deadlines, you can’t afford to start the process all over again.

When is staff augmentation right for your organization?

When you find your team shorthanded amid looming deadlines, staff augmentation provides a lifeline. Hiring freezes, involuntary downsizing, and an exhausted roster of freelancers only add to the stress as work piles up.

The right agency partner allows you to add bandwidth to an existing team that’s functioning at a high level. You can also augment your staff to quickly add new capabilities and missing skillsets.

Depending on your project’s needs, developers with specific skills like UX design and accessibility will fill whatever gaps in expertise you may find. Better still, talent added through staff augmentation delivers the work you need without the administrative baggage. Typical new-hire concerns like weekly checkins, professional development, and career planning are handled by the agency—not you.

Great developers and digital specialists are hard to find and even harder to nurture. A new teammate brought on through staff augmentation receives regular training by the agency to remain happy and at the top of their game. As a result, you gain the assurance that their talent pool isn’t growing stagnant within a dynamic industry.

Ultimately, staff augmentation limits the guesswork of taking on contractors whose work history can’t offer a complete picture of their work. Agencies vouch for those on their roster and offer flexibility through a deep talent pool. If a new project doubles your workload, an agency allows you to scale your needs quickly and seamlessly. And if a new team member doesn’t work out, that agency will have a deep enough roster to quickly find a replacement.

Without that level of assistance, your business must go back to square one to find another talented addition.

Meet deadlines and extend your team’s reach through staff augmentation

For companies short on time and resources, staff augmentation allows you to extend your team’s reach in a challenging economic climate. Headcount restrictions and hiring freezes are difficult to manage, but they don’t have to restrict your ability to stay on schedule with the right agency partner.

To be fair, independent contractors may charge less and save your company money compared to an agency that offers staff augmentation. But not knowing whether a freelancer’s work habits will live up to their work history is a potentially costly variable. Plus, in addition to managing the uncertainty around a contractor’s collaborative abilities, you also have to manage their performance. Even on a contract basis, that effort adds to your already busy schedule.

By contrast, hiring an agency for staff augmentation delivers the high-level skills you need but without the administrative headaches. All you get is the hard work, which is what will benefit your business most of all.