For many organizations, determining the right IT support model involves weighing managed services against staff augmentation. While both approaches involve partnering with external experts, there are some key differences to consider.
In this article, we’ll compare and contrast these two popular outsourcing business models so you can make an informed decision on the best fit.
Scope of Responsibility
The broad roles differ significantly:
- Managed IT services take end-to-end responsibility for managing, maintaining, and supporting your organization’s infrastructure and systems based on predetermined service levels.
- Staff augmentation involves temporarily bringing on board highly skilled technical contractors to supplement specific gaps in your in-house IT team. It is filling individual specialist positions, not comprehensive IT delivery.
In essence, managed services assume full accountability for IT operations delivery while staff augmentation offers targeted personnel reinforcement.
Pricing models also vary:
- Managed services are usually priced as a fixed monthly fee based on the complexity of your environment and breadth of services provided. This enables predictable IT budgeting.
- Staff augmentation arrangements bill per contractor on an hourly or daily rate. Costs fluctuate based on shifting project needs.
While managed services allow you to stabilize IT spending, staff augmentation offers more dynamic scaling. You pay for only the specific capacity needed at a given time.
The types of skills provided differ too:
- Managed service teams typically include broad IT generalists that enable coverage across networks, endpoints, servers, applications, and more within a single monthly fee.
- Staff augmentation pros are usually highly specialized experts focused on very specific technology domains like application development, DevOps, cybersecurity, etc. Deep niche skills are provided.
Managed services offer wider IT fluency while augmented staff bring deeper expertise within particular disciplines. Choose based on whether broad or specialized support is more valuable.
Oversight for augmented resources also varies:
- With managed services, the provider takes full responsibility for staffing, managing, and directing the team supporting your account.
- Under staff augmentation, you manage the additional resources as regular employees embedded within your own IT team’s organizational structure.
If you want to offload day-to-day IT delivery management, managed services provide that. Staff augmentation just expands headcount.
The recipient of growing skills over time also differs:
- With managed services, the provider organization benefits from expanded experience engaging with your account. But your team’s capabilities aren’t bolstered.
- Bringing on staff augmentation contractors transfers knowledge directly to your in-house IT experts through close collaboration.
Managed services deliver improvement mostly for the provider, while staff augmentation builds institutional knowledge internally.
Adapting support levels also varies in flexibility:
- Managed IT services allow you to easily scale up or down by adding or removing solutions from your service plan monthly based on evolving needs. Spinning services up or down is relatively fast and frictionless.
- With staff augmentation, expanding specialist capacity requires finding, hiring and onboarding new contractors. Cutting back requires letting team members go. Making major changes in headcount carries more logistical challenges and risks.
Managed IT offers greater speed and agility for right-sizing support capabilities.
The scope of recommendations also differs:
- Managed service providers typically take a strategic advisory role optimizing technology operations, enhancing security posture, planning infrastructure improvements, and more.
- Staff augmentation pros focus narrowly on excelling in their specific role. They don’t provide organization-wide guidance and roadmaps beyond their specialty.
Managed services deliver big-picture direction while augmented staff drill down into technical details.
The division of accountability also varies:
- Managed service providers take on responsibility for delivering robust and reliable IT support according to your contract. The risks are shared.
- Under staff augmentation, your organization bears the sole burden if augmented resources underperform or prove to be poor team fits. The risks reside with you.
With managed services, providers have skin in the game. Staff augmentation resources don’t share accountability for outcomes.
Key Differences at a Glance
To recap, here are the core differences between managed IT services and staff augmentation:
- Comprehensive IT support and accountability
- Predictable monthly pricing
- Broadly capable generalist teams
- Provider manages delivery and staffing
- Internal skills unchanged
- Flexible scaling of services
- Strategic guidance provided
- Risks and responsibility shared
- Targeted specialist contractors
- Hourly or daily billing per resource
- Deep niche expertise
- Client manages augmented staff
- Directly builds internal capabilities
- Staffing changes have more friction
- Execute assigned tasks only
- Client bears performance risks
Choosing the Right Model
Ultimately, determining whether managed IT services or staff augmentation better suits your needs depends on several factors:
- Do you need broad IT generalists or deep niche experts?
- Is predictable budgeting or flexible scaling more valuable?
- Can you manage additional headcount effectively?
- How much strategic guidance do you require?
- What risks are you comfortable accepting?
Understanding these key distinctions allows picking the right approach based on your priorities, resources and risk tolerance.
In many cases, a blended model is optimal. Managed services for core infrastructure support combined with staff augmentation for specialized roles like application development brings together their respective strengths.
But for technology-driven organizations without robust in-house tech teams, managed IT may provide the most complete solution. While those with mature IT groups often benefit most from augmenting skills selectively as needed.
As with any partnership, cultural fit and establishing mutual trust are also crucial – with both managed service providers and staff augmentation firms looking for transparent communication, reliable delivery and shared values.