Navigating Team Extension for Project Success
Whether you have a complex project that requires some seriously specific skills, or facing a deadline that seems downright impossible to meet, you need all hands on deck - and sometimes, that means looking outside of your core team for help.
That's where team extension comes in, offering a solution to bridge the gap and bring in the right talent when you need it most. However, team extension is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Getting it right requires proper planning, execution, and a deep understanding of the process.
Lucky for you, we're here to give you the necessary knowledge, insider tips and best practices you need to successfully extend your team and bring your project to success.
Let’s start from the basics!
What is team extension?
Team extension is a strategic approach to growing and scaling your team, typically your tech or dev team, which involves hiring external professionals who usually work on a remote basis to expand the capacity and capabilities of your internal team.
The whole premise of an extended team is having a group of people who work together towards a common goal, but are not all directly employed by the same organisation. This includes your internal employees and external contractors.
Companies are increasingly relying on team extension services to augment and boost their internal capabilities. For example, a software development company may have a team of in-house developers working alongside other external developers who specialise in specific technologies.
With team extension, companies can leverage the expertise and resources of an external partner without committing to full-time hires. This can be particularly useful for short-term or specialised projects with a critical deadline, where it may not make sense to hire permanent employees.
Team Extension vs Managed Services vs Dedicated Team
Team extension is just one way that companies can collaborate with external partners. Other common collaboration models include managed services and a dedicated or self-managed team.
Managed services involve outsourcing an entire function, process or project to an external partner. The external partner will take on responsibility for execution and delivery of the desired outcome.
If you opt for managed services, you're putting your faith in an outside vendor to take the reins and steer the project to success. They'll offer recommendations on technologies, process, and overall strategy, with the goal of delivering on your requirements.
In contrast to team extension, this model provides less control from a project management perspective as you’re not directly overseeing the process.
A dedicated or self-managed team, similar to team extension, involves hiring an external team of specialists (a design & development team, for example) to work on a specific project. The external team is autonomous as it works independently from your in-house team.
People look at this model as a mix between managed services and team extension, as it offers a little bit more control over the project than managed services, but also less management and supervision from your side.
The table below shows how the three models compare to each other across multiple parameters:
|Weekly / Bi-weekly
|Client Technical Expertise
|Optional / Recommended
|Optional / Not required
|Internal Team Overlap
|Low to moderate
|Low to none
|Tools & Processes
|Client or vendor
|Hourly or daily rate, fixed price
|Time and material, project-based or monthly retainer
|Fixed price or project-based
Team Extension Benefits
Access to talent
Team extension enables companies to access talent that wouldn't normally be available, empowering project managers with different strengths and skills to fill the needs of the team without sacrificing quality.
Team extension can help businesses remain agile and flexible by ramping up their internal team with skilled professionals on short notice. The whole process usually takes a couple of weeks from initial screening to onboarding, and you can expect to see results in a matter of days.
In some cases, a team extension can even contribute to doubling your tech team’s output.
While the vendor provides the resources, the client retains control over the project’s direction, process and outcome. This reduces associated risks with errors, miscommunication or quality assurance compared to other outsourcing models.
Vetting and training developers is also in the hands of the vendor who is responsible for bringing reliable and skilled people to the table, which eliminates the risk of a bad hire.
Team Extension Challenges
Working with an offshore or nearshore team can present cultural differences that can impact communication, workflow, and overall effectiveness.
Different cultures have different work styles, expectations, and communication norms. These differences can lead to misunderstandings and delays if not addressed effectively.
Since external employees usually work off-site and remotely, communication can be a challenge, especially when team members are located in different time zones and countries.
Therefore, it’s important for project managers to have good communication and interpersonal skills as well as delegate tasks and give clear directions, in order to manage the extended team effectively.
Ensuring that your extended team delivers high-quality work can also be a challenge. The quality of the work may vary depending on the skills and experience of the team members, but also on the level of oversight and guidance provided by the client.
How to ensure successful team extension?
1. Define the project scope
Success starts with a clear project scope. You need to have a clear understanding of the project’s objectives, timelines and deliverables to communicate these effectively to potential external partners.
In as much detail as possible, answer the following questions:
- What is the project’s objective?
- What are the timelines for completing the project?
- What are the deliverables?
- What resources are currently available?
- What are the skill gaps in the existing team?
2. Assess your current team’s strengths
The next step would be to access your internal team’s skills and capabilities. This assessment will help you identify the skill gaps that need to be filled by the external team members.
Make a list of the skills that your team possess and those that they lack, and cross reference those with the skills and expertise required to complete the project successfully.
Next, assess the workload of your team members. Determine if they have the bandwidth to take on additional work. Consider the project’s timeline and whether your team can meet those deadlines while taking on extra responsibilities.
Finally, evaluate your team’s availability to work on the project. Determine if they can commit to the project’s timelines and deliverables. It’s also very important to assess their willingness and overall attitude toward working with external team members.
3. Identify required skills and experience
Based on your assessment, you should have a clear understanding of your team’s capabilities, workload and availability. This information will help you identify the skills and expertise required to bridge the skill gaps in your internal team.
This will also serve as a reference when you look for potential external partners.
4. Find the right people
When looking for external partners, consider the following factors:
- Relevant experience
- Availability to work on the project
- Cultural fit with your team
- Communication skills
- Budget requirements
Evaluating external team members starts with considering the relevant experience they have, as well as their availability to work on your project and willingness to go the extra mile.
It's also critical to establish whether their working culture and personality will fit in with your organisational structure. You need a software development partner who can speak up and effectively communicate ideas and changes.
5. Assign roles and responsibilities
Be clear and specific in communicating the roles and responsibilities of your extended team. This step is critical in ensuring that external team members and your internal team work together effectively and efficiently.
It's essential to ensure that everyone on both your internal and external teams understand their tasks and how those tasks fit into the larger project goals.
Taking the time to review this with everyone involved not only reinforces accountability but also strengthens team cohesion, enabling each member to fully contribute as part of a unified effort.
6. Establish clear communication channels
Define how communication will take place, what information needs to be shared, and how often updates will be provided.
With team extension, external team members usually adopt the client’s tools, processes and way of working, so it’s important to have these set up in place.
A reliable communication strategy should include channels like emails, video calls, or messaging platforms for easy updates, as well as team briefings that occur regularly to review progress.
7. Track and measure results
Maintaining visibility into the progress of extended team members can be challenging, due in large part to the lack of physical presence and remote working.
To help manage tasks and deadlines, collaboration tools like Asana, Jira, Monday.com, or GitLab provide a platform to visualise progress.
Schedule regular check-ins with team members to review progress towards personal goals, provide feedback, and address any concerns or issues.
With the right combination of strong performance metrics backed by effective communication tools, teams can maintain efficient project management cycles.
Team extension can bring much-needed resources and expertise to fulfil projects under tight deadlines. From learning how to collaborate remotely, to navigating company culture clashes, managing an extended team requires a strong foundation of knowledge and management skills.
By setting clear expectations early on, ensuring everyone has access to the right tools, and staying in close communication with your extended team, you can overcome these challenges and deliver successful projects on time and within budget.
With the right approach, extending your internal team can be a beneficial way for project managers to ensure software projects are properly resourced.
Any questions? Leave them below, and we'd be happy to answer 👀