Augmented team – what you should know about it

Augmented team - BlaBlaCarAugmented team - BlaBlaCar

What’s the difference between an augmented team and traditional outsourcing? Have you ever heard either of these phrases? Is one of them better than the other? Check it out.

Outsourcing sucks?

No, it doesn’t. It’s just hard. And if one is inexperienced at it, it will still suck. There are five main problems with outsourcing:

  1. Nobody tells you how to work with remote Dev Teams. You do not have the time or money to work with a team you don’t even know.
  2. Wrong perceptions of cooperation. Hands-off and “B-team.”
  3. Mismatch & cultural gaps in organizational culture- some organizations simply don’t match each other.
  4. Bad communication and lack of transparency.
  5. No clear mutual goals or merged processes.

If you work with a company that is aware of what this cooperation should look like, outsourcing can be a great way to develop your product. But unfortunately this doesn’t often  happen.

How do you avoid these problems? The solution is complex, but it fits in with the idea of what we call an “augmented team.”

What is an augmented team?

There are several advantages which make an augmented team the best choice for most clients and situations:

  • When you have a team member, not just a remote assistant, you know that the business goals for the product are important for the whole team, because this is also their project, and they really care.
  • Your team thinks about the consistency of the whole product as well as the direction in which it will develop – it is important to them!
  • They want to participate in the discussions about the product mission, business goals and direction because they feel connected with it.
  • There is one single team and one process, so there is no tension or time wasted by the different work methods used.

Needs and benefits of an augmented team.

At Chilid we are mostly cooperating as an augmented team, so we have a lot of experience to share. One of the most recent examples is our cooperation with BlaBlaCar. Below are a few thoughts on how this kind of cooperation looks from a team perspective.

Becoming part of a new team working with an existing, well-known and long-term product requires many different competencies. On the one hand you come completely fresh to a well-structured and harmonious team. So you need to get to know and learn their processes, the way they work and solve problems. Also – get to know their values, priorities, and culture.

On the other hand, you bring a fresh perspective, knowledge, and experience. You have a great opportunity to present your processes, solutions or a new way to work with the product. You bring to it your own experience and values. You can see things that no one else can see as they are so used to it.

This tension and balance between team members increases both creativity and productivity, as long as you treat each other as teammates and have a common goal.

What does it look like in practice?

In our cooperation with BlaBlaCar, the main challenge was to design, implement, maintain and support more than 10 products with 24 language versions, where each local team has its own ideas and priorities. That’s why our solutions had to be universal and configurable for different needs. You can’t just produce the design or code, you need to listen to the user’s needs and be always open to changes.

With the augmented team model, designers have to do the traditional things, such as creating wireframes and designs, but also think about the consistency of the whole product and the direction of development. And without a doubt, the last part is as important as the first.

Keeping visual consistency among so many different products is not easy. It requires full awareness of the relations between the different elements of different products. The next problem is to predict the behaviour of users and product admin. This can significantly alter the look of certain elements of the design and harm the entire concept. And finally, designers have to take into consideration all the cultural aspects of all users.

The development process must follow similar rules and assumptions: always be prepared for change, discuss with the local team members and learn about the features, share your solutions with other developers and test it against different users, locales, and make use of cases.

Constant interaction between designers, developers, copywriters and other team members ensures that knowledge is shared. It doesn’t matter that you are many miles from your colleagues as long as you attend common events, make calls regularly and often , visit each other and make sure your work is transparent. Communication is the key to the whole process.

Augmented team fits all

With the new project, when you suffer from a lack of manpower (and who doesn’t?) and consider outsourcing, think again. Keep ‘the source’ within your organization and extend it. Do not move outside your structure. You may think, “I will just shift my problems and tasks over to them, they will do everything and come back to me with a ready product. I won’t have any problems or worries.” But it doesn’t work like that. The augmented team is not a panacea – it may help you to solve problems faster and more effectively, but the whole thing is based on the team and you at the same time.

This works well with small, medium and the very biggest organizations. “My company employs hundreds of specialists, why should I even think of cooperating with an augmented team?” you might ask. The answer is quite simple: new team members have fresh and clear minds. Even a few new specialists with clear heads aren’t affected by the problems of your company, they are fully focused on your objective and this could give your company a significant boost. Tempting, isn’t it?

Want to know more about augmented team cooperation?  Check it out! BlaBlaCar augmented team case study