What Are Augmented Teams & How Do They Work With Product Owners?

Jerry Wallis
12 min read
Augmented Team

Augmented teams have become an increasingly popular concept in the world of today. But what, exactly, is an augmented team? And how can a product owner work with one effectively?

As a product owner, you’re used to working with a team of developers to bring your product vision to life. But what happens when you need to work with an augmented team? Working with an extended team as a product owner can be daunting, but it can also be gratifying.

By understanding each team member’s different roles and responsibilities, you can ensure that your product is developed in a way that meets your expectations and the needs of your users. 

Product owners working with augmented teams may find the experience more fulfilling and productive. However, there are a few things to remember when working with an augmented team. This article will explore those considerations and advise on how to make the most of this working arrangement.

We’ll also share tips for making the most of this unique situation. Are you ready to learn more? Read on!

What Is An Augmented Team? 💭

An augmented team is an in-house team that has been enhanced by adding specialist members from outside the organisation. This team setup allows the business to maintain control and visibility while adding the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to make rapid progress. 

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After years of research and observation, many experts have agreed that the ideal way to work is in short bursts or sprints. In addition, progressive companies have learned that this type of continuous delivery allows for faster feedback cycles, resulting in a better product. 

Staff augmentation can benefit from boosting team morale to improving overall productivity by adding enhanced skills and expertise.

Interestingly, you can augment your team in more ways than one. On the surface, you may think partnering up with a third-party development agency is the only way to work with augmented teams. Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

With technology at the forefront of everything we do, staff augmentation has taken strides in the same direction. For instance, if your business or project involves plenty of mundane and routine tasks, then introducing an AI bot into your team would be an intelligent way of solving this cumbersome challenge.

Furthermore, if you’re worried about the never-ending cycle of employee turnover in your company, augmenting your team with outsourced professionals or digital workers could be a sensible choice.

Working with an augmented team

The scope of staff augmentation is rather exciting and broad. However, for this article, we’ll remain confined to the relevancy of this subject matter with product owners and software development projects. 

Who Is The Product Owner? 😎

A Product Owner in an Agile project environment acts as the bridge between the end-users, stakeholders, and the development team. The significant responsibility of such an individual is to gather requirements and craft a product vision from one side of stakeholders and masterfully articulate the same to the other side.

A crucial part of the product owner’s job involves defining the product vision, creating the product roadmap, a document highlighting the product’s vision and direction, and managing the product backlog.

What is that, you ask? A product backlog is like the “holy grail” of to-do lists if you will. It comprises a prioritised list of tasks based on product requirements for the development team to work on each sprint cycle. The high-priority items start at the top of the backlog, with lower-priority ones located towards the bottom. This prioritisation list gives developers and product owners a high-level view of the significant tasks to complete for the product’s success.

Many liken product owners to project managers. But how valid is this comparison? How different or similar are these two roles in actuality?

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Interestingly, the product backlog, once created, is not set in stone. The requirements and tasks in the product backlog can shift priorities based on their importance and urgency to the overarching project. The critical takeaway for the context of this article is that all of this is taken care of by product owners.

How To Choose The Right Augmented Team 🥇

Product owners need to know what they are doing. There’s no denying that. But, taking the technical aspects of their job out of the equation, a big part of their job involves collaborating with the product design and development teams to ensure the future of the product is in capable hands.

As such, product owners need to work with a team that’s not just competent to turn their product vision into reality but also compatible with the company’s culture and the product owner’s managerial style.

Choosing the right augmented team members

Not everyone has the luxury of building an in-house product development team. Furthermore, with outsourcing such a powerful and rapidly growing staff augmentation solution, many product owners prefer working with external parties to use their varied skill sets. 

Yet, as a product owner, how can you ensure that the team you’ve partnered with is the right one for your company and your product idea? Look out for these things!

✅ Experience & Expertise

Ah, the two big “E’s”. These will always be the bare essentials of any successful augmented team. You’ll probably be halfway there if you’ve found an outsourced team with the high-level skills and expertise that your product idea requires to be developed.

Ultimately, whoever comes into your technical team needs to know what they’re doing to ensure your product is built as per your expectations and agreed-upon requirements.

Of course, experience and expertise on their own wouldn’t be everything, but they are a big part of what makes a development team look mediocre or genuinely outstanding.

You’ll want to consider various criteria from a more technical perspective before deciding on a technology vendor, such as:

  • Portfolio of work
  • Timezone differences
  • Talent pool
  • Services offered
  • Technological expertise

Before partnering up with an augmented team, ensure the group or professionals complement your internal team with the necessary skills, experience and expertise that your in-house resource lacks.

✅ Compatibility

Teams need to be a technical fit. That’s non-negotiable. The team you augment your product development resource with must also be a cultural fit. We’d like to say that this compatibility needs to be a two-way street.

When working with an augmented team, ensure that both parties are a good fit for each other in a professional capacity. You can determine this by how invested and enthused they are about your product and company.

The right augmented team will be as passionate as you are about your product’s vision and will understand what the product intends to achieve and provide in the marketplace.

✅ Clear Scoping

There’s nothing worse for augmented teams to be brought into a mess and expected to “turn water into wine”. It’s just not going to happen!

If you’re turning to augmented teams as a last resort to save your project, we hate to break it to you, but you’d just be adding fuel to the fire. Augmented teams are excellent at what they do, but that’ll only happen in the right circumstances and professional environments.

Integrate augmented teams only into projects that have been adequately scoped and planned out. If you can confidently explain and articulate your product vision with sufficiently comprehensive documentation, then there’s every chance your partnership with the augmented team will be successful. 

Ultimately, seamless integration of augmented teams into your product development environment is only possible when the project has been planned, scoped, and appropriately documented beforehand.

✅ Multiple Augmented Teams

We’ve covered most of what you need to be wary of when working with one augmented team, but what if you need more than one? For example, you could work with one agency that handles the front-end engineering of your software while another company is simultaneously responsible for the back-end side of the development equation (psst… you can actually use something like NestJS to handle both).

In such cases, compatibility between the two augmented teams becomes just as important. Without it, the performance of your product development cycle will plummet, and you’ll be caught right in the middle putting out fires left, right, and centre.

For a multi-augmented team to function effectively, both teams must perform equally well and communicate clearly, doing their respective fair share of work per the agreed-upon standards and expectations.

Misalignment in performance between the teams will inevitably lead to consistent roadblocks and delays for one because of the other. More importantly, though, all this will impact the progress of your product development more so than anything else.

✅ Positive Relationship Fostering

Building a successful product that sustainably brings success to the business is a long-term game. It doesn’t happen overnight, and not in a few sprint cycles. 

Even after launch, you’ll have to continuously optimise and refine the product to make it stand out from your competitors and constantly provide excellent value to your consumers. 

Therefore, if augmented teams helped you successfully reach the “go-live” line, you’d better believe you’ll need them to maintain and upgrade the product. This is why you must work towards building a great relationship with your augmented teams professionally and personally.

Essentially, you would want to count on this relationship to create a long-lasting partnership for the longevity of your product.

The Benefits Of Working With An Augmented Team 📈

By now, you must be aware of some of the benefits that working with an augmented team can bring to a product owner tasked with bringing a product idea to market.

Bulb and ideas

In this part of the article, we’ll provide more details about the perks of augmenting your product development team. First, let’s start with the primary one.

Training & Mentoring 👩‍🏫

Expanded teams can help businesses improve project outcomes by providing access to broader skills and knowledge. Augmented groups will likely become increasingly common and perhaps even the norm with technology evolving rapidly. 

Businesses are starting to realise that the cost of hiring, training, developing, and maintaining an in-house technical team may not be worth the outcome. So think about it, why did the concept of augmented teams emerge in the first place? To get access to highly technical resources faster and more cost-effectively.

This is why augmented teams can help businesses save time and money by reducing the need for recruitment, onboarding, and consistent overhead.

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New Set Of Eyes 👀

Augmented teams can also help businesses improve communication and collaboration by providing a more diverse range of perspectives.

If you’re partnering up with companies with an extensive track record of successful projects, then you’re in luck! Not only will you have access to a team of skilled professionals, but also one that has faced a wide range of challenges and tough situations — meaning they’d be able to navigate such tricky waters again if required in your project.

Reduced Risk Of Error 📊

Another point to consider is that augmented teams can help improve overall product quality and reduce the risk of errors. But, again, this comes down to their high degree of “skin-in-the-game”, which will help your project in the long run.

Zero Downtime 🔁

Augmented teams can also allow businesses to operate 24 hours daily, benefiting customers who need around-the-clock support.  You can partner up with external agencies in different time zones and serve multiple locations all day, every day.

To sum up, by supplementing your in-house resources with augmented ones, you’ll get the most out of your workforce to build the best quality products in line with the requirements and expectations of your internal and external stakeholders.

Challenges Of Working With An Augmented Team ⚔️ 

Let’s be real here, there are always two sides to a story, and it’s no different here. The narrative that working with augmented teams can be extensively rewarding for your business is compelling. However, this type of collaboration can have just as many challenges.

Too many pieces on the board

Communication 🗣️

One of the biggest challenges when working alongside augmented teams will come down to communication. With so many different people involved, ensuring everyone is on the same page can be challenging. 

Trust 🤷‍♂️

There will also have to be a lot of trust within an augmented team, as each person needs to be confident in the abilities of the other members. If one member falters, it can impact the whole group, and the direction of product development can falter.

Mutual Agreement 🤝

It’s essential also to ensure an agreement between the two parties concerning crucial project processes and working methodologies.

A clash or a difference in working styles between the outsourced company and the hiring company can lead to unnecessary schedule overruns and sub-standard performance. Thus, documenting agreement of major technical specifications such as coding standards, project management methodology, communication frequency and modality, performance reviews and progress monitoring – will help reduce any confusion or surprises later in the project.

Cohesion 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

Augmented teams can sometimes be less cohesive than traditional teams, as the members may not have as much in common or be invested in the product as much as in-house team members typically would. This can make building trust and rapport within the team more challenging. 

Despite these challenges, augmented teams can succeed if they are appropriately managed and communicated. As a product owner, much of this will be on your shoulders to ensure the integration of the augmented team doesn’t disrupt the harmony in your group. 

Our Recommendations 🧐

Considering both the positives and negatives, we’d still recommend augmented teams to product owners because the financial and technical benefits they bring to the table cannot be understated.

Thumbs up

The critical takeaway, however, is that it is crucial to ensure you are working with the right people that complement your business and are invested and passionate about your product. Things can go south quickly if you work with the wrong people. So, taking your time and finding the right technology partner who can deliver precisely what you want is essential.

If you’d like to learn more about how augmented teams can help your project progress faster or try new technologies to scale your business, let’s chat!

Published On

September 19, 2022