The Value of Smart, Project-Based Engineering for Medical Software Projects
Smart Project-Based Engineering vs. Staff Augmentation
Let’s start with a question.
Q: How many software engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. That’s a hardware issue.
Now, here’s another one:
Q: How many software engineers does it take to successfully complete a healthcare IT project?
A: That’s a trick question — the answer lies in the quality and expertise of those engineers and the unity of their teams.
In the complex world of Healthcare IT, outsourcing has become a useful, and sometimes necessary, option for project managers. When it comes to choosing your method of outsourcing, how do you decide? There are two predominant methods of IT outsourcing — staff augmentation and smart, project-based engineering. Yet, the question still stands – how do you decide? Let’s examine the pros and cons of both.
In the past couple decades, we have seen a significant increase in the number of technology staffing firms operating around the globe. In a world where qualified engineers are short in demand, technology staffing agencies thrive by cornering the market on specialized IT workers. These companies have perfected the art of recruiting and retaining a deep bench of technical specialists, and will make them available for the right price. Often, these “for-rent” workers fit into clearly defined categories (SQL Administrator, Front-End Developer, Systems Architect) and can quickly assimilate into existing software teams. In the outsourcing world, we call this “staff augmentation.”
Staff augmentation can be a good option for companies that have well-managed, functioning teams that lack certain skill sets or depth in a particular area. A project manager may find themselves short-handed because of employee turnover or may need to supplement a team for an upcoming project push. Sometimes, a project team will lack personnel with experience in a growing technology (i.e. blockchain, cloud computing, machine learning) and need to look outside the company for help. In these cases, it is perfectly acceptable, even desirable, to supplement a team with “for-rent” expertise.
Project-based Engineering (a.k.a. Smart Engineering)
The other predominant outsourcing approach is to use project-based engineering services. Contracted with a respected provider — this is something we like to call “smart engineering”. Instead of gathering workers piecemeal, a company will engage an engineering partner to manage the entire project from start to finish. The engineering partner commits to the goals of the project through a statement of work, and commits to the results. The engineering company will assemble an experienced, efficient team that is the right size for the project. By using project-based engineering, you gain the wisdom of the entire engineering company, not just a few contracted engineers.
In the healthcare space, project managers have additional pressures unique to this industry. Medical software bound for clinical environments needs to be developed in accordance to FDA regulations, within a compliant quality system, and fully documented. For this reason, it is important to use a seasoned software engineering firm that specializes in healthcare software design. (See our article: 4 Things That Your Software Engineering Partner Must Have.)
Which approach is right for you? Start by asking yourself these questions:
Do you have an established software development process, quality system, and proven track record for success?
If, as a company, you have already established software development processes, a compliant quality system, and are looking to add key personnel to an existing team, then staff augmentation may suit you. However, we would caution you from assembling entirely new teams with “for-rent” engineers. Teams take time to gel and it will take even more time for your fledgling team to assimilate into your internal company culture.
Does your project have clear milestones and requirements?
It’s important to understand that when you hire temporary technology workers, you will be responsible for managing the entire project – that includes, defining and managing all requirements, design, engineering, and testing efforts. You will need to have clear project goals and milestones. When you choose staff-augmentation, you will also inherit the inevitable personnel management headaches.
Alternatively, you could use a project-based engineering firm to help you define the vision for your product, including all requirements, goals, and milestones. There is a certain peace-of-mind that comes with hiring project-based engineering, as they can typically manage the entire process – product design, engineering, testing, deployment, support, and staffing.
Is time on your side?
Well, we never have enough time. All projects have time constraints, some more than others. One common mistake we see is that companies believe they will save time if they can just add some talent to their existing teams. There tends to be a fear that engaging a new engineering partner will take too much time or will prove to be too cumbersome.
We find the opposite is true. By bringing in a project-based engineering team that can operate independently of internal company team constraints, progress can be made with surprising speed and agility.
Are you attempting to engineer something novel?
If your project requires you to innovate or to implement technology that is unfamiliar to you, you are almost always better off hiring a project-based engineering team with experience in that field.
While both approaches have merits, we believe that staff augmentation has limited uses – it is only useful for companies that have an established team, project, and processes already in place. For companies that are looking to move smartly and swiftly, we recommend project-based engineering, a.k.a smart engineering.
When you bring project-based engineering to your healthcare IT projects, you’ll gain a highly specialized and experienced team of experts committed to your project success. You can significantly increase the chance for project success because your new engineering team will bring additional perspectives and problems-solving skills to the project.
By finding an outsourcing partner with smart engineering, you add substantial value to your project and your business. Project-based engineering is a more efficient, cost-effective way to access a deep talent pool of experts that have extensive knowledge and experience in the industry. Of course, we recommend that you utilize a partner with deep experience in the healthcare field – the value brought, may surprise you and leave you wondering why you didn’t choose this option sooner.
Would you like to learn more about our own smart engineering teams? Contact True Process.
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