Building a Remote Developer Workforce - Engagement Models to Consider


Across the commercial world, the use of remote engineering teams is growing rapidly, reflecting the rise of engineering requirements. Faced with increased hiring competition, a technical talent shortage and difficulty finding niche skills, companies are turning to alternative engineering solutions in order to fulfill their requirements. This has led many to turn to remote engineering workforces to source the technical capabilities they need. 

When taking this approach, businesses have 3 engagement options to choose from...  

Project-Based Work

Project-based work is output that is outsourced in its entirety as a self-encapsulated project. Often covering a defined objective and pre-agreed deliverables, the project-based model is great for companies who have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve, and the resources required. Most projects will operate on ‘Time and Material’ contracts and so it’s important there is an understanding of the scope of the job. 

A project-based team will have all the skills and experience necessary to deliver project-based work and requires limited oversight from the client. 


Requirements are clear and agreed up-front 

When teams take on project-based work, they will have a good understanding of the expectations of the project. A successful engagement will start with all sides agreeing on deliverables and timelines. In the event a project is unclear, then a workshop will be conducted to clarify requirements.  

Pre-negotiated so all sides have an accurate view on costs 

By agreeing a project’s scope up-front, all involved parties have a clear view on the extent of the costs involved and the scope of the project. This helps to manage expectations and avoids any misunderstandings. 

Project is managed by the external team

A project-based engineering approach typically requires limited resources to manage. With the external team working independently, guided with advice from the client-side project manager, the team can be left to their own devices to plan, execute and deliver based on the agreed scope.

Can ramp up execution quickly 

Using a remote team, project delivery can be ramped up quickly, with teams entering execution mode within a matter of weeks. This would be practically impossible if a company were to hire, train and kick-off a similar team in-house.


Communication and delivery require regular management to avoid complications 

To ensure teams are developing the right technical output, a Product Manager on the client’s side is needed. This individual will regularly coordinate daily standups with the Product Owner on the agency side to ensure technical output meets the necessary quality and timelines are adhered to.

Flexibility is limited 

When it comes to flexibility, the project-based approach offers limited wiggle room. While changes can certainly be made within scope, the direction cannot be changed completely. This can be problematic if company strategy changes dramatically. 

Companies Best Positioned For Project-Based Work 

The project-based work model fits best with established startups and businesses that have carved out work that has a clear beginning and an end, this allows for a thorough scope of work and maximises the chance of success. 

Project-based teams also work well with early stage startups who are building prototypes or an MVP. In these engagements, the team will often take the role of interim CTO, helping to remove uncertainties and flesh out a project roadmap with a ‘Design Thinking Workshop’. This will help flesh out the business case and the scope of work necessary for version 1.0 (MVP). Once this is agreed and complete, they will then execute on the agreed scope of work. 

Team Augmentation 

While many people automatically think of project-based work when they consider a remote software developer, the team augmentation model is also regularly used and becoming increasingly popular across high growth startups around the world. With team augmentation, companies can quickly find software engineers with the right skills and expertise, and expand their in-house technical resources. These individuals typically bolt-on to the internal team and are managed in exactly the same way as internal resources. 

Team augmentation can be used to temporarily scale an operation or to fill technical knowledge gaps, whatever the case, these developers provide the critical skills required, when they’re needed most. 

In some cases, team augmentation engagements can last up to 24 months and beyond. If a client is looking for a highly flexible long-term resource, team augmentation offers a great opportunity. 


A fully flexible resource 

Using the team augmentation model, companies can boost their existing teams with a highly flexible approach that adapts to the needs of the project. This typically involves swapping in skills and knowledge as and when required, ensuring maximum efficiency and cost effectiveness. 

Simple scalability opportunities 

Scaling an engineering team with team augmentation is easy and only limited by the availability of the resources required. Provided the vendor can provide the necessary talent, scalability is simple as new developers integrate and bolt-on. 

Encourages knowledge transfer 

As external developers work with internal teams, knowledge is shared amongst the group. This drives knowledge sharing for all parties, upskilling the individuals involved and filing knowledge gaps naturally through teamwork and collaboration. 


External team members require management 

Unlike the project based team model that requires a hands-off approach, developers brought in through team augmentation require the same management as an internal member of staff. Depending on the number of developers brought in to work on a project, this can be time intensive and resource heavy. 

Companies Best Positioned For Team Augmentation

Team augmentation is best used by companies who are experiencing challenges sourcing the skills and knowledge they need. In many cases, internal teams are being overwhelmed, with workloads exceeding capacity, and so external developers are brought in to help. In other instances, companies struggle to find local talent, so instead of hiring in-house, turn to augmented teams as a way of filling the gap. 

Beyond mitigating workload and hiring challenges, team augmentation is also regularly used by startups and businesses looking to scale quickly and deliver to intensive milestones. The ability to move quickly and assemble a team fast is integral in these projects, and team augmentation helps to deliver in the challenging circumstances. 

Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT)

The ‘Build, Operate, Transfer’ model involves a business (the client) hiring a vendor to finance, build and operate a developer (often in another country), with the ultimate aim of transitioning ownership of the developer to the client, once the fundamentals have been built. 


Builds a long-term high-quality technical resource 

The BOT model creates a high quality engineering team in an area where the talent is abundant and gives companies sustainable long-term access to the engineering resources they need. 

The Build, Operate phase helps to manage technical requirements until Transfer

While the model doesn’t offer instant access to engineering talent (as it has to be recruited), the Build and Operate phases often work similarly to the team augmentation model. This allows the client to use the engineering resources, while the team is being built around them. 

Allows clients to tap into the knowledge and expertise of the vendor to build the team 

The greatest strength of the BOT model lies in its ability to tap into the vendor’s expertise and knowledge of the local area. This is critical when it comes to building the foundations of a team, as it helps to avoid common pitfalls and take advantage of opportunities that would perhaps not be known without their input. In addition, with the vendor’s assistance, travel and logistical issues can be minimised with the team doing most of the heavy lifting. 


Requires significant up-front time investment 

With a view to adopting the team in the future, the client often has to spend time throughout the recruitment process to evaluate the fit of each new developer. This can be resource-intensive, particularly if the team in question requires a large number of technical specialists. 

Takes time to get to a stage of handover

In most instances, the BOT model takes 12-24 months before the remote team is fully established and ready to hand over. While it’s a great way of developing a long-term technical resource, it does not meet the need of short-term requirements. 

Companies Best Positioned For Build, Operate, Transfer 

The BOT model is ideal for companies aiming to establish a remote subsidiary with in-house employees. It is best suited to businesses with little knowledge of countries outside of their headquarters and who have a desire to build a sustainable engineering resource for the long-term. 

Choosing a Remote Engineering Engagement Model

Before choosing an engagement model for remote engineering, companies need to evaluate their needs. This will help identify which model works for their circumstances and ensure they make the best decision. Everything from the skills required for the work,  the length of the engagement period and the overall objective of the resource will influence the model required.

Moving into the future, all 3 engagement models are likely to grow as more businesses attempt to overcome the challenges of internal recruitment and build their remote engineering capabilities.

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