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BPO Vs. Staff Augmentation: Which One Is Right For You?

Explore the differences between business process outsourcing and staff augmentation. Learn their impact on efficiency and control for smarter business choices.
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In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, organizations are constantly seeking effective ways to optimize their operations and achieve strategic agility.

Two prevalent engagement models—business process outsourcing (BPO) and staff augmentation—offer distinct pathways to meet these resource and operational needs.

While business process outsourcing allows companies to delegate entire business functions to external experts, staff augmentation provides the flexibility to bolster in-house capabilities with specialized talent.

The choice between these models is pivotal, impacting not only cost structures but also control, scalability, and the nature of employment relationships. This article aims to demystify these two engagement models, offering a comprehensive comparison to guide you in making an informed decision tailored to your organization’s unique requirements.

DID YOU KNOW? Global spending on outsourcing is expected to reach $2 trillion, while expenditure on staff augmentation is estimated to reach nearly $82 billion by the year 2025.

Understanding BPO & Staff Augmentation: Key Definitions

Before diving into the intricacies, it’s essential to establish a foundational understanding of these two prevalent engagement models. Below, we clarify what each model entails, its historical context, and the industries where they are most commonly applied.

What is BPO?

Business process outsourcing is a strategic practice of handing over critical, non-core tasks or entire business functions to a third-party service provider. These providers seamlessly integrate into the company’s operational framework, bypassing the administrative and financial burdens often associated with traditional employer-employee relationships. Such collaboration considerably trims the start-up’s overhead without hindering its core operations, resulting in healthier month-end income statements.  Originating as a cost-saving measure, business process outsourcing has evolved into a robust strategy that enables organizations to focus on their core competencies while leveraging external expertise for non-core activities.

Commonly outsourced functions include customer service, human resources, and accounting. The benefits of outsourcing extend beyond cost savings to include enhanced efficiency, access to specialized skills, and the ability to focus on core business objectives. However, it’s important to note that by outsourcing, you limit direct control over the outsourced functions.

What is Staff Augmentation?

Staff augmentation, on the other hand, is a flexible engagement model designed to add specialized skills to your existing workforce on a temporary or long-term basis. Unlike business process outsourcing, where entire functions are outsourced, staff augmentation allows you to retain control over your projects by integrating external talent directly into your existing teams. This approach enables organizations to swiftly address skill gaps, increase workforce capacity, and manage fluctuating workloads without the complexities of traditional hiring. This model is particularly beneficial for organizations that face seasonal fluctuations in workload or need specialized skills for specific projects. While staff augmentation offers greater control and easier integration, it may require more management oversight and could be less cost-effective than BPO for long-term, repetitive tasks.

BPO vs Staff Augmentation

BPO Vs. Staff Augmentation: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Now that we have a foundational understanding of business process outsourcing and staff augmentation, let’s delve into a detailed comparison of these two engagement models. This side-by-side analysis will illuminate the unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages of each, providing you with the insights needed to make an informed decision.

1. Nature of Engagement

In the BPO model, the nature of engagement is often long-term and comprehensive. Companies enter into a partnership with a BPO provider, transferring the management and execution of an entire business function to this external entity. The BPO provider essentially becomes an extension of the company, responsible for delivering results based on agreed-upon metrics and quality standards.

Contrasting sharply with BPO, staff augmentation is generally more short-term and project-focused. External specialists are brought in to work alongside your existing team for a specific period or project. These augmented staff members are integrated into your organizational structure but are administratively managed by the staff augmentation provider.

Example for BPO Example for Staff Augmentation
A healthcare provider might outsource its entire medical billing function to a specialized BPO firm. This firm would handle everything from coding medical procedures to submitting claims to insurance providers, freeing the healthcare provider to focus on patient care. A software development company facing a tight deadline might bring in augmented staff with expertise in a specific programming language to expedite project completion. These specialists would work under the company’s guidance but are administratively managed by the staff augmentation provider.

2. Scope of Services:

The scope of services in BPO is usually broad and encompasses an entire business function or process. The BPO provider takes on the responsibility for not just the execution but also the strategy, technology, and even the legal compliance related to that function.

In contrast, the scope of services in staff augmentation is narrower and more specialized. The augmented staff are typically responsible for specific tasks or projects and do not handle overarching strategy or technology decisions for the entire function.

Example for BPO Example for Staff Augmentation
A retail company outsources its entire customer service department, including call centers, online chat, and email support, to a BPO provider. An e-commerce company hires augmented staff to manage its holiday season surge, specifically for tasks like order processing and customer inquiries.

3. Control and Integration

Control and integration are generally lower in BPO engagements. The outsourced function is managed by the BPO provider, and while there may be performance metrics and KPIs, the client company has less day-to-day control.

Staff augmentation allows for higher levels of control and integration. The augmented staff are integrated into the existing team and work under the direct supervision of the client company, allowing for real-time adjustments and closer oversight.

Example for BPO Example for Staff Augmentation
A financial institution outsources its risk assessment and compliance functions, relying on the BPO provider’s expertise and technology. A marketing agency brings in augmented graphic designers and SEO specialists for a specific campaign, managing them directly alongside their in-house team.

4. Employment Relationship

In BPO, the employment relationship is between the BPO provider and the employees who perform the outsourced functions. The client company does not have a direct employment relationship with these individuals.

In staff augmentation, the augmented staff are technically employed by the provider but work so closely with the client company that they often feel like part of the in-house team.

Example for BPO Example for Staff Augmentation
A manufacturing company outsources its logistics and supply chain management to a BPO provider. The employees handling these functions are on the BPO provider’s payroll. A tech startup augments its development team with specialized engineers for a new product launch. These engineers are paid by the staff augmentation provider but work in tandem with the startup’s in-house team.

5. Scalability

Scalability in BPO is generally more rigid and may require renegotiating contracts to accommodate changes in volume or scope. However, BPO providers often have the infrastructure and resources to scale operations quickly if needed.

Staff augmentation offers greater flexibility in scalability. Companies can easily add or remove augmented staff based on project requirements or workload, often without the need for extensive contractual changes.

Example for BPO Example for Staff Augmentation
A SaaS company outsources its customer support to a BPO provider. To handle increased customer volume, the company would need to renegotiate its contract to expand the support team. A digital marketing firm uses staff augmentation to handle fluctuating workloads, bringing in extra copywriters during peak seasons and scaling down during slower periods.

6. Cost Structure

The cost structure in BPO is usually fixed or based on performance metrics, providing predictability in expenses. However, there may be additional costs for services not covered in the original contract.

The cost structure in staff augmentation is more variable, often based on hourly rates or project-based pricing. This can offer cost savings for short-term needs but may become expensive for long-term engagements.

Example for BPO Example for Staff Augmentation
A pharmaceutical company outsources its data analysis to a BPO provider at a fixed monthly fee, with additional costs for specialized reports. A software company augments its team with freelance developers for a three-month project, paying them an hourly rate, which can be adjusted based on the project’s evolving needs.


Choosing between business process outsourcing and staff augmentation is a critical decision that can significantly impact your organization’s efficiency, control, and bottom line. Each engagement model offers its own set of advantages and challenges, making it essential to carefully consider your specific needs, strategic goals, and operational constraints. At 1840 & Company, this is where we can help you. We specialize in both BPO and global staff augmentation services, providing a comprehensive suite of solutions that can be customized to fit your organizational needs. Schedule a call with our growth experts to learn more.

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