What are the definitions and differences between IT outsourcing, IT managed services, staff augmentation, IT consulting, and IT solutions?

Aleksandra Rajczyk

Launching a successful app or IT project is usually challenging at all stages. Designing and developing a high-quality product often requires external support, especially when a company doesn’t want to increase its number of full-time employees. To satisfy the need for additional manpower, many different solutions have been invented. Tech-related companies most often use the following services: IT outsourcing, IT managed services, staff augmentation, IT consulting and IT solutions. 

Sometimes it’s really hard to differentiate these services. We’re here to help – let’s explain what these services mean and what the differences are for your business.

IT outsourcing models

In a nutshell, IT outsourcing means using external service providers to deliver some business processes and IT solutions. Outsourcing has a very wide meaning – it includes SaaS and cloud-enabled services, developing strategies, utility services, etc. Usually, when you decide to go for IT outsourcing, you essentially hand over all your IT needs to a third party. The external vendor takes over your IT operations and support. The main advantage is complexity – all your IT operations are managed by someone else. You can scale IT services up or down to meet your business needs. However, it usually means less control as you fully rely on the vendor’s expertise; as well as less flexibility.

IT managed services 

In this outsourcing model, you outsource your project to a service provider who has the experience and knowledge to carry out the entire project. The chosen third party does everything from choosing a team to managing all processes. The IT managed services model enables you to focus on your core business. Supporting services are shifted to a skilled partner. Obviously, you receive regular updates on the project. This IT outsourcing business model is more of a hands-off approach to IT outsourcing, which means it is quite a complex and long-term solution. One may say that it’s a continuous, mutual reinforcement for both parties.

IT staff augmentation – an HR outsourcing model

IT staff augmentation means hiring a skilled workforce for a limited time. An external team augments full-time employees by lending their expert skills and experience to specific project requirements. In practice, you choose qualified candidates from the list provided by the service provider. You are not their employer; you only use them for your specific project needs. IT staff augmentation is a very cost-effective solution because you only pay for their time and skills, with no HR and administrative costs or social benefits. At a fraction of a regular salary, you can access missing skills and scale your IT team size up or down – it all depends on the project’s scope. However, such a solution works great only as a short-term service.

IT consulting

IT consulting means guiding customers on everything, starting with the overall IT strategy. Consulting is similar to advising but it’s a bit more involved – its main purpose is assisting clients to reach a business goal. IT consulting includes in-house data center strategy, business environments and goals, and budgeting. It covers all you need in the entire IT development process. An IT consultant is an expert, as well as a leader of a specific domain who knows best how to optimize their client’s IT workflow. Additionally, such consultants usually know how to secure the client’s data and protect their business assets.

IT solutions

The easiest way to explain the difference between IT consulting and IT solutions is that IT consultants help their clients find the right solution to their business challenges. On the other hand, IT solution providers offer a ready solution to such challenges. So, IT solution service is much more than just telling you how to achieve your goals. It’s also implementing these solutions. IT solutions use the tools at their disposal. Sometimes, IT solution providers also offer IT consulting services though.


All of the outsourcing framework models we’ve presented above have their pros and cons. Each of them works best in particular situations. When it comes to visible benefits, many experts find staff augmentation the most effective. You can easily track progress and have a great level of control. On the other hand, most IT managed services provide clients with real-time access to work progress and budget spending. Actually, most of the above-mentioned solutions offer quick and easy reporting. 

Read also: 9 documents that will support your RFP for software development

Before choosing the outsourcing business model that works best for you, consider what you care about the most:

  • If you’re in need of project scaling, staff augmentation will be perfect, as external experts will fill knowledge gaps. 
  • If your purpose is to establish a complex partnership with a wide variety of competencies, IT project outsourcing might be an option. 
  • IT managed services will be right for you if you need a long-term partnership. 
  • IT consulting and IT solutions will work for you if you need more guidance than development itself. IT consulting especially will help you find the right tools for your business.

What can we do for you?

BinarApps specializes in complex IT services. If you’re looking for consulting, staff augmentation, or a long-term business partner, we’re here to help you find the best solution for your project. Contact us today!

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