Integrant’s Shadow Engineering Program: 4Plus1™

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Our unique approach to allocating people to projects and teams addresses common challenges in software development. 

As a tech leader do you ever find yourself: 

  • Losing once reliable, fully trained engineers to competitors and wondering how you’re going to keep applications running or complete projects on time? 
  • Blocked from converting contract engineers to full-time employees or extending employment contracts? 
  • Frustrated by scope creep or increased complexity of features without a change in deadlines or people available to complete the work on time? 
  • Arguing with Finance and executive management on unexpected budget cuts and grappling with losing trained staff while foreseeing a ramp up in a matter of months? 

 As an engineer do you feel: 

  • Bored with the day-to-day grind. 
  • Frustrated by a lack of training and opportunities to learn new technologies or concepts. 
  • Worried you’re losing your technical edge. 
  • Overworked and burnt out. 
We run into these problems every day. To combat these issues for our own staff and to help our customers we came up with the 4Plus1 program: 
  • For every four billable engineers on a program, we add one shadow engineer to the team. 
  • We rotate engineers in and out throughout the year to cover varying skillsets. 
  • With five engineers on the program, each person is “free” about 10 weeks per year. 
  • Programs with fewer than four engineers receive the same benefits via partial allocation throughout the year. For example, for a team of two engineers we will add a shadow engineer for 6 of 12 months. 
Here’s how our engineers use the 10 “free” weeks: 
  • Take personal time to recharge and ensure good work-life balance. 
  • Benefit from at least four weeks of technical and soft skills training. 
  • Shadow engineers work side-by-side with core engineers on various programs by working on the same user stories, pair programming, and thereby receiving exposure to a wider range of problems to solve and technologies to learn.  
And it’s a win-win for us and our customers: 
  • The program bolsters retention which is important for everyone. 
  • If we have a team of 4 on a program, we have one engineer ready to join the team at a moment’s notice. For a team of 8, we have two engineers ready to go and so on. 
  • Because we don’t keep the same shadow engineers on a program (instead we rotate people in and out) the longer a customer partners with us, the more staff we have trained on their applications, processes, and domain.  
As a team specializing in software development as a service, we are expected to ramp up quickly with people who are trained, knowledgeable, and ready.   

To accomplish this, we start first by hiring the best talent in the market. We hire people who are hungry for knowledge and motivated. Next, we understand hands on, project experience is one of the best ways to learn. We also mix in methods to add new skills and stay sharp: our own proprietary internal training programs, external certification courses, online resources, and more. 

Perhaps most importantly, we help our staff achieve balance in their lives. I create and lead quarterly Mind, Body, Soul (MBS) sessions covering topics such as creating a vision for your life, living by your personal principles and values, setting and achieving life goals. 

People allocation is the toughest, most complex part of our business. We’re balancing customer priorities, employee needs, an ever-shifting pipeline of projects, and a uniquely fast paced industry – tech. But, I also know getting it right is the key to providing a consistently high quality service, enabling us to solve many of the problems we face in software development. 

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