Crowdsourcing is a process by which physical or financial innovation challenges are overcome by recruiting and collaborating with others to produce a product or service. Crowdsourcing can also be applied to a large range of everyday business challenges. In theory, it is simple: send out an open call to a wide variety of Internet users who have an interest and expertise related to the subject, and then have them compete for the best solution.
To better understand how this innovative approach to problem-solving may fit into an overall IT business strategy, consider the following:
A crowdsourcing “challenge” utilizes the collective intelligence of a wide range of voluntary participants in an open intellectual environment. Winners of the challenge may be awarded a prize, monetary compensation, co-authoring or just the acclaim that comes with knowing an individual’s idea was voted best by a community of peers all working hard to address the same challenge.
From a manager’s perspective, crowdsourcing involves developing an organized way for participants to interact and collaborate within precise project parameters. In addition to making the process user-friendly, managers need to be able to track users and create relevant metrics that help analyze the data or information collected.
One big advantage of crowdsourcing is that it provides immediate attention to and staffing for a current business need. Although crowdsourcing is often compared to outsourcing, it is altogether a different concept. When outsourcing, a company must make hiring decisions, allocate training resources and perhaps supplement a benefits package. With crowdsourcing, the forum – by definition – is open and voluntary. This provides lower overhead costs on a project and more agility in the problem-solving process.
A variety of websites allow companies to post their job, or challenge, and a number of people typically begin working on the assignment. Simple tasks such as providing feedback on a website layout and rating its user-friendly features, or describing merchandise for an online catalogue are common uses of crowdsourcing. Tasks that require highly sophisticated knowledge and intense time management can become a logistical burden and might not be ideal for crowdsourcing.
Because participants are often in competition with one another for the work, there may not be great communication among participants without significant planning on the part of the organization providing the work. In addition, workers don’t sign contracts so they may leave a project at any given time.
Despite these obstacles, crowdsourcing is an innovative new use of collaborative and creative talents and its potential is just being uncovered. Planning ahead and structuring a project with specific requirements and benchmark goals can lead to a more effective outcome.
For a variety of supportive tasks, such as testing new software or previewing training manuals for clarity, crowdsourcing may provide a wide array of helpful feedback to make the product stronger. Popular companies like Lego have also turned to users for product ideas. Software developers could similarly engage clientele who use their product most for ideas related to new features that may help the company address user needs more effectively.
From requesting collaboration on traditional business topics to asking for help with more technical tasks, crowdsourcing taps into a large and diverse population of willing participants ready to tackle a variety of projects.
Becoming more aware of crowdsourcing and its potential in business can help IT managers address a variety of tasks cost effectively and creatively. From developing IT infrastructure, to tracking the best participants, to managing webpages and forums on a company’s website, crowdsourcing can be skillfully used to leverage increased user engagement if it is well planned. For savvy IT professionals, it offers a chance to develop new software and data management strategies aimed at assisting other companies looking for stronger solutions to manage crowdsourcing projects of their own.
For managers looking to implement crowdsourcing strategies within an organization, it is important to become familiar with some of the common pitfalls and plan around them. As with any newer business trend, there is a potential for lucrative results for those willing to put the time and dedication into building a strong knowledge base that is necessary to generate the most powerful results.