Crowdsourcing, Crowdopolis, and Enterprise Adoption

In mid-July, I find myself in the middle of the subject of “crowdsourcing.” The first SIA overview report on the third Human Cloud platform segment (besides Online Staffing and Online Services) was published last week: Crowdsourcing Platforms--Mapping the Advanced Frontier of the Human Cloud Platform Landscape. And this week, I’ll be covering and reporting on a conference being held in San Francisco called Crowdopolis.

The report on Crowdsourcing platforms is an introduction and overview of a particular set of online work intermediation platforms that intermediate work in unique innovative ways. It covers: What do we at SIA mean by Crowdsourcing? And how are these Crowdsourcing platforms unique and different from other platforms we have analyzed. Some brief excerpts from the report will suggest what and how:

“Crowdsourcing” has become a widely-used term with a wide range of meanings. For our purposes, it refers to an online platform-based process of inviting and engaging numerous paid online workers from a dispersed, often massive, labor population to each perform a quite narrowly defined/scoped unit of work, which, when collected and processed further by the platform, will lead to an expected value added outcome for the client.

Within the SIA Human Cloud platform lexicon, Crowdsourcing represents a group of platforms that, although sometimes having some shared characteristics, are fairly distinct from Online Staffing and Online Services platforms. They also seem to represent some of the most innovative models for organizing certain kinds of work and workers on a contingent basis, with technology continuing to press on the frontier of what can be done.

In contrast to Crowdsourcing platforms, Online Staffing and Online Services platforms are as follows:

Online Staffing platforms characteristically enable a one-to-one, typically contingent work arrangement BETWEEN a buyer AND a specific skilled worker (or, infrequently, an organized team of workers or a micro-firm) in order to complete a whole project. The mutual assessment and direct exchange between buyer and worker is essential for the total conduct of, and compensation for, the whole scope of work based on mutually agreed terms between buyer and worker.

Online Services platforms provide a specific, discrete, repeatable, and often unit-priced service for a segment of buyers with common needs (e.g. audio transcription or copy writing, etc.). Online Services platforms do this by engaging a curated group of specific, occupationally-skilled, and personally-identified contingent workers to perform the online work necessary to produce the specific service output. Buyers purchase and consume the service outputs provided by the platform, but they do not enter into work arrangements with those performing the work.

Read the report for the details of what Crowdsourcing is about, and bear these conclusions in mind:

Still experimental and evolving, Crowdsourcing platforms represent extreme forms of innovation in how contingent workers can be engaged and work can be done. There is definitely a place for these kinds of platforms in the globally networked, 21st Century, information-based/service economy, although it is difficult to predict the extent and form it might take. For the near term, we expect the Crowdsourcing segment to continue on a steady, but not explosive, path of investment, innovation, and growth.

To staffing professionals, Crowdsourcing may seem alien, something that has little if anything to do with serious staffing. The tendency might be to “write-off” these developments, not take them seriously.

However, it is interesting to note that large corporate enterprises are doing anything but ignoring these Crowdsourcing platforms. If one looks at who are the clients of these Crowdsourcing platforms (including names like Crowdflower, WorkFusion, Innocentive, Topcoder (Appirio)), one might be surprised to find that clients are largely made up of top corporate enterprises, which are using innovative Crowdsourcing methods and platforms to get specific work done by different kinds of “crowds” of contingent workers.

That brings me to Crowdopolis. I’ll be heading there this week to hear speakers from a range of large enterprises that have been making use of Crowdsourcing, including:

  • AT&T
  • eBay
  • GE
  • Google
  • IBM
  • Intel
  • Kimberly Clarke
  • Lenovo
  • LinkedIn
  • Microsoft

This is really just a small sample of the large enterprises which have begun to use Crowdsourcing, but it is a representative one.

With big businesses like these taking the plunge, we should take note.

I intend to do so. And when I am back from Crowdopolis, I plan to share some of what I’ve learned.


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