A business contact asks for recommendations for an open position. An old college buddy asks for restaurant suggestions in a popular city. A parent at your child’s school asks for summer camp reviews.
There’s a name for this type of request: crowdsourcing. And it’s not limited to people in your social networks. This method of seeking resources from the masses is part of a larger trend — one that enterprises are adopting to drive innovation and boost business.
Enterprises are using crowdsourcing to expand their talent pools and obtain ideas, content or services not just from current employees and suppliers, but online communities and the public as well. And because crowdsourcing provides a wider supply of resources, businesses can fine-tune the ways they use Big Data, analytics, and data enhancement.
Here’s a looks into the role of crowdsourcing within the enterprise.
What kinds of tasks are enterprises seeking from the crowd?
There are a host of jobs that businesses are assigning outside their regular workforces. These can be short tasks like translation, product testing, survey completion or website categorization, or more complex jobs, like coding or writing content, that can be obtained from online freelance markets.
Businesses can also look to the crowd for solving problems and generating ideas. The crowdsourcing can come in the form of a contest to the public at large or a specific skilled audience.
Don’t businesses already have skilled employees to do these things?
For the most part, yes. But by looking outside the box, businesses can add flexibility and scalability, not to mention save money. This is particularly true for startups and smaller organizations, which make up 80 percent of crowdsourcing clients.
In short, the crowdsourced workers help solve problems, add value, and obtain specialized expertise.
What are some specific ways crowdsourcing can benefit businesses?
Technology companies can use crowdsourcing for testing and finding glitches in apps and software. For example, note-taking app-maker Evernote uses UserTesting.com to record users’ actions and ask them questions — rather than exhaust its own resources conducting tests and compiling results.
Brick-and-mortar retailers could use the crowd for secret shopping to gain insight about their stores and employees. Some tasks for these crowdsourced workers could be scanning shelves for pricing mistakes or product misalignment. A retailer could also use crowdsourcing and cloud applications to launch a storefront makeover or website redesign, and solicit feedback from its target audience before a full launch.
Online businesses can use crowdsourced information about search results to make them more relevant to users, and thus, increase engagement or conversion.
What should businesses remember when looking to crowdsourcing for resources?
Quality control is key. Yes, there are skilled people out there able to perform a range of tasks, but businesses need to be sure they can count on the quality of the work and manage the workers.
Dawn Tiura Evans, president and CEO of Sourcing Interest Group, touched on this at Massolution NYC:
“You can push on cost, you can push on quality, or you can push on service … but you can’t push on all three,” she said. “If you push a little bit on cost, you might give up quality or service. (With crowdsourcing,) you can push on cost, quality, and service, and improve all three at the same time.”
How has your business used crowdsourcing for services and innovation? What other crowdsourcing uses can be beneficial for enterprises?