Crowdsourcing for the Enterprise

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Crowdsourcing for the Enterprise

by Faulkner Staff

Docid: 00021370

Publication Date: 1910

Report Type: TUTORIAL


Crowdsourcing uses the reach of the Internet to put decisions and
projects into the hands of large groups of people. This tactic has
quickly grown popular in many industries, but its value and limitations
are still largely to be determined. To keep up with competitors and avoid risks,
organizations need to understand how and why crowdsourcing is used, as well as how to plan and execute it so
that it focuses on business goals. This tutorial takes a look at many of these

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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The buzzword "crowdsourcing" refers to any practice that solicits help from a
large pool of online users.

Across many industries there have been a wide range of applications for the
idea, from raising money to developing TV shows to creating software. Although
some of these efforts are informal, organizations tend to manage the practice
more strictly and, often, with specialized technology. Services such as Amazon
Mechanical Turk and Figure Eight (formerly Crowdflower) have been launched to
help organizations find, qualify, and manage crowd participants, who – in these
cases – are paid for their participation.

Crowdsourcing offers a number of potential benefits, among them the
ability to attract opinions and skills. Unfortunately, there are also some
limitations. For this reason, the expertise of a small, dedicated team is often
still the best resource.


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Growing Use

"Crowdsourcing" uses the Internet to solicit opinions or assistance from a
wide range of people. Until recently, the practice was largely considered
experimental or restricted to consumer use. More recently, however,
crowdsourcing has caught the interest of larger groups including American
Express, Coca-Cola, IBM, NASA1, Pepsi, Lego, and Amazon2.


Crowdsourcing takes many forms, from a local bakery using Facebook to ask
customers their favorite cupcake flavor to a large company developing commercial
software with the aid of a multinational collection of workers. The practice can
make projects responsive to public opinion, in essence functioning as a
large-scale focus group. It can also make work cheaper to complete.

For simple uses, organizations can assign people to manually read the
crowd’s input, such as by combing through survey responses on a social media
site. For complex mission-critical use, organizations tend to enlist the
help of analytics tools to:

  • Manage, collect, and crunch data.
  • Organize information.
  • Evaluate participants.
  • Conducting "high-level" data analysis and other "sophisticated"

Big Data Tie-In

Not coincidentally, crowdsourcing has developed much at the same time as Big Data;
some elements of the two practices are actually intertwined. For instance, crowdsourcing is sometimes used when Big Data’s automated number crunching is
not suited for a task, such as interpreting a CAPTCHA image.4 Help
from a specialized crowd can also be solicited to perform high-level data

Current View

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The technology and marketplace conditions that spawned the boom in
crowdsourcing are relatively new.


With crowdsourcing’s growing popularity, it has been put to more important
uses, often leading to commercial providers developing services that help
organizations implement the concept. In essence, these services are designed to
manage "micro-tasking" relationships between employers and workers. It is within
this climate that several, specialized crowdsourcing services have emerged:

  • Amazon Mechanical Turk
  • Figure Eight
  • wipro’s Appirio
  • Brightidea


Crowdsourcing services tend to cater in particular toward business users and
consumers that have grown familiar with social, collaborative environments, from
message boards to wikis to social media sites. This familiarity has sparked a
participatory spirit, and it has even created the expectation that services
should be collaborative. Other effects that this development have had include
improved popularity for mobile platforms and the features that they offer; the
development of new analysis tools, such as Big Data programs, expanding the
tasks that can be performed with crowdsourced information; improved support for
measuring e-commerce and Internet search relevance; sentiment analysis for
advertising and PR; the ability to perform CRM database "cleanup"; and financial
services’ business data enhancement.5

Of note, crowdsourcing has become a particularly effective technique for data
scientists, sales operations personnel, digital media analysts, and data
"stewards,"6 among other areas, as detailed in Table 1.

Table 1. Examples of Crowdsourcing Applications
Use Description
Data Science Machine-learning training
Sales Operations CRM database cleanup
Digital media analysis Customer sentiment management
Data Stewardship Data completion and verification
Radio Programming Audience participation 7
Movie and TV Pitches Considering crowd-based input 8 and allowing
employees to submit or comment on ideas 9
Local Weather Reporting Collecting crowdsource-based local weather information
for a particular place at a particular time 10
Academic Grading Services to allow students to grade one another’s work 11
Criminal Investigations Soliciting pictures and videos related to solving crimes 12
Product Testing Testing under-development products 13
Disaster Management Allowing users to provide pictures and other information
pertaining to disasters 14
Software Development Crowdsourcing software-development projects and
co-building applications
Fundraising "Crowdfunding," which relies on many small donations


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Market and Technology

So far, evidence points to crowdsourcing being used for multiple purposes in
many industries; as yet, these questions are not yet settled. To date,
crowdsourcing has helped to answer the questions such as:

  • What technology allows it to be conducted effectively?
  • What business problems can it solve?
  • Can it be used for mission-critical purposes?
  • How are participants effectively recruited?
  • How can responses be evaluated and managed?
  • In what market segments will the concept be effective?

Drivers versus Deterrents

Drivers. Crowdsourcing is driven by (a) the potential to reach large
numbers of people, and (b) the interest that customers and others have in
participating in online projects. These drivers should only continue to
influence enterprises in the coming years, likely making crowdsourcing an
attractive practice moving forward

Deterrents. Factors that carry with them the potential to blunt the
power of crowdsourcing drivers, meanwhile, include:

  • Control-related concerns.
  • Regulatory pressure.
  • Need for expertise.
  • Security-related needs.

Other Considerations

Mobile Crowdsourcing. Increasingly, crowdsourcing is being conducted
over mobile phones. In addition to being used by many private companies and
nonprofits, crowdsourcing apps are also offered by the US federal government.
These offerings, in particular, include everything from an app to report seeing a whale to an app
for finding gas during a disaster.15

Maturity. Enterprise-use crowdsourcing tends to continue to make its
practice more formal, tightly managed, and mission-critical. Examples of this
growing maturity include:

  • Vetting participants in crowd projects.
  • Analyzing crowdsourced information using sophisticated algorithms.
  • More carefully planning for crowdsourced projects.
  • Introducing specialized technology for crowdsourcing.

Other Specialized Services. Specialized crowdsourcing software and
services are also becoming increasingly available. Prominent examples include
Deloitte’s Pixel and Brightidea. Pixel, in particular, offers a service through
which Deloitte consults with customers to determine need, then recommends
third-party crowdsourcing providers. Brightidea, meanwhile, provides a
centralized dashboard for managing internal and external crowdsourcing services,
and offers apps for tracking and controlling individual campaigns.


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Focus on Management Practices

Some crowdsourcing efforts solicit input from anyone who offers it, however
this loose approach can diminish the effectiveness of the process and limit the
value with which the crowd’s input is regarded. For many projects, it is better
to use a more controlled approach. One particular framework for managing
crowdsourcing efforts is provided by Accenture, which breaks down crowdsourcing
types according to:

  • Need for rapidly accessing skills, both on-demand and at-scale.
  • Need for micro-tasking.
  • Specialized talent-market considerations.
  • Complementing internal employee workforces with external crowds.
  • Requirements governing new management skills and processes.
  • Thinking how to structure work and enable technology.
  • Needs regarding adapting strategies.
  • Comprehensive and flexible support for workforces, drawn from internal
    employees, public talent pools, and privately managed external crowds.
  • Accommodation for larger crowds and increasingly complex work.
  • Flexibility regarding skills, projects, and enterprises.16

Determine User Engagement Value

Some work is crowdsourced because doing so is cheap and easy. In these cases,
the work is often done anonymously through a service such as Amazon Mechanical
Turk. In other cases, projects are crowdsourced to foster enthusiasm and a sense
of shared interest amongst users, many of whom are potential customers.

Consider Using Crowdsourcing as a Design Approach

Many enterprises employ crowdsourcing to more effectively design new products
and services. The idea behind this approach is to make design not a one-time
project, but, rather, an ongoing, routine process. In this "culture of
innovation," as it is sometimes called, organizations may use both external and
internal crowds.

Put Crowdsourcing into Perspective

Crowdsourcing is a popular buzzword, but organizations should be mindful to
separate this hype from the practice’s true capabilities and limitations.
Ultimately, organizations would be wise to view crowdsourcing not as a magical
process that rewrites business rules, but instead as a new tool that works well
when employed in the right way.

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1 Clancy, Heather. “Crowdsourcing Gains Enterprise Credibility.” ZDNet.
August 21, 2014.

2 Buchanan, Graham. "5 Examples of Companies Innovating with
Crowdsourcing." InnoCentive. January 11, 2018.
3 Clancy, Heather. “Crowdsourcing Gains Enterprise Credibility.” ZDNet.
August 21, 2014.

4 Bertolucci, Jeff. “Can’t Hire Big Data Staff? Try Enterprise
Crowdsourcing.” InformationWeek. January 14, 2013.
5 Blattberg, Eric. “How Enterprises Use Crowdsourcing
(infographic).” VentureBeat. November 14, 2013.
6 Ibid
7 Perez, Sarah. “Radio Startup Jelli Wins Patent on
Crowd-Controlled Broadcasting.” TechCrunch. March 26, 2013.
8 Barr, Alistair. “How Amazon Is Crowdsourcing Movies and TV
Shows.” Reuters. October 10, 2012.
9 Jivanda, Tomas. “BBC Launching Cloud-Based iCreate to
Crowdsource TV Show Ideas from Employees.” July
17, 2013.
10 Lunden, Ingrid. “Weendy, an Extreme Sports App that Merges
Crowdsourced and Actual Weather Data, Gets $240K Led by Archimedes.” TechCrunch.
February 14, 2013.
11 “First Trial of Crowdsourced Grading
for Computer Science Homework.” MIT Technology Review. September
4, 2013.
12 Bandoim, Lana. “The Role of Crowdsourcing Technology as
Evidence.” Technorati. April 20, 2013.
13 Meek, Teresa. “8 Tips for Unbeatable Enterprise Crowdsourcing.” Forbes. July 3, 2013.
14 Gibbs, Mark. “Got a Disaster? FEMA’s Got an App with
Crowdsourcing for That.” NetworkWorld. July 30, 2013.
15 Parcell, Jacob. “How Six Agencies Are CrowdSourcing with
Mobile Apps.” DigitalGov. December 22, 2014.
16 Durg, Kishore. "Crowdsourcing: A Workforce Multiplier for Digital
Transformation." Accenture. May 1, 2017.

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