Managed Crowdsourcing for the Enterprise: the Growth of Private Talent Clouds


Service marketplaces are now offering managed crowdsourcing designed for the enterprise, providing access to a pre-selected crowd through a private web-based interface.

One of the over-arching themes of crowdsourcing is its slow march towards the mainstream. One aspect of this is penetration into the larger enterprise, with crowdsourcing a technique embedded into key business processes.

It’s safe to say that progress has been patchy. For example crowdsourcing user testing is now gaining ground among larger companies, but service marketplaces such as oDesk and are still dominated by smaller companies and start-ups.  Where there is use by larger companies it is often sporadic or ad-hoc, limited to one department or division, or the result of an individual dipping their toe in the water.

The hesitation of the enterprise

It’s a shame that more global companies don’t use service marketplaces as the crowd provides a mind-boggling range of services which could be utilised.

In practice some of the reasons for the reticence of larger organisation to use these platforms lies in the processes put in place by enterprise support functions to minimise risks and reduce costs. Measures involving procurement departments and HR functions often mean that there are approval steps to navigate, lists of preferred suppliers to adhere to and pre-vetting of candidates to undertake.
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Crowdsourcing Pioneer Trada Closes Down: Insights and Implications


Crowdsourced search engine marketing company defunct after $17m in funding.

Last week Trada, the first major search engine marketing company to use a crowdsourced model, announced it had ceased operations.  A note from CEO Matt Harada on the Trada website announced that unpaid creditors “have instructed us to cease operations of the Trada marketplace” and was now recommending clients to use the services of two more traditional competitors,  Wordstream and White Shark Media.

For those following Trada’s recent activities, the news of the company’s demise doesn’t come as a huge surprise. In late 2013 there were significant layoffs  and hints at a restructure, and a change in direction around a product called PPCPath.  This new emphasis was clearly not enough to reverse Trada’s fortunes and after seven years the firm has shut down.

An early pioneer

When we wrote the first edition of “Getting Results from Crowds”  in 2011, Trada was one of the pioneering crowdsourcing companies which looked like one of the most likely to succeed.  It’s model of using a crowd of pay-per-click experts (called “Optimizers”) to create web adverts, identify the right keywords and then refine results was a first.

This model seemed well-poised to give small and medium-sized companies a decent ROI and also reward the best Optimizers. It also meant companies could leverage the crowd at short notice to get campaigns up and running quickly, and get a wide set of perspectives to uncover new keywords.
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Using Anonymous Employee Feedback Platforms to Drive Better Performance


Platforms where employees give anonymous feedback on organisations provide valuable insight.

If  you have gone for a job interview or been trying to decide whether to apply for a position, you may have used a website where employees give anonymous feedback about what it’s really like to work at a company.

Websites such as GlassdoorCareerbliss and Vault allow employees to leave information about working conditions, levels of pay, opportunities for advancement, management and the experience of being interviewed.  Specific feedback is presented and ratings scores are aggregated, usually with companies graded between 1 and 5 for different aspects such as salary levels. This information is extremely valuable for anybody researching career options or who is in the job interview process.

Growth of online reviews of employers

In the same way that many of us would now check out online travel reviews before booking a hotel, the same is becoming true for recruitment. For example technology review company Software Advice conducted an extensive and independent survey from early 2014 and found that 48% of employees in the US have used Glassdoor in their search for a new job.
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Case Studies: Using Crowdsourcing and Mobile to Give the Supply Chain a Voice


Global companies are using mobile technology to gather feedback from supply chain workers in order to improve working conditions.
Mobile technology is opening up exciting new opportunities for organisations to gather feedback and opinions from internal crowds, particularly employees who work in factories, warehouses and retail units.

Previously this section of the workforce has been regarded as difficult to communicate with digitally. This is mainly because they do not have easy access to a computer terminal during the working day. Also many do not have digital identities such as a corporate email address which are usually required to roll out digital communication platforms.

In practice many organisations have deprioritised efforts to open a meaningful dialogue or deliver digital services to this section of the workforce, and attempts have either been muted or ineffectual.

Using employee’s own mobile phones as the primary channel for digital communication removes many of the logistical barriers and presents an exciting opportunity to leverage the ideas and insights of factory and retail workers.

Soliciting opinions from the supply chain

Some organisations are even going one step further, and actively canvassing the opinions of workers in their supply chain, particularly in manufacturing units in developing countries.

In recent years large corporates have come under scrutiny from consumers, pressure groups and even shareholders over poor working conditions and low levels of pay in factories in developing countries.

But giving workers in these facilities a voice provides a potentially revolutionary opportunity to achieve better working conditions, ensure standards continue to be adhered to and satisfy consumers with ethical concerns.
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Why 2015 Will be Another Year of Growth for Elance-oDesk and Freelancer


Service marketplaces like Elance-oDesk and Freelancer are well placed to experience growth in 2015.

In recent years major service marketplaces such as Freelancer and Elance-oDesk have experienced exponential growth across key metrics such as the total value and volume of jobs completed and the number of registered providers.  The success of these platforms has helped facilitate the rise of  a global distributed workforce which can be hired on an on-demand, freelance basis.

There is every indication that the rapid growth of the major service marketplaces will continue during 2015. Both the two market leaders had a successful 2014 and are well-placed to capitalise on the opportunities in the sector.

Freelancer continues buying its competitors

In late 2013 Sydney-based Freelancer floated on the Australian stock exchange. The IPO has given the company a foundation to continue its ambitious acquisition program, gobbling up minor competitors, players with a significant footprint in individual countries or marketplaces which focus on a particular niche.
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Will Local Service Marketplaces Soar Despite the Challenges?


Local service marketplaces have flourished in recent years, but the evolution of some of the key players show there are significant challenges.

One of the most fascinating developments we have observed in the Crowdsourcing Landscape over the past two years is the explosion in local service marketplaces. These sites allow individuals to outsource small personal tasks and errands to local providers. From house cleaning to fetching the groceries to somebody coming to assemble your flat pack furniture, it’s now easy for buyers to connect to sellers who will do those jobs they don’t have time to do or those chores they hate.

The best known local service marketplace is TaskRabbit which has received nearly $38m in funding and expanded outside the US. Meanwhile other platforms have flourished usually serving particular cities or countries, for example Ask for Task in Canada and Airtasker in Australia. The latter is now looking to break into the US and providing a service targeted to businesses.

Despite what look like some real success stories, local service marketplaces have real challenges, as evidenced by the evolution of the business models of some of the major players.

A fragmented market

One of the main issues is that the sector is highly fragmented, both in terms of geography covered and type of service offered.  It can be difficult for a local service marketplace to expand beyond the metropolitan area it usually serves and few sites genuinely compete at even a country-level.  New entrants may also find considerable competition for particular cities or around particular services.
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Crowdsourcing Patent Research: How Crowdsourcing Is Influencing the Mainstream


Crowdsourcing patent research is a fascinating example of how a crowdsourced business model can start to influence the mainstream, and transform the way things are done.

Crowdsourcing is changing the patent and intellectual property industry. The way it has evolved gives an interesting glimpse into how crowdsourcing is infiltrating different business sectors.

The research involved in filing or challenging a patent revolves around finding the “prior art” of a patent’s subject area. In the past this has been the preserve of a relatively traditional industry model complete with government agencies and professional services firms.

But the increasingly global nature of intellectual property, the opening up of searchable patent databases on the web (made even easier thanks to Google), the high number of questionable patents and a highly litigious world has resulted in both commercial pressure and a clear opportunity to open up the sector to crowdsourced models.

Tapping the talent of both patent professionals and amateur researchers has some obvious benefits in lower costs, but it can also result in more extensive searches across multiple territories and in different languages. If there is interaction with the crowd along the way it also allows a more iterative approach to directed searches as new leads and unexpected avenues emerge.  Ultimately all this helps reduce risks for any company filing a patent.
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Is Internal Crowdfunding in the Enterprise Set to Take Off?


A number of companies are experimenting with internal crowdfunding.  This has the potential to be a successful way to spark innovation and evaluate employee-generated ideas.

Given the attention that crowdfunding and Kickstarter have had in the media over the past two years, it is surprising that more large enterprises have not experimented with crowdfunding internally with employees.

Ideation platforms, where employees can contribute suggestions and ideas and then vote on the best ones to implement, are now commonplace in both large and small companies. Some of these schemes have been in place for over a decade.

Similarly, arguing the business case for your own initiative is now part of corporate culture, and some organisations have an “innovation” fund for new projects which may be regarded as extraordinary spend, above and beyond normal functional or departmental budgets.

With idea management widespread and pitching for funding part a frequent activity, perhaps enterprise crowdfunding is not such a huge cultural leap.

The advantages of internal crowdfunding

The advantage of distributing some budget for the employees to back different projects is it greatly increases the influence of the workforce and each individual on which initiatives are actually taken forward.

In traditional idea management schemes, a committee tends to sift through the most popular projects, but internal crowdfunding means there is a potentially deeper sense of involvement for all employees.

In turn this means more considered participation, better proposals, deeper engagement through the process (particularly if there are incentives), more ongoing feedback and the diffusion of an innovative culture.
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Crowdtesting Success: Why Crowdsourcing User Testing Continues to Grow and Provide Value


Crowdtesting is a successful area of the crowsourcing landscape that provides great value.

Crowdtesting involves a distributed crowd carrying out  user testing for software development and IT projects, usually across a hosted platform. It has grown into an accepted model in mainstream business, used by both large enterprises and smaller companies.  It’s still a fast-growing area with the market leader uTest one of crowdsourcing’s undisputed success stories.

User testing focuses on identifying bugs, issues and potential improvements during the development and pre-launch phase of any software.  Within most software projects there are different types of testing, for example testing which focuses on usability, or “load testing” which tests the response from software experiencing high demand from multiple users.

The advantages of crowdtesting
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8 Implications of Venture Capitalists Getting into Crowdfunding


Is VC crowdfunding the future of venture capital?

Angel investors traditionally have two pathways to buy into new enterprise. They put their money into a fund which seeks out high risk, high return projects; or they find projects and do due diligence themselves.

Some venture capitalists, observing the crowdfunding model, are exploring avenues to exploit the global reach the internet and social media provide. One such venture capital group, the Israeli startup platform OurCrowd, brings together venture capital and angel investment strategies into a new model for equity crowdfunding.

OurCrowd claims to curate best in market projects, does the due diligence, and provides initial capital investment to set projects in motion. Hereafter, they raise the balance of funds through their own global, sophisticated investor network, via their own crowdfunding equity platform. The platform allows these investors to review a range of projects available, and choose the ones they like.
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