Successful digital transformation demands new skillsets and a very different “liquid” workforce—one that is adaptable, change-ready and responsive to business requirements.
They need agile, iterative approaches that call for new ways of thinking and working, putting the traditional, outsourcing-based service models under immense pressure.
This is where crowdsourcing comes in. It allows organizations to expand their workforce to include external talent in the form of public freelance marketplaces and crowd platforms so that they can rapidly access the needed skills, on demand and at scale.
It is not about ideation alone; the crowd can do much more.
Most people still associate crowdsourcing with “idea sourcing”—generating wisdom from a crowd. Lay’s, the potato chip manufacturer, used the crowd in a clever campaign, called “Do Us a Flavor,” to come up with new chip flavors. Loyal fans pitched ideas for a chance to win $1 million. But the crowd can do so much more.
Microtasking platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turks or iMerit allow task owners to post very small and extremely simple tasks, such as identifying items in a photograph, that wouldn’t be efficient or cost effective to do in-house.
Then there are specialized talent markets (Applause and Bug Bounty, for instance) that allow you to tap into specific skills such as mobility testing, data security or bug hunting on demand. Kaggle and InnoCentive on the other hand offer incentives to highly-skilled resources to crack arcane scientific and technology problems that regular employees may fail to solve.
Put the crowd to work where you need it. To get the best out of your crowd, consider what is being outsourced and how granular the effort would be—microtask, individual task, small assignment or a large project—and what you are seeking from the crowd—generating ideas, sourcing a labor pool, finding niche skills or gathering insights. These two factors alone can reveal interesting opportunities and combinations to tap into the online labor pools.
Internal employee workforce and external crowds complement each other to offer the best of both worlds.
Crowdsourcing will not replace traditional delivery, but it will fill digital skills gaps and enable near instant scalability. Internal teams provide knowledge and processes while the external crowds add specialized skills with flexibility and global coverage.
When Reckitt Benckiser, a leading consumer goods company, faced challenges with a new product, it turned to Gigwalk—a platform that provides on-demand mobile field force to perform in-store audits and product placement evaluations. Gigwalk’s crowd completed 500 in-store audits in 10 days to reveal that 54 percent of stores failed to execute special displays and the product packaging did not clearly convey benefits.
At Accenture, we are in the midst of a controlled rollout of our own liquid workforce strategy. Our partnership with Applause is an exciting example. By combining Accenture’s internal testing capabilities with the Applause crowd, we can offer exceptionally flexible and comprehensive testing services.
The shift to crowdsourcing is an exciting but a challenging transformation.
Pulling off the shift to crowdsourcing requires new management skills and processes, new thinking about how to structure work and new enabling technology. Employers need to adapt hiring strategies to offer benefits of a “gig” experience to millennials (who make up most of the crowd) while meeting client’s preference for regular employees.
Ultimately, these efforts need to come together on a single platform—one that is comprehensive and flexible enough to support a wide range of workforces drawn from internal employees, public talent pools and privately-managed external crowds.
Accenture Labs created the Digital Talent Broker—a platform for brokering work between job posters and candidates (such as bench resources) to do small tasks on demand (researching a topic, planning events, or even developing or testing an internal application).
We’ve since extended this to accommodate larger crowds and increasingly complex work, and it today powers the Accenture Liquid Workforce with a total of 14 internal online talent markets.
Crowdsourcing: A new workforce strategy
As organizations shift their strategy from a “build to last” to a “build to adapt” mindset, crowdsourcing is becoming mainstream to talent development instead of a peripheral add-on. It offers unprecedented flexibility at three levels: skills, projects and enterprise, allowing organizations to respond to changes in a much more agile manner. As traditional sourcing models are unable to meet the need for faster innovation, organizations will start using crowdsourcing as a force multiplier for digital transformation.