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August 19, 2014
Don’t stop ‘til you get enough
By: Timothy Li

Tim Li works in the Digital Workforce Strategic Innovation Initiative at Accenture Technology Labs in Silicon Valley. Never a fan of huge crowds in the past, Tim has discovered a newfound respect for them when they are used in the enterprise context (versus being jammed into a subway car with them.)

You may have heard about crowdsourcing, even think you know what it means, but we’ve found that people have different ideas of what crowdsourcing entails. I work in the Digital Workforce Strategic Innovation Initiative at Accenture Technology Labs and recently we’ve gotten a slew of interest from various potential clients and client account teams inquiring about how to leverage crowdsourcing to address business challenges. Many seem to think that crowdsourcing is the same as gathering wisdom from the crowd, often for the purposes of ideation. But that’s just part of the story.

Featured in Accenture’s Technology Vision 2014, crowdsourcing continues to gain traction. Most companies dip their toe into crowdsourcing by using it to generate new ideas.

There are some terrific vendors, like Mindjet, that can help organizations get up and running quickly with a structured ideation program which involves eliciting ideas from the crowd, supporting online discussion of those ideas, and voting on the best ideas. This allows the best ideas to bubble to the top. Some organizations use a similar process with an internal crowd, composed of their own employees, and others sometimes in a form of ‘open innovation’ to draw good ideas from customers.

Cheesy Garlic Bread and BMW
Lays used the crowd and a clever campaign, Do us a Flavor, to come up with the Cheesy Garlic Bread flavored chip. Legions of loyal Lays snackers pitched their best flavors for a chance to win $1 million and the opportunity to see their brainchild hit the shelves in stores nationwide. Likewise, BMW stays on the cutting edge with their online Co-Creation Lab. Fans contribute ideas, evaluate concepts, and give suggestions based on the new vehicles BMW is dreaming up. They become part of the process of bringing BMW's next generation cars to life.

Crowdsourced ideation or innovation like this is a great place to start, but we also see that too many companies seem to be stopping there. Could some be thinking too narrowly about the potential to change the way work gets done? We believe they may be leaving some great opportunities on the table. While crowdsourced ideation may be the easiest way to get started with crowdsourcing, it really is just be the tip of the crowdsourcing iceberg. Remember that the crowd is made up of actual people, and people do stuff. The biggest opportunities may be in using the crowd not just to generate ideas, but to also execute those ideas.

Master’s Class: Crowdsourcerers
Here are a few examples of using the crowd beyond ideation:

Software Development and Testing: Extra Hands
Platforms like Applause are pioneering the way for software testing projects to be sourced to external crowds. Applause, employs its vetted crowd of testers to do “in-the-wild” testing. The crowd, composed of real-world users with their individual devices, helps developers cover more ground and identify bugs specific to devices, operating systems, or browsers. The result of this kind of crowdsourcing is an aggregated source of high-quality development/testing resources.

Microsoft Security Essentials used Applause to get expanded testing coverage in countries ranging from Brazil to Russia for a global anti-virus software launch. Microsoft SE was able to add testers from these countries that had specific OS, browsers, and plug-ins reflective of local users to perform functional and exploratory testing. Now, companies finding themselves shorthanded on a test cycle with the go-live date approaching fast can instantaneously access a workforce of location-specific testers, ready to take on any pressing testing task.

Data Science: In Good Hands
Kaggle's community of data experts include academics from over 100 countries who specialize in computer science, statistics, econometrics, math, physics, data science in industries such as finance, science, technology. The platform allows data scientists and statisticians who crave real-world data to develop solutions for enterprises that need real-world results.

Allstate ran a project on Kaggle on predicting liability for injury from car accidents. Through competition results, Allstate gained predictive insight into which characteristics of a vehicle translate into increased risk of injury insurance claims and was able to adjust prices to their policies accordingly.

With big enterprises in its crosshairs, Kaggle launched its Kaggle Connect program in 2013. Connect selects the elite of the Kaggle community to perform consulting projects for its marquee clients. "Our goal is to build McKinsey in the Cloud, not Mechanical Turk for Data Science," says Margit Zwemer, former Kaggle Community Manager. How about getting a second opinion for your analytics team on tough data problems your company is faced with? How about collaborating with some of the best data scientists in the world? With Kaggle, those are possibilities instead of rhetorical questions.

Retail Operations Intelligence: Hand-held
Gigwalk is a platform that connects businesses and retail stores to an on-demand mobile field force to perform field photography, in-store audits, and product placement evaluations. Accessing a crowd of over 500,000 “Gigwalkers,” stores are able to ensure a high level of retail precision across all locations. Through real-time data harvested from the crowd, stores can make informed decisions to maximize sales and direct floor sales strategies on the fly.

Reckitt Benckiser launched a product to drive Q4 sales during the holidays, but the effort was met with unexpected POS sales anomalies. For more insight, Reckitt Benckiser turned to Gigwalk. Gigwalk’s crowdsourced evaluation completed 500 in-store audits in 10 days and revealed 54% of stores failed to execute special displays.

Through in-aisle consumer interviews, they also learned that the product packaging did not clearly convey key benefits. What can a consumer goods company do to meet the demands of high sales expectations and precise retail execution? Gigwalk’s crowd is on stand-by to meet those challenges.

See the Crowd, Use the Crowd
With a growing collection of crowdsourcing ecosystems emerging, enterprises ought to consider how to shape these services directly or indirectly into their daily operations. The promise of utilizing these capabilities is increased quality of delivery, reduced cost, and reduced time to finish on a pay-for-performance work model.

In the crowdsourcing model, you have access to the best available person or group that is suitable for the task you need accomplished. Whether the criterion is area of expertise, geographic location, or another specification, the underlying premise of crowdsourcing is the vast network of people that can be accessed.

With the ability to rapidly scale up and down, and to access an agile workforce, companies can expect a reduced time to finish on their projects. The best thing is the crowd is on permanent standby for any temporary tasks.

With a connected crowdsourcing platform and a global network, local resources can be accessed to perform tasks requiring specific, local know-how.

At Accenture, we’re focused on leveraging crowds from both inside and outside of the enterprise to build out new crowdsourcing processes. For example, we have run a microtask pilot project with CrowdFlower to do data/text analytics on user-generated product reviews for business intelligence. Also, we have developed a platform to leverage available in-house resources to contribute to tasks that match their area of expertise (more details to follow). We will continue to experiment with crowdsourcing as we fine-tune our understanding where and how it can be used effectively.

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