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Crowdsourcing offers a tightly focused alternative to outsourcing

Stephanie Overby | April 1, 2013
Crowdsourcing isn't likely to overtake traditional IT outsourcing in the foreseeable future, but for well-defined, repeatable tasks that can be pulled out of workflows and plugged back in, it's an attractive option for enterprise IT and product development.

Lionbridge's "crowdforce" includes stay-at-home moms, retirees and recent grads in 100 countries, 90 percent of whom have a college degree, says Crow. The company currently has 25 clients using the crowd for global testing, translation, data management and custom solutions.

Challenges of the Crowd

There are challenges, though. White may have a one-off project for which he needs a crowd in Turkey that he may never use again. "We don't want our vendor-partner to build out a crowd and direct it to a project that will only take 15 minutes and then not have a need for that market," says White. "We want to make sure we're not jerking our vendors around."

The bigger issue is ensuring that the crowd's output remains high quality. Much of that is in the vendor's hands, and White is working with his vendors to better understand their crowdsourcing practices.

Depending on the work, tasks can be dual-sourced or go through a quality assurance process before being delivered to the client, says Crow. White says his crowdsourcing management team spends the majority of its time developing an interface that elicits the best work from the crowd. "That's the bulk of our investment," he says.

The model is working, says White. And it's gaining traction in other areas of the company. Microsoft Research, for example, has begun using the crowdsourcing option as well.


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