Creating crowdsourcing success as a startup

- February 28, 2013 3 MIN READ

A lot of start-ups believe they can hire easy, cheap overseas labour or put their project up on a crowdsourcing platform to develop their online or mobile vision. But in actual fact, there’s plenty more to consider.

Businesses of all kinds and of all sizes have turned to crowdsourcing en masse in recent years. The term itself was first coined in 2006, with the real flood of Australian businesses getting on board with the revolutionary practice coming in the last three years.

Our business is banking on crowdsourcing, both in the short term and long term. Eventually, many businesses will have a balanced combination of in-house developers and crowd-sourced developers. With that you get the benefits of both worlds, and your processes and delivery can be more nimble.

But as you embark on crowdsourcing, there’s a lot to think about.

Getting the right people

Obviously, recruiting remote workers is more difficult than doing face-to-face interviews, yet you still have to assess their abilities as you would any potential employee.

What you really need to look at is what sort of processes they employ themselves, as well as their communication skills. They’ve also got to be open to using your systems, as at the end of the day, if you are managing a large crowd, you need to be using just one set of systems rather than multiple sets. The key things to look for though must be structure and communication.

For example, we are currently dealing with a team based in Russia, which has been a great experience. Their communication has been exceptional – every day they’re giving us status updates, showing us work and telling us what they’re going to do. We brief them, of course, but they’re constantly forthcoming with information, which is very positive.

Skills at your end

Managing a crowdsourced team can be a fine art. Plenty of project management experience is vital, but again it comes down to communication. You are dealing with people virtually, so it’s important that regular communication always takes place. Because of time zone differences in some cases, you can’t always jump on Skype. Succinct email communication is crucial.

You also need excellent management of time, an understanding of how to motivate your virtual team and a flawless handle on delineation of tasks.

Manage expectations

If you are on top of your communication and clearly define your processes, crowdsourcing disasters are rare. However, some complex and frustrating scenarios can emerge when what is being delivered isn’t necessarily matching expectations.

The meeting of expectations is key as far as satisfaction with work is concerned, and it can be frustrating when this side of things goes awry. Once more, it all boils down to communication.

The benefits

The cost benefits of crowdsourcing are immense. Simply, there are people all over the world whose skills are just as good as local developers and designers, but their costs are much lower.

Another key benefit is scalability. You can have multiple teams working globally at any one time resulting in increased productivity and reduced fixed costs.

The pitfalls

Aside from the issues of expectations and communication, the biggest problem is that you don’t have that hands-on management. The result is that things can take longer than you’d like, and the quality is not as high if not managed well. That can result in a long, drawn-out process, and potentially a half-finished application that you have to run with.

This is why it’s critical to have platforms in place where outsourced workers have to submit on a regular basis. We are looking at deploying a regular communication ratings system for our crowdsourced developers, giving them soft indicators of how they are progressing at any point in time. This allows them to know if they are meeting expectations or not, without being told via email or Skype.

Key tips for crowdsourcing success

  • Implement a structure that can manage the process, focusing on systems and documentation
  • Be very communicative upfront and during the project with those you are crowdsourcing with
  • Set clear expectations and provide regular feedback on whether they are being met,
  • Employ staff who possess great interpersonal skills and strong project management experience
  • Be as diligent as possible in monitoring crowdsourced projects.