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The Business of Crowdsourcing

The hot topic in social computing is social CRM—at least it is for me—but there are other aspects that bear consideration. I spoke with LiveOps yesterday (by way of Eckart Walther, SVP) about one of them. Paid crowdsourcing is a newer kind of business process outsourcing (BPO) that leverages qualified personnel as a sort of “in crowd” for projects. The occasion for the briefing was LiveOps’ announcement of new application programming interfaces (API) for LiveWork, the company’s BPO platform (for which Walther is general manager).

LiveOps and companies like it have developed applications to manage uncertainties (like whether the offsite employee is competent and present) and make it easier to get the best effect out of remote labor. The greatest success has been in virtual contact centers, but imagine if there was a means by which businesses could access a pool of experts, specialists in a given industry or product line or core competency. Remotely, as needed. Think of the efficiencies for a business, not to mention motivated individuals who don’t happen to live where the main office happens to be.

The new API set allows developers to leverage LiveWork in settings beyond the contact center. Two early examples are Smartsheet (which crowdsources lead generation, content review, and content generation) and CrowdFlower, a more general workforce-on-demand provider.

If a LiveWork API and some ingenuity can be stretched far enough, this could be mildly disruptive in the BPO industry. Major outsource providers (staffing agencies and large management and/or IT consultancies) will still have a lock on long term engagements, especially where frequent reassessments and tweaks are needed; but for cases where the duration is short or the required workforce is very large, this solution beats the heck out of hiring temps and part-timers.

If you’d like to see why LiveOps thinks this has play in the business world, it recently produced a white paper which you can find here. [CORRECTION: The white paper was in fact produced by SmartSheet, though with the assistance and participation of LiveOps. Thanks to Andrew Schmitt of OutCast Communications for the clarification.]

[Correction #2: I’ve changed the link to the document. It should take you to the most recent version of the SmartSheet white paper at their site.]