Distributed micro-task model
Sometimes tasks are broken down or atomized into smaller micro-tasks, which are then presented to the crowd, and members can select which micro-tasks they want to work on.
Distributing work like this helps maintain the pace of a project by engaging as many people as the project needs. The tasks are generally small enough that individuals can be briefed quickly (if necessary at all) and turn work around relatively fast.
A software company might atomize a project into several development, testing, and implementation steps, and then pose those tasks to the community, where members select and complete them without needing to be aware of details of the larger project.
Challenges are posed to the crowd, and members “compete” by completing the challenge. Often, there isn’t one winner but several—the top concepts for each challenge are recognized and rewarded.
Consider a company needing an app designed. With a contest-based model, the challenge to create the app would be posed to the crowd, and the top designs, generally three to five, would be rewarded. The emphasis here is on delivering more options and greater quality to the customer while still being equitable to the talent and ensuring multiple freelancers are awarded for their efforts.
These two models are not mutually exclusive. Ambitious projects often require atomization, followed by several contest-like challenges. An example is NASA’s International Space Station Food Intake Tracker (ISS FIT) app, developed to track food intake of astronauts in space. From concept to production is a lot of work, so the project was broken up into multiple rounds of challenges.
With so much uncertainty right now, speed and innovation are the winning combination. Businesses need all the help they can get to shift focus and execute big changes strategically. Crowdsourcing connects them with a world of talent and supports them in doing big things fast.
How can crowdsourcing supplement traditional staffing models?
Expertise on demand
Organizations use a version of the distributed micro-task model to quickly engage a larger workforce remotely.
With traditional staffing, a project is put on hold until the organization can find, interview, and hire the right candidate with the necessary skills. But crowdsourcing allows businesses to immediately connect with individuals (and vice versa) by breaking up functions of particular roles into manageable micro-tasks and broadcasting them to the crowd.
Talent as a service
Numerous online marketplaces connect members who are pitching their skills to businesses who are advertising freelance work. Organizations use these platforms to connect with top talent. Since the online marketplace allows organizations to draw from a deeper talent pool, the work is often higher quality, completed faster, and at lower cost.
To be part of these online marketplaces, applicants must sometimes pass a screening process that includes professional communication skills, along with a variety of technical exams specific to the applicant's area of expertise. It’s becoming increasingly common for businesses to use these marketplaces to find niche talent or assistance on short-term projects.
Topcoder, the popular crowdsourcing platform, is a great example of talent as a service. Organizations engage Topcoder’s global network of designers, developers, data scientists, to connect with hard-to-find talent and solve big challenges.
For example, ConsenSys Diligence, the smart contract arm of the blockchain company ConsenSys, works in a very specific segment of an emerging technology, and finding people with the knowledge and skills to help them develop is challenging. But with the help of Topcoder, Diligence connected with individuals from around the world who have those niche skills, and formed a team of experts they can rely on to help with projects going forward.
Taking crowdsourcing a step further
With the help of Topcoder, Wipro developed an internal crowdsourcing platform for training, then later elaborated on that model to revolutionize talent resourcing internally and for enterprise clients. The platform helped build new lines of communication throughout our organization, and encouraged a culture of collaboration and cross-functional teams.
Top Gear: A crowdsourcing training model
Top Gear began as a learning platform. We first leveraged Topcoder’s contest model of crowdsourcing to create an engaging, game-like approach to learning for our employees through fun, low-stakes competition: Wipro poses challenges to employees on Top Gear, and employees apply their skills to compete for prizes. Over time, we shifted to a more work-focused approach and began posing real challenges from live Wipro projects—crowdsourcing talent from within our own organization.
The contest model allows employees to evaluate their skills against their peers, but the open, informal nature of the gamified training encourages communication and support. Why was the winning solution successful? How does it differ from other proposed solutions? Seasoned experts can help junior or novice participants answer these questions, creating a kind of organic, informal training that is the foundation for a culture of support and constant learning among employees going forward.
We had an employee who worked primarily on Java projects and who was interested in developing himself. He wanted to learn Angular and Spring Boot. So, he started using Top Gear, completing small assignments to build his skills, then moved on to challenges and live projects that allowed him to put those skills to use. His first live attempts weren’t so successful, but with feedback from mentors he increased the quality of his work. He submitted a winning solution. Then another. And another. Once only considering learning new languages, this developer is now being recognized as a multi-challenge winner and competing in regional competitions.
How does this apply to client projects? A leading account came to us for help with a massive workforce transformation that involved everyone from manual testers to automation engineers. Our project team leveraged Top Gear to develop and implement a learning plan that up-skilled 80% of the account team, resulting in a 20% increase in productivity and a 14% improvement, year-over-year, for the department.
In another instance, we worked with a leading U.S. retailer to migrate their massive ATG platform to microservices architecture, a process that required more than 2,000 stories to be automated and executed. Traditional approaches were falling short, so our project team turned to an internal crowd to source the talent they needed fast.
By engaging Top Gear, the project team connected with a team of automation experts, who supported the existing team in analyzing user stories, Selenium testing scripts, and executing them. This crowdsourced team executed an additional 127 user stories over the course of eleven days, helping the account team clear the backlog and stay on schedule.
Top Gear demonstrates how structured, internal crowdsourcing efforts can increase individual and organizational adaptability. Employees are supported in learning and applying skills to a range of projects. They share their expertise. They support each other in the pursuit of new opportunities.
Hybrid Crowd: An evolution in enterprise staffing
Hybrid Crowd elaborates on the success of Top Gear, providing a way for all enterprises (not just Wipro) to connect their internal talent teams with the more than 1.5 million members of Topcoder’s global community. The platform integrates these talent pools, allowing enterprises to supplement their teams, on demand, with experts from the crowd. And because the platform screens all participants, organizations can be sure that intellectual property is protected, and they’re only engaging individuals for projects who meet the necessary security and certification requirements.
Through Hybrid Crowd, enterprises engage three crowds: private, certified, and public.