By CSO Dr. Shay Hershkovitz & COO Elad Schaffer
The places where the Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration find agreement are few and far between. Yet one area in particular where the Trump administration should continue its predecessor's work is in the use of crowdsourcing by federal agencies. Indeed, both the White House and General Services Administration have advocated for the use of crowdsourcing after the presidential transition is over. With the new year -- and the new administration -- now is a great time to see what's next for the crowdsourcing industry in 2017.
Most crowdsourcing leverages a crowd as-is: A group is assembled (usually on a virtual environment) and set of questions or challenges are posed. The crowd is asked to solve these problems using their own knowledge and skills.
But this is set to change. Importantly, we have learned that equipping the crowd with an analytic toolbox can be a force multiplier in terms of strategic analysis. In this way, empowered crowds yield super-empowered output.
One way to do this is to equip them with research and analysis tools -- i.e., software that is easy enough to learn, but powerful enough to yield value. Examples include big data analytics, sentiment analysis, and social media filtering and analytics. One could also grant access to unique information sets -- i.e., information which crowd members may not already know.
This can best be done via real-time dashboards and mobile access to those tools and analytics which allow any crowd member to track (on demand) the performance of their peers, which areas are being covered, and which aren't.
Our experience has taught us that the main motivation for participating in crowdsourcing communities is intellectual stimuli. Real-time access to new types and sources of information -- as well as the tools to analyze it -- provides exactly that.
Analyzing the Analysts -- and the Analysis
When crowdsourcing analysis and complex forecasts, the size of the crowd isn't everything. The product is inherently subjective and therefore requires second-order analysis. This means we should look at not just what the crowd says, but who in the crowd is saying it and why. The weight given to each contributor and their analysis must differ depending on the purpose of the exercise. For certain purposes, one may wish to compare and contrast opinions of different group types.
Given the above, we soon will witness the introduction of discourse analysis tools for crowdsourcing managers. Another layer of insights will thus be added to the results of a crowdsourced exercise. We call this "big knowledge" -- i.e., the aggregation and analysis of insights generated by a constellation of analysts.
Crowdsourced Support of the Full Analytic Suite
Most crowdsourced analysis is conducted on the strategic level. But in the world of innovation, crowdsourcing's focus is mostly on the technological and tactical levels -- e.g., creating a logo in 99designs or developing an app with Topcoder.
With this variation in mind, crowdsourcing companies will need to broaden the suite of their services to provide more holistic solutions. Clients often need answers across multiple layers of a problem -- from strategy through execution.
We will also see industry consolidation: "Narrow" crowdsourcing capabilities will merge into larger offerings by way of strategic cooperation and mergers and acquisition.
Crowdsourcing Departments: An Organizational Lynchpin
Crowdsourcing is becoming a critical function in elements of strategic planning, decision-making and execution. However, crowdsourcing platforms and companies often do not have intimate familiarity with their clients. This can result in crowdsourcing processes and initiatives that do not match clients' true needs.
How then do we bridge this gap? Some companies appoint someone to liaise with the crowdsourcing company and represent their interest. This is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough.
Crowdsourcing is a profession requiring a complex understanding of technology, analytic methodologies, incentives and community management. Each of a corporation's needs may require a different crowdsourced solution.
We believe that companies will need to build crowdsourcing departments that facilitate crowdsourced interactions across their organizations -- similar to today's research or strategy departments. Such departments will know the relevant platform, the best vendor and the adequate method to meet a particular crowdsourcing need. They will make sure crowdsourced initiatives are well-embedded in the planning, decision-making and execution of projects.
Like any other industry, crowdsourcing must stay ahead of the curve in order to maintain its relevancy. Empowering the crowd with information-related tools, truly understanding the client's full suite of needs, and working effectively with these clients will shape the industry in 2017.