Real-Time Crowdsourcing? MIT Researchers Say Yes

By | Apr 25, 2012
Topic: CRM/ERP

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found a way to quickly gather workers together in a way that could make real-time crowdsourcing possible. According to an article in Technology Review, the problem with crowdsourcing is the wait-time associated with finding a skilled worker to do the task. MIT researchers Michael Bernstein, David Karger, and Robert Miller, along with Adobe Systems researcher Joel Brandt, used applied queuing theory techniques, and a bit of psychology to predictively recruit, or "precruit," intelligence workers and pay them a small retainer to entice them to stand by until a task appeared. Where previously a crowd could be gathered in about two seconds, the precruitment model as described in the researchers' original paper from Cornell University Library reduced the gather time to near instantaneous results.

Crowdsourcing, where businesses use the collective public to help it perform tasks, has been around for some time, perhaps most recognizably in the form of those individuals who contribute to Wikipedia. Midsized businesses commonly use crowdsourcing to outsource tasks, particularly when the skill set does not exist in-house or when the task is repetitious and tedious.

The problem is that crowdsourced workers are not employees, yet the resulting product of their labors may become a part of the enterprise infrastructure or otherwise impact the enterprise or its data. If this is in the realm of possibility, then IT must have management oversight of the crowdsourced project to make sure that the integrity of the enterprise is always maintained. Additional concerns may arise if workers are overseas, particularly in the case of projects done on behalf of the federal government, where data or proprietary technologies may not be exported to certain countries. IT oversight becomes more critical as real-time crowdsourcing comes closer to fruition; the immediacy and availability of crowdsourced workers adds to enterprise risk simply because it is too easy to take the quick-start project approach without first addressing risk. IT managers must determine processes and best practices for which kinds of enterprise tasks can be crowdsourced and which cannot.

Real-time crowdsourcing may open up many new possibilities for businesses. Certainly the thought of instant access to a broad spectrum of skilled workers is a powerful business concept. It carries the potential to level the playing field so that a small or midsized business could effectively compete with a large business without a large capital outlay or the need to have a large in-house workforce. With hope, real-time techniques will continue to evolve and practical crowdsource platforms will also develop with a nod to the needs of the IT shop.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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