Some will tell you that crowdsourcing is one of the main drivers in the race to the future of business. In crowdsourcing work traditionally performed by one individual (usually an employee) is outsourced to many people in an open call. Those responding to the call may compete for the work or be part of a virtual collaboration team. Open competition enables a close talent match to the specific task or project and generates ideas from multiple perspectives that would not otherwise be available.
As you might suspect, there are a number of online venues to bring those with need and those with talent together. Innocentive, CrowdSource, YourEncore and Elance are examples of sites where you can connect with talented people all over the globe who are waiting to help you solve everything from graphic design projects to hard science and engineering problems.
All well and good, but how does this help FM?
Crowdsourcing is not just about finding talent to work on your projects. It is also about capturing information and intelligence in more efficient ways that allow deployment of resources to solutions rather than data collection.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the second largest school district in the U.S. with over 700,000 students on 730 campuses and a budget of over $7 billion USD. In other words, it’s big and it’s complex. In 2011 LAUSD deployed a smart phone app to staff and students which allows any of them to immediately submit work orders complete with GIS data, photographs, and text information. In other words, the district is crowdsourcing its inspection and work order data entry system. Every staff member, parent and student brain and eyes are now remote sensors feeding real time data to the system – a much more efficient methodology than relying on a call center. Now, resources that went into locating and reporting problems can be applied to fixing them.
LAUSD’s partner in this effort? IBM’s Maximo. Think IBM is investing in this effort for the benefit of one client? I don’t. Maximo is one of the industry giants and I suspect we will be seeing and hearing more about this technology shift.
Crowdsourcing benefits can be significant. Reducing the cost of labor, increasing the alignment of need and talent, lower labor costs, improved cycle time, a distributed workforce that can respond on a targeted basis on a global scale are reasons to consider crowdsourcing. That said, it does require a different mindset with a focus on “tasks” as opposed to “jobs.”
A modified version pre-qualifies talent and establishes a pool of competitors who compete for each assignment. This option provides a higher degree of control and therefore confidence, and is typically adopted for more complex tasks.
Quality typically matches and often betters that provided by dedicated resources in both open and closed variations of the model. This is not necessarily because the talent is better, but crowdsourced workers are not multi-tasking or burdened by administrative requirements. Also, crowdsourced assignments typically have tight specifications and the buyer has a customer mentality – “get it right before getting paid.”
Crowdsourcing as an FM strategy. In some ways we’ve been doing it since the beginning, but not like this. Use it to gather condition and work order data, or source talent to solve specific problems. It is another tool in the kit, another option, and another opportunity.