Crowdsourcing quickly found ample business applications in finance, fundraising, strategic planning, R&D, quality control, marketing and HR. Google, for instance, uses internal crowdsourcing for recruitment, asking its employees to assess prospective employees. Companies use such tools to generate revenue-enhancing innovations and savings, promote the employer’s image, plan training sessions or implement new products and technologies.
In my experience, there are five main crowdsourcing applications.
- Employer’s brand
Experts and managers are extremely insightful and their input can help the company learn about its strengths and weaknesses, define new development areas or determine crucial competitive advantages. Contrary to their juniors, who base their opinions chiefly on the brand’s media image, experts and managers are capable of performing careful, in-depth analysis. Consequently, they are a vital source of information about brand awareness, its recognisability, as well as the target group’s involvement in brand operations and preferences. Finally, they can evaluate whether theirs is a brand of first choice.
When surveyed, this group produces measurable results which allow the brand to be positioned among its competitors and facilitate reaching out to the most desirable – and the most elusive – group of recipients, namely qualified experts who represent the key to the company’s development. A well thought-out strategy can reduce the average cost of recruiting the most sought-after employees.
- Training and certificates
It’s a truth well known that training policy is one of the most important aspects of HR. In recent years, the market for training has expanded substantially, with many service providers offering a wide variety of products, ranging from classes on interpersonal skills to highly specialised workshops on new technologies.
The company’s training needs can easily be defined using diverse skill assessment methods, such as development centres. The same can be achieved by asking the employees directly for their preferences. While possibly very accurate, this method has a significant disadvantage, as it may represent an overly subjective choice, reflecting the employee’s limited access to knowledge. Increasing the number of respondents may help each employee to determine the most desired skill set, identify the most beneficial classes, and translate the newly acquired skills into work efficiency in a given professional and social context. Thanks to these data, companies can not only formulate training policies based on variable individual needs, but also define skills crucial for the development of its operations and follow relevant market trends.
Crowdsourcing may also be used as an efficient way of monitoring business competitors. It allows insight into the strategic areas of their investments, the operations they wish to expand, the skills they seek in recruits, their business priorities or their hopes for the future. It is important to remember that while no crowdsourcing study can reveal the actions of a specific competitor, as the survey data is an aggregated bundle, its outcome will be a clear indication of market trends, enabling more informed business strategy planning.
- New technologies
Whenever a company is involved in a major decision-making process related to the implementation of a new technology, such as a new CRM system, hiring an external consultant may be advisable. A survey among experts can quickly reveal the most popular industry-specific systems, the advantages and disadvantages of each software package, as well as personal preferences of qualified staff. In this way, managers do not have to rely on individual, subjective feelings, instead gaining a broader perspective on the available tools and the opinions of their current users.
Suppose a financial institution wants to introduce a new credit product for retail customers. But how can it tell which elements of the offer will guarantee the highest profit in the current market environment? The company could ask a wider market group, for instance experts from financial institutions, to assess its product according to selected criteria. The important thing is to remember that the questionnaire needs to address the key elements of the offer and its attractiveness to both potential customers and sales personnel. By doing so, the company will gain insight into which elements of the offer will be the most popular on the market. Studying a group of 100 respondents from financial institutions means de facto tapping into their experience with hundreds of individual customers and obtaining the professionals’ view of the market.
To successfully conduct a crowdsourcing survey, you need to follow a few basic rules:
- Be specific when defining the group under review. Crowdsourcing’s effectiveness may vary greatly depending on who takes part in the project.
- Define a clear research objective. Poorly defined objectives may produce dozens of unusable opinions with no effect on the business problems they were supposed to solve.
- Motivate participation. The respondents must be aware that their input is valued and will translate into personal or industry-wide benefits.
- Provide space for free expression. Maybe working in a target group will suddenly open new and unexpected opportunities you have never thought of before?
- Use conclusions to formulate precise action plans for business.
Crowdsourcing – key to innovation
Increasingly often, innovation is seen as an area where organisations may gain new competitive advantages, improve brand awareness or catch up to market leaders. On the other hand, innovations often require substantial investment which carries significant business risk. Crowdsourcing allows companies to adopt innovations in small steps and involve experts in their search for creative and effective solutions. By doing so, they gain the ability to choose the best development paths, forecast trends and formulate deliberate business strategies.
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