Crowdsourcing: a 7+7 Primer (Pt. 2)

Last week I posted the first part of this article on crowdsourcing strategies. In the post, I discussed some of the big-picture issues that I believe should be considered carefully when planning a crowdsourced project. Best practices for crowdsourcing require managers to first determine the best venue for their project, effective management of the process, careful quality control, executing a well-planned recruiting strategy, active engagement of the intended audience, express ‘training’ of the participants, and the anticipation that pushback may be encountered.

Today I’ll discuss 7 practical measures which managers should take to ensure a successful outcome to their crowdsourced project. These steps, when well executed, will significantly increase the probability of success, will increase the value derived from the project, will save a meaningful amount of time, and will help to assure a high quality work product.

1. Determine project goals and strategy: One of the key tenets of a lean approach to management, is the definition stage; determining a project’s goal is the first and most important step in the process. Specify exactly what you are trying to accomplish with the project and let the specific strategies and tactics flow from that objective. It is important that managers devote the time, energy, and necessary resources to the definition process as every man-hour dedicated will pay off in the end. Pull the team together, clean the whiteboard, and start brainstorming to clarify your intent and to set forth your specific objectives.

2. Define the process and the steps: Once your larger goal have been defined for your crowdsourced project, it is time to plan specific strategy and tactics to achieve it. Ask and answer for yourself these questions: Where will you host the project? Who will you recruit to participate? How will you reward or compensate the participants? Will the process be an open, transport effort or do you need some degree of privacy? There are literally dozens of considerations and contingencies to plan for when crowdsourcing and this planning process will force you to account for all of these.

3. Select the platform: By its very nature, modern crowdsourcing has a technological underpinning; it is the Internet, after all, that enables businesses to reach the large audiences needed for a successful result. Whether building your own site for the project or hosting it on one of the established crowdsourcing platforms, the choice of technology is key. Carefully evaluate the tools and features your project will require; consider the skill sets needed for the participants; and review your goals to make sure the choices you make during this part of the process are serving the ultimate aim of the project.

4. Create a strong project brief: A well-written brief will contain information not just about the project and the deliverables, but also about the goals for the project, the company sponsoring it, and the intended audience for the end-product. On crowdSPRING designers like to say, “We can’t work in a vacuum” (and, no, they are not referring to working in deep space or at the Dyson factory). The participants in your project need information: specific requirements, clearly established scope of work, defined expectations on deliverables, well-explained schedule, and established awards for participation are not just expected, but are required for success. Without overwhelming the potential participants with reams of data or pages of descriptive prose describe what you need, how it will be used, who you are, and who it is for. Provide examples of similar projects or products; provide appropriate links to other businesses, websites, designs, or samples that you like. In other words, the better job you can do with your brief, the faster you will start to receive submissions and the closer they will be to what your requirements specify.

5. Drive traffic to build participation: A large part of the challenge with any crowdsourcing project is to make people aware that it even exists. Simply put, without a crowd, crowdsourcing can not survive. Give careful consideration to your strategy for attracting participation, leveraging word-of-mouth, and promoting the project effectively to convince as many qualified people as possible that they definitely want to participate. Your efforts with this will, in large part, be driven by you choice of platform. For instance if you use an established crowdsourcing company you will have a built-in pool of talent, but check carefully to see how your project will be promoted within that community. If you are building your own platform plan for strategic public relations work, social media effort, and other marketing tactics to gain the attention of the workers you are attempting to enlist. The more traffic you can drive to your crowdsourced project, the greater the levels of participation and the higher the overall quality of work you will receive.

6. Engage in active management: Once your project is under way it is essential that you participate actively in the process. Give feedback to the participants, communicate with them about the overall process and progress of the project. Keep your brief updated as new details or other information becomes available.  The work that you put in during the open phase of the project will be rewarded with higher quality and a happier, more satisfied group of workers. Their opinion of you as a project sponsor is directly correlated with your behavior and your engagement is what they are expecting; remember, in most cases the participants in a crowdsourcing project will be working hard with no guarantee of payment, so the least you can do with them is let them know how much you respect their effort by matching is with your own.

7. Provide direction and professionalism: An important part of your engagement in the project is the direction you will provide and the professionalism you display. Be sure that you are working closely with the participants on submissions and their revisions, and actively encourage the iterative process. Be polite and respectful with your workers; communicate clearly and concisely with them at all times and be as present as possible. At crowdSPRING we recommend buyers visit their projects at least once a day to posy updates, give feedback, and communicate with the participants. Be friendly, be available, and be yourself – more than anything the workers in your project will want to know that their work is appreciated and that there is another human being guiding the process.

Photo: Leo Reynolds