By Jason MIller, November 11, 2013

Outsourcing vs. Crowdsourcing | CrowdConf 2013 Session Recap

The “Crowdsourcing vs. Outsourcing” session at CrowdConf began with a highly entertaining “rap battle” between co-panelists Chris Van Pelt, CrowdFlower CTO, and Bryce Maddox, CEO of Taskus.

“My name is Chris Van Pelt and I’m here to say – Crowdsourcing beats outsourcing in every way!”

Indeed, crowdsourcing in many ways is the evolution of outsourcing. However, there are still many use cases for outsourcing and there are many important considerations when evaluating your sourcing options.

“Crowdsoucing is great for tasks that are well-defined enough so that anyone can walk in and do the task,” says Van Pelt. Crowdsourcing works well for repetitive tasks that are binary and elastic. For example, image moderation works well with the crowd because there are only a couple of defined answers to choose from. Another advantage is that using the crowd to moderate content allows companies to scale up and down its workforce almost instantaneously. Using this standard of simplification, crowdsourcing users are breaking down complex tasks into smaller and well-defined pieces. That said, there are still areas where outsourcing makes more sense than crowdsourcing.

“Outsourcing works better for data security and when jobs involve nuance and qualitative answers,” says Maddox.

Outsourcing involves a captive audience and therefore changes can be communicated faster. Outsourced vendors can train their workers on a face-to-face basis and therefore can continually work on a task with real-time feedback until the work is performed correctly. Eventually these workers can become experts in a specific type of task and can be trusted to perform the work without supervision. In addition, because many of the workers are employees of the vendor and work in a closed physical environment, the vendor can sign an NDA for data security. It is important to note however, that these conditions also drive up the cost of doing work.

“Crowdsourcing is going to continue to eat away at what interns, full-time employees, and vendors are doing,” says Van Pelt.

Crowdsourcing is fast becoming a viable option in the sourcing environment. New use cases are being developed daily and customers are becoming more comfortable in releasing their data to an undefined workforce to achieve results at scale. Whether crowdsourcing completely replaces outsourcing remains to be seen, however it is clear that the pendulum is swinging towards a more efficient and productive work environment.