"The concept of outsourcing has been cool for a while. Crowdsourcing will dwarf outsourcing. It will dwarf it, " strong words from business strategist Scott Klososky. However, his dramatic assertion is inaccurate. As the world of startups and tech companies continues to be covered by the associated press in a TMZ-like fashion, visionaries actively search for any opportunity to pronounce industries and businesses as "dead", "failed" or "irrelevant". While a dramatic declaration might steal headlines and bolster followers on Twitter, it's important to remember that these assertions are often meritless and veiled attempts to claim at a later point, "I told you so!". In the case of outsourcing and crowdsourcing, we find that these two types of workforces are not in competition with each other. Think less "Tupac Vs Biggie", more "Jay-Z & Kanye West: Watch The Throne". Not a hip hop fan? Outsourcing + Crowdsourcing = Workforce Avengers! To prove this point, let's examine a publicly traded company currently providing service to 901 million users worldwide, Facebook.
Facebook Uses Crowdsourcing Service, oDesk
As a voyeuristic society, we want to see everything. Well, almost everything. Facebook recognized at an early point that the success of its service would depend heavily on its ability to protect the quality of the user experience. Learning from the mistakes of MySpace, Facebook devotes major resources to making sure its users are well protected with extensive privacy policies and security settings. Part of Facebook's security precautions include responding to millions of flagged content reports submitted daily by users. There are a few layers of work to discuss in this example. The most basic and important component of this workforce is actually free labor provided by the crowd (Facebook's users-at-large). The crowd flags and reports inappropriate content to Facebook for no reason other than improving its personal Facebook experience. The second layer involves the internal team at Facebook, which sorts and delegates flagged content requests to the third layer: freelance oDesks agents. Facebook utilizes services like oDesk to find and recruit independent agents to review flagged content claims at rates as low as $1 per hour (info courtesy of NBC News), which brought some ethical questions. It's imperative to note that paying internal employees to process all of their flagged content requests would be financially crippling to a company like Facebook. It's efficient workforce solutions like oDesk that allow Facebook to scale to 901 million users rapidly. Facebook's meteoric climb to stardom would not be possible with traditional workforce solutions.
Facebook Uses Outsourcing
Once the training becomes incredibly extensive, it's always best to hire internal employees or outsource, when possible. Freelancers are great solutions for creative and simplified tasks (5 minutes or less training time), but companies like Facebook turn to outsourcing for complex long-term workforce solutions. For example, Facebook utilizes outsourcing firms to provide call centers for their sales operations. What are the benefits of outsourcing a component such as your in-house Sales force? Sales teams require extensive training, daily monitoring and pack-like motivation techniques. The sales cycle for Facebook ad space is incredibly fast and optimized for online and call center sales tactics. Outsourcing firms often provide extremely efficient callers with proven results. As your sales process continues to evolve, it's important that you avoid constantly training and retraining freelancers provided by companies like oDesk. Ongoing workforce solutions like sales or lead generation require extensive and continuous training to achieve high ROI.
The workforce is constantly evolving. I'd love to join my fellow technical pundits in making extreme statements about the state of labor. Outsourcing is dead. Long live crowdsourcing. Internal office teams are archaic and obsolete. All of these statements are fun to say and could possibly land me on the first page of TechCrunch. However, it's never that simple. The same basic theories of productivity remain the same, but our access and technology are mainly what have changed. Modern technology and the growth of developing economies have added new layers to the workforce that provide opportunities for precisely matching a task with the most appropriate solution. Just like in commerce, e-commerce has allowed for the average consumer to make a decision that fits its needs versus settling for what is physically available to him. The workforce is experiencing a similar revolution where we don't need to settle. Unhappy with the taxes attached to an in-house American employee? Seek offshore options. Find yourself unsatisfied by your local developer? Recruit a talented developer on oDesk that can complete the work needed within your budget and from any location. Alternative workforce solutions are no longer radical and experimental. They have become standard practice and if you are not investigating your options, it's time to look into early retirement because you are in fact the ancient one.