My colleague Ankit Sharma at the London School of Economics (LSE) recently sent me his research paper entitled “Crowdsourcing Critical Success Factor Model” (PDF). It’s definitely worth a read. Ankit is interested in better understanding the “dynamic and innovative discipline of crowdsourcing by developing a critical success factor model for it.” He focuses specifically on mobile crowdsourcing and does a great job unpacking the term.
Ankit first reviews four crowdsourcing projects to inform the development of his critical success model: txtEagle, Ushahidi, Peer Water Exchange and mCollect. He then notes the crucial difference between outsourcing and crowdsourcing. The latter’s success is dependent on the scale of crowd participation. This means that incentives need to tailored to recruit the most effective collaborators while “the motive of the crowd needs to be aligned with the long term objective of the crowdsourcing initiative.” To this end, Ankit defines successful crowdsourcing in terms of participation.
Ensuring participation requires that the motives of the of the crowd be directly aligned with the long term objectives of the crowdsourcing initiative. “Additionally, to promote participation the users must use and accept the technology of crowdsourcing.” Ankit draws on Heeks and Nicholson (2004), Carmel (2003) and Farrell (2006) to develop the following model.
The five peripheral factors above “affect the motive alignment of the crowd which is the prime determinant of success of the crowdsourcing initiative. It is assumed to directly affect user participation. The success of the initiative is expected to bring in more participation. Hence, the relationship between motive alignment and crowdsourcing success is bidirectional in the model.”
- Vision and Strategy: “The coherence of the initiative’s vision and strategy with the aspirations of the crowd ensures that the crowd is willing to participate in it.”
- Human Capital: The skills and abilities that the crowd possesses is a determinant of successful crowdsourcing. The more skillful and able the crowd is, “the less effort required by the crowd to make a meaningful contribution to the initiative.”
- Infrastructure: “Crowdsourcing requires abundant, reliable and cheap telephone or mobile access for its communication needs in order to ensure participation of the crowd.”
- Linkages and Trust: Crowdsourcing initiatives all involve a time or information cost for the crowd, which is why developing the trust factor is critical. Proper linkages can also “add a substantial trust aspect to the crowdsourcing initiative.”
- External environment: “The macroeconomic environment comprising of the governance support, business environment, economic environment, living environment and risk profiles are important determinants of the success of the crowdsourcing initiative.”
- Motive alignment: “Motive alignment of the crowd may be defined as the extent to which crowd is able to associate with long term objective of crowdsourcing initiative thereby encouraging its wider participation.” The table below explains how the peripheral factors effect the motive alignment of the crowd.”
Ankit applies his matrix to the four case studies cited earlier. This yields the following summary:
Based on this analysis, Ankit argues that for crowdsourcing projects to succeed it is “critical that the crowd is viewed as a partner in the initiative. The needs, aspirations, motivations and incentives of the crowd to participate in the initiative must remain the most important consideration while developing the crowdsourcing initiative. The practitioners must understand the crowd motivation and align their goals according to it.” In an ideal scenario, Ankit notes that technology must be “optimally usable” without the need to provide training and assistance. Successful crowdsourcing initiatives also require an “aggressive marketing and public relations plan.”
The main question I look forward to discussing with Ankit is this: what level of crowd participation is sufficient for a crowdsourcing initiative to be deemed successful? Should this be a percentage? e.g., the % of a given population participating in the crowdsourcing project. Or should the number be an absolute number? This is not an academic question. Who decides whether a crowdsourcing project is successful and based on what grounds?