South African companies generally follow trends from the United States and Europe but are quite conservative with some of the more radical ones. Industrialised crowdsourcing would definitely fall in this category.
Crowdsourcing in itself is not new. It has been successfully used for many years through customer surveys and the sourcing of input for product development. In the digital world of today, people are more tech-savvy and have access to a range of devices. So when it comes time to access the intellectual property of the masses it has become easier thanks to the popularity of the internet and social media.
Industrialised crowdsourcing is the enterprise adoption of the power of the crowd that allows specialised skills to be sourced from anywhere and at any time when it is needed. In the context of an organisation, a CIO could look at it from the perspective of what you can do with it to address the challenges that are applicable to not only a department but the organisation in general.
This creates the potential to move product development from the traditional lifecycle into something that can tap into crowdsourcing as an additional mechanism. However, companies are still very cautious about this approach as it comes with many implications. Not only do company policies need to carefully reflect the requirements of this industrialised crowdsourcing but many staff could see it as a potential threat to their jobs.
It is important to differentiate this from outsourcing. Crowdsourcing is simply using more people to get things done. As a CIO, it depends on where you are in the maturity of IT in the organisation to see the level that this could be adopted. It is also important to note that this becomes another capability that can be used for the organisation just as elements such as cloud computing, outsourcing, and offshoring have become.
The potential for industrialised crowdsourcing is limitless. Just think of the impact it could have on product development, funding, and customer satisfaction surveys. But it will probably only become mainstream in South Africa in a few years from now with only a small percentage of early adopters experimenting with this.
This remains an interesting concept but it needs careful evaluation on how it delivers business value and reduces cost. So a certain level of education has to happen first. CIOs have the opportunity to lead the charge in this regard but it depends on whether they are constrained by the financial departments or have more freedom by reporting directly into a CEO.
With CIOs evolving to become a bridge between technology and business makes for much richer opportunities for industrialised crowdsourcing. Unfortunately, the less tech-savvy industries will still be more resistant to this change. Some of the smaller organisations will definitely tend to consider this trend and using it to expand on their technical skills more effectively.
The dynamics of the South African market mean that these smaller companies will be able to exploit the available talent more sufficiently by using something like industrialised crowdsourcing to leverage any potential resource gaps they have internally.