You have a big project and need help. But hiring employees is nothing short of a time- and cost-intensive pain. And vetting freelancers and temps isn't much easier, especially when you're crunched for time and money. Chris Barbin, CEO of cloud consultancy Appirio, suggests something different: Crowdsourcing. Here's what he says you need to know about it.

Cloud computing and crowdsourcing are intersecting to disrupt IT services.

It's a $350 billion industry, Barbin says. As evidence, Appirio has 1,200 employees and more than 800,000 developers, designers and data scientists competing for work on its crowdsourced platform. The company also has been growing at more than 30 percent year over year and has raised more than $111 million in funding from VC firms including Sequoia Capital and Fidelity Management and Research.

Crowdsourcing work is different from hiring freelancers.

Appirio takes a company's big project and decomposes it into units of work and either assigns employees to tackle them, or puts a challenge out on its crowdsourced platform. If the latter, within a few days dozens or hundreds of people submit their solution to the problem, with the hopes of winning first, second or third place, all of which are rewarded with a cash prize. And if a client likes all three designs it could choose them all to merge into a final product. "It's not just finding the lowest hourly rate resource like in a freelance model," he says. "In our case the cream rises to the top in this competitive-based platform."

The days of the year-long project are over.

Nobody wants to invest that kind of capital. Instead, start small and iterate fast. Developing an app prototype, for example, runs $499 on Appirio's AppXpress platform. It involves inputting data such as the use case, types of devices and other apps similar to what you want to create. Within about a week the crowd takes over. "They'll build your app or your prototype and you pay for the results," he says.

Hybrid labor models are now the ideal way to solve business problems.

Back in the 90s companies began investing heavily in offshore IT providers, which is now a $100 billion industry involving 10 million workers in India. "We like to draw the analogy that crowdsourcing is a very similar new labor model that's going to take over in the next twenty years," he says. "Weaving together crowdsourcing plus offshore plus traditional in-your-building IT services is the future work model."

Published on: Jul 27, 2015