Recently we met with a firm that provides crowd sourcing for enterprise systems development. Crowd sourcing as a concept has been around for a while but perhaps it is about to take another step in its maturation cycle. The reason we think this is because of the acceleration in the wider acceptance and usage of cloud services.
IT management has already gone through a maturation of its requirements and specifications processes. Any weakness in their internal development process was exacerbated with the advent of offshoring. If your specs were not high quality when you offshore’d your project, you could be assured you would get back a poor quality solution. So, firms have improved substantially in their requirements definition and specifications processes. That evolution could now pay dividends in the crowd-sourcing environment, since the enterprise can place those specs in a crowd sourcing development environment and can expect a high quality product in return. Now with the advent of cloud computing, the cultural acceptance of using crowd sourcing becomes more acceptable if we were to consider crowd sourcing as a cloud service. (For those of you with a religious commitment to the definition of “cloud services”, you may want to stop reading here. We recognize we are stretching the definition, but if Mother Nature can stretch volcano ash across Europe and shut down air-traffic for 5 days, we figure we can stretch the definition of the sacrosanct phrase “cloud services” for this post!)
The crowd sourcing platform, conceptually, is another cloud service in the arsenal of weapons that an IT leader now has at her disposal to provide high-quality/low-cost solutions to her enterprise customers. You could take this situation and stretch it into an argument for the business user to go straight to the cloud, bypassing IT, but I don’t buy that portion of the argument. (Any organization that allows its business users to bypass its own IT organization to provide an IT solution should look in the mirror with regards to how they are managing and utilizing IT).
Anyway, there is clearly an opportunity here for crowd sourcing to take the next step in utilization. Combining that service with other cloud services (Infrastructure as a service, for example), can lighten the IT CAPX load even further. “Application development as a service” environments in the cloud can benefit not only from enterprises who use them today, but could be the shared environment for heterogeneous development environments that utilize portions of the cloud for development and crowd sourcing and their own internal teams tomorrow.
Westcon has been utilizing the Amazon cloud for almost a year now, both as its storage as a service solution and its elastic computing environment. We have been quite successful in utilizing it for application development. We can spin up new environments quickly, and working with our offshore partners, it is quite cost-effective. Now the question is, how can IT leaders take that platform, and expand the number of development resources to speed up delivery time and reduce costs through the use of crowd sourcing on a cloud service platform.
As IT becomes more comfortable in these mixed environments, IT can focus on higher business value initiatives such as business process optimization and delivery of optimal business solutions that can give their organization a competitive advantage. To me, the benefit of cloud services and crowd sourcing is not just the agility and cost effectiveness it affords IT, but how the enterprise transforms its IT organization to focus more on competitive advantage and value add for its own customer base and the markets in which they compete.