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July 8, 2021

Micro-task crowdsourcing platforms, a controversial revolution?

July 8, 2021

Micro-task crowdsourcing platforms, a controversial revolution?

Managing million of product references, a real bottleneck for marketplaces

It all started back in 2005 when Amazon decided to launch its micro-task crowdsourcing platform to support the back-office activities of its market-place.

Whether it comes to categorizing products, enriching product sheets with additional information, or even moderating reviews; these digital tasks are time-consuming, repetitive but essential. It requires an important human workforce to provide quality content and an easy product search to improve the platform’s attractiveness.

Towards a BPO 2.0 (Business Process Outsourcing)

Amazon could have just outsourced the above activities to traditional Business Process Outsourcing firms (BPOs). These giant companies that employ hundreds of thousands of workers and gather them within large offices. NO!

Amazon has decided to create BPO 2.0 with Amazon Mechanical Turk ; they have digitalised the activity through a platform that manages their back office activities and allows them to to have a remote workforce. The first digital micro-task crowdsourcing platform was launched!

In 2020, Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) is no longer the only service provider available, it is now competing with more than 100 platforms. This completely new business model is innovative and provides a large range of benefits for the different users. However, it can sometimes also lead to a sad disease- modern slavery.

Based on a double-edged business model

One of the main benefits of the business model for the users (platform and clients) is cost-effectiveness but it’s also one of the consequences of this malfunction.

Instead of having to employ and face direct and indirect costs (social security contributions, pension, health insurance, equipment…), they use freelancers based in emerging countries. This strategy can help to cut down the costs up to 10x.

Freelancers also called contributors are paid for the tasks completed. The platform assigns a unit cost (amount paid to the contributor) for each task by estimating the average time spent per task (e.g categorizing one product) before referring it to an hourly rate. If there is no work available for the contributors, it’s charge-less for the platform.

Moreover, as the competition is growing very fast, platforms always strive to cut down their costs, and the contributor’s salary is the easiest one to aim. Some contributors get paid less than 0,20$ per hour while not benefiting from any social protection. Contributors can also be fired from the platform, without any reason, overnight and without the platform having to justify itself.

Thus, these platforms may be financially attractive for companies and clients, but their "extreme flexibility" makes contributors status very precarious.

Towards a more ethical solution

Fortunately, there are a few platforms that are committed to value people first instead of profit! Solutions such as Sama or Imerit in the US and isahit in Europe use these digital-tasks as a way to help communities of people to overpass the digital gap, acquire new skills, and then realise their life project.

Outsourcing has become a common practice in the digital annotation industry, where businesses seek external assistance for completing annotation tasks efficiently. However, choosing the right outsourcing method is crucial to ensure project success. In this article, we will explore three popular outsourcing methods: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Crowdsourcing, and Managed Workforce solutions.

What is Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)?

Definition of BPO

BPO is a type of outsourcing where businesses outsource their non-core functions to a third-party provider. These functions can include payroll processing, human resources, customer service, accounting, and more. BPO providers typically offer end-to-end solutions and take full responsibility for the outsourced processes.

How BPO works? 

BPO works by transferring the designated tasks to the BPO provider, who possesses the necessary expertise and resources. For digital annotation projects, BPO can handle tasks such as image labeling, data tagging, and content moderation.

Pros of BPO:

  • Access to specialized expertise in annotation tasks
  • Cost savings through efficient process management
  • Increased efficiency and productivity

Cons of BPO:

  • Reduced control over the outsourced processes
  • Potential negative impact on local economies
  • Risk of communication gaps between the business and the BPO provider
  • Dependency on the BPO provider's quality of service
  • Data security risks associated with sharing sensitive information
  • Limited flexibility in adapting to project changes

How to choose a BPO provider?

When selecting a BPO provider for digital annotation, it is essential to consider their expertise, track record, and adherence to data privacy regulations.

What is Crowdsourcing ?

Definition of crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing involves leveraging a crowd, which can consist of employees, customers, or freelancers, to complete tasks or solve problems. It is widely used for tasks that require human intelligence, such as data entry, content moderation, and market research.

How crowdsourcing works ?

Crowdsourcing is a method where businesses outsource tasks to a crowd of individuals. The process involves identifying a task, providing clear instructions, selecting a platform, engaging the crowd, reviewing and validating the work, compensating the contributors, and evaluating the completed tasks.

In the context of digital annotation, crowdsourcing enables businesses to tap into a diverse pool of annotators to handle tasks like image categorization, sentiment analysis, and text classification and data validation.

Pros of Crowdsourcing:

  • Cost savings compared to traditional hiring
  • Access to a large and diverse talent pool
  • Faster turnaround times due to distributed workforce

Cons of Crowdsourcing:

  • Quality control challenges due to variations in annotators' skills
  • Difficulty in managing a large and diverse workforce
  • Security and confidentiality risks when sharing data with multiple annotators

How to choose a crowdsourcing platform?

When selecting a crowdsourcing platform for digital annotation, consider factors such as the platform's reputation, quality control measures, and ability to handle the specific annotation requirements.

What is Managed Workforce solutions ? 

Managed Workforce solutions offer a unique outsourcing approach where companies entrust their digital projects to providers who recruit a workforce on demand, train, manage, and support the workforce throughout the project. These providers accompany the client in successfully completing the project while ensuring high-quality performance.

How Manage Workforce solutions differ from BPO and crowdsourcing ?

Managed Workforce solutions differ from BPO and crowdsourcing as they provide a dedicated and managed team specifically tailored to the client's needs.

In the realm of digital annotation, managed cloud workers can handle tasks like video annotation, audio transcription, and data validation.

Pros of Managed Workforce solutions:

  • Scalability: Access to an on-demand workforce that can vary according to the size of client projects
  • Increased flexibility and adaptability to project requirements
  • Quality assurance through continuous monitoring and performance tracking
  • Commitment from the managed workforce, with ongoing support and coaching
  • Cost savings compared to in-house teams
  • Diverse workforce to address language, time zone, and sector-specific needs
  • Biases limitation thanks to a diverse workforce

Cons of Managed Workforce solutions:

  • Risk of dependency on the provider
  • Higher costs: Managed workforce solutions often come with additional costs compared to other outsourcing methods

How to choose a managed cloud worker provider for digital annotation?

When choosing a managed cloud worker provider for digital annotation, consider their recruitment and training processes, project management capabilities, and their ability to provide ongoing support and quality assurance.

How to choose the right outsourcing method for a digital annotation project?

When selecting the appropriate outsourcing method for a digital annotation project, it is important to consider several factors:

  • Cost: Evaluate the budget and cost-effectiveness of each outsourcing option, considering factors such as upfront costs, ongoing expenses, and potential savings.
  • Quality: Assess the quality control measures implemented by each outsourcing method, including training programs, performance monitoring, and feedback mechanisms.
  • Expertise: Consider the specific expertise required for your digital annotation tasks and choose an outsourcing method that can provide access to annotators with the necessary skills and domain knowledge.
  • Scalability: Determine the scalability needs of your project and select an outsourcing method that can accommodate fluctuations in workload without compromising quality.
  • Flexibility: Evaluate the level of flexibility offered by each outsourcing method, ensuring it can adapt to changing project requirements and timelines.

By carefully evaluating these factors and aligning them with your project objectives, you can make an informed decision on the most suitable outsourcing method for your digital annotation needs.

overview of these solutions

In conclusion, choosing the right outsourcing method for digital annotation projects is crucial for achieving success. Understanding the differences between BPO, crowdsourcing, and managed workforce solutions enables businesses to make informed decisions based on their specific requirements.

Whether you opt for BPO, crowdsourcing, or managed cloud workers, each method has its pros and cons. Consider factors such as cost, quality, expertise, scalability, and flexibility when making your decision.

By selecting the most appropriate outsourcing method, you can ensure efficient and accurate digital annotation, leading to improved project outcomes. Explore different outsourcing options and choose the one that best fits your needs, unlocking the benefits of outsourcing in the digital annotation landscape.

We hope this article has provided valuable insights into understanding the differences between BPO, crowdsourcing, and managed workforce solutions for digital annotation projects.

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