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June 28, 2023

Outsourcing or insourcing micro-tasks?

June 28, 2023

Outsourcing and insourcing of micro-tasks are commonly adopted strategies in various sectors. These small operational activities, known as micro-tasks, play a crucial role in areas such as data management, customer service, and content processing. This article explores these two approaches and examines the associated advantages and disadvantages. Whether you choose to outsource or insource micro-tasks, it is crucial to understand the implications and make an informed decision for your business.

I. Insourcing Micro-tasks, pros and cons.

Insourcing micro-tasks involves managing these activities within the company itself.

The choice of insourcing offers several advantages, such as:

1. Maintaining total control:
By keeping micro-tasks in-house, the company retains full control over processes and sensitive data. It can implement security and confidentiality measures tailored to its specific needs, thereby minimizing the risks associated with disclosing confidential information.

2. Development of internal skills:
Insourcing provides an opportunity to develop skills internally. By investing in employee training and development, the company can enhance its expertise in specific areas, fostering innovation and creativity.

3. Risk reduction:
By keeping data within the company, risks related to data privacy and security are reduced. The company can implement rigorous security measures, control access to sensitive information, and implement risk management protocols tailored to its needs. This helps build customer trust and ensures compliance with data protection regulations.

On the other hand, the disadvantages of this strategy include:

1. High costs:
Hiring and training internal staff incur significant costs for the company. In addition to salaries, expenses related to training resources and equipment need to be considered. These costs can be a substantial financial burden, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises with limited resources.

2. Training requirements for labeling tools:
This entails internal training programs, additional resources, and investments. Training can be complex, especially for specialized tasks, requiring ongoing efforts to keep staff skills up to date. Moreover, the introduction of new tools may require adjustments in internal processes, temporarily impacting operational efficiency.

3. Less flexibility to handle demand fluctuations:
By insourcing micro-tasks, the company may face difficulties in coping with demand fluctuations. It needs to anticipate sufficient capacity to handle peak activity periods, which can result in workload overload and additional costs during slow periods. This inflexibility can also limit the company's ability to quickly adapt to changing market needs.

4. Difficulty accessing specialized expertise:
Insourcing can make it challenging to access specialized expertise for tasks that require in-depth knowledge. Hiring qualified professionals in specific domains can be complex and costly. Furthermore, maintaining up-to-date expertise in constantly evolving fields can limit the company's ability to efficiently and effectively perform certain tasks.

Insourcing micro-tasks is implemented in various use cases, such as:

  • Insourcing customer service:
    By managing customer service in-house, companies can improve customer relationships and ensure better responsiveness. For example, an e-commerce company can insource customer support to provide personalized assistance and quick issue resolution. This helps establish trust with customers and optimize their shopping experience.
  • Internal management of specific tasks:
    Insourcing can be used for tasks that require deep knowledge of the company's internal workings, such as managing organization-specific internal processes. For instance, a manufacturing company may insource supply chain management to have direct control over production timelines, stock levels, and product quality.

II. Outsourcing Micro-tasks: 

There are three major possible types of outsourcing:

  • Business Process Outsourcing (BPO): Outsourcing specific business processes to specialized companies.
  • Crowdsourcing: Outsourcing to independent workers through a remote workforce community to perform micro-tasks.
  • Managed Workforce: Outsourcing to a dedicated managed external team, balancing flexibility and control.

Outsourcing micro-tasks offers several advantages:

1. Cost control:
Outsourcing allows for cost control based on specific needs, without long-term commitments. Companies can adjust resources according to project size and evolution, leading to better financial management.

2. Increased flexibility:
Outsourcing provides significant flexibility to cope with demand fluctuations. Companies can quickly respond to activity peaks by increasing external resources, ensuring optimal operational efficiency.

3. Access to specialized expertise:
By outsourcing, companies can access specialized expertise in specific domains. For tasks related to fields like healthcare or other specialized industries, outsourcing enables leveraging the academic background and specialized knowledge of external workforce.

4. Cultural specificities:
Outsourcing offers the opportunity to tap into cultural specificities. For example, when analyzing meal trays in Brazil, a Brazilian workforce can provide in-depth knowledge of typical dishes, thereby enhancing the accuracy of outsourced tasks.

5. Focus on core competencies:
By outsourcing micro-tasks, companies can focus more on their core competencies and strategic activities. This optimization of internal resources frees up time and effort for higher-value tasks.

However, outsourcing also has some drawbacks:

1. Differentiating BPO and crowdsourcing:
Compared to the BPO approach, utilizing crowdsourcing platforms can be more beneficial. The crowd allows for a larger workforce, resulting in better bandwidth allocation to clients.

2. Potential risks to data confidentiality and security:
Outsourcing tasks comes with a potential risk of compromising the confidentiality and security of company data. Implementing robust security measures is essential to protect sensitive information (applies to both BPO and crowdsourcing).

3. Loss of control over outsourced processes:
By outsourcing micro-tasks, a company may lose some control over the processes. Clear communication and effective management are important for maintaining adequate control (applies to both BPO and crowdsourcing).

4. Dependence on external vendors:
Outsourcing can make a company dependent on external vendors, posing challenges in terms of flexibility and responsiveness to changes. This disadvantage is primarily associated with BPO. When outsourcing through an external service provider, the company can become reliant on that provider, which can limit flexibility and responsiveness to changes. In the case of crowdsourcing, this dependence can be reduced due to a greater diversity of contributors and the possibility to diversify outsourcing sources.

Outsourcing micro-tasks has various use cases:

1. Big data processing:
Outsourcing micro-tasks is particularly advantageous when dealing with large amounts of data. For example, a company can outsource data entry and verification in forms, surveys, or large documents. This speeds up data processing and frees up internal resources for more strategic tasks.

2. Data labeling and annotation for machine learning:
Outsourcing micro-tasks is commonly used in machine learning. Companies can outsource labeling and annotation tasks for data, such as image classification, text transcription, object segmentation, etc. This helps build high-quality datasets for training machine learning models while benefiting from the expertise and diversity of external workers.

3. Online content moderation:
Many online platforms utilize outsourcing of micro-tasks for content moderation. Companies can outsource the task of moderating comments, images, videos, or ads to ensure a safe online environment aligned with platform policies. This effectively manages a large volume of content while maintaining high-quality standards.

III. Differences between BPO/Crowdsourcing/Managed Workforce


Summary table between BPO, crowdsourcing, managed workforce
Summary table between BPO, crowdsourcing, managed workforce

In conclusion, outsourcing and insourcing micro-tasks come with a distinct set of advantages and disadvantages. Insourcing offers full control and the ability to develop internal skills but comes with high costs and reduced flexibility. Outsourcing allows for cost control and increased flexibility but carries risks to confidentiality and loss of process control. It is crucial for each company to carefully assess its needs and goals to choose the most suitable strategy. Selecting a data labeling partner capable of meeting specific business needs is also wise. 

By making an informed decision about outsourcing or insourcing micro-tasks, companies can maximize their operational efficiency, agility, and competitiveness in the market.

Why you may need to outsource your data labeling projects

Businesses are adopting AI technology to automate decision-making and benefit from new business opportunities, but it is not as easy as it seems and data annotation is the most challenging limitation to AI adoption in the industry. Data labeling enables machines to gain an accurate understanding of real-world conditions and opens up opportunities for a wide variety of businesses and industries. Having better-labeled data than competitors provides superiority in the machine learning industry. 

5 signs it's time to bring in professional data labelers

1. Internal costs are impractical or unsustainable:

In advanced economies with high worker wages, labeling data internally is particularly expensive. These expenditures can increase to the point where it is no longer practical to continue labeling in-house for larger and larger datasets. 

2. Unexpected delays:

When working with an internal team, overall performance may suffer due to different reasons like change of roles, need for training or reallocation of resources. Contractual agreements that state that data will be given at particular intervals and with an acceptable quality level can guarantee delivery dates when outsourcing to a trustworthy third-party provider.

3. Difficulty in recruiting and training labelers:

It's not always possible to hire new labelers if your internal labeling team has decreased in size or is not big enough. This is because new personnel need training in order to produce labels of a high enough quality.

4. Annotators may lack knowledge of certain industries:

Some industries may not be well-known to annotators. Fields like finance and healthcare require a certain level of subject-matter proficiency from the labelers carrying out the annotation. The project might be better served by collaborating with a labeling company whose data annotators have industry-specific capabilities in cases when the in-house labelers lack these abilities and there are few chances for recruitment.

5. Biases in annotation: 

By using an in-house annotator team, you can generate some bias in the annotation. Indeed, if your team is composed of people who have the same physical attributes and have the same origin, you can reproduce certain social biases. In this case, your internal team will have only one reading prism and will not be able to provide the most complete learning to your algorithm. By choosing a diverse team of annotators, coming from different countries and cultures, you reduce the bias and provide the most accurate learning to your model. 

Pros of outsourcing data labeling

  • Outsourcing annotation allows to benefit from a larger workforce and to greatly increase the volume of annotated data
  • This is a more economical solution
  • Companies specialized in data annotation have the experience and tools necessary to accompany and train annotators 
  • You can choose annotators who have knowledge and skills in your industry and speak many languages
  • Your team is spared from handling the work of data labeling. You don't have to worry about the overall management of the employees.
  • An annotation team that has been hand-selected ensures reliable quality control.
  • Your needs can be defined and met using a consultative approach.
  • It gives you the ability to properly and quickly annotate vast amounts of data in many forms.
  • Robust security measures.

Cons of outsourcing data labeling 

  • Internal teams won't develop their own knowledge if they are dependent on an outside workforce.
  • If you choose the wrong partner you may have privacy concerns
  • Project setup can takes time, depending on the data's complexity
  • If you choose a partner who doesn't respect their workforce and doesn't pay them properly, you can fall into unethical outsourcing which is bad for your brand image and creates friction internally 

Conclusion

Large amounts of high-quality training data serve as the basis for effective machine learning models. However, the process of collecting the training data needed to develop these models is difficult and time consuming. The most common models today require that the data be manually labeled by humans in order for the models to learn to make good decisions. 

Annotating in-house can limit you in terms of volume and create some bias in the annotation. 

Today, companies specialized in data labeling can make all the difference in training your algorithms: by training and coaching a diverse and committed workforce, with a project team that follows the quality of the annotations and monitors your projects daily. Moreover, outsourcing your annotations can also be an opportunity for the company to generate a positive social impact with annotators, by using a partner like isahit, which guarantees extremely accurate annotations but also a 5x higher income for annotators, free training, and a friendly community to rely on. 

Check out our article on how to choose the best data labeling partner your projects for more tips.

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