Cloudsourcing is the modern alternative to outsourcing. Cloudsourcing combines social networking, globalization, and Internet-based brokerage models to make the best of software development available on demand. Inspired by the likes of eBay and Amazon, demand aggregators such as Elance, oDesk, and vWorker (previously RentACoder), cloudsourcing takes the outsourcer out of the equation by offering top talent directly to businesses, but only when they need it and without the commitment of bloated long-term contracts.
Companies will be able to consume only the development skills they need in order to address specific requirements, and then release those skills when the requirements are met. This model provides even more flexibility than outsourcing, which typically requires organizations to enter into long-term contracts with an outsource provider.
Bear in mind, cloudsourcing is only a small glimpse of the future. Challenges raised by outsourcing are still unresolved by its cloud-driven counterpart. Both sourcing models fail to address shortcomings such as:
- Inconsistent developer quality: Just like outsourcers, cloudsourcing developer communities represent a wide range of skills, but the average skill level is still average. The only true test of developer quality is experiential vetting, which can be difficult to include for organizations under deadline pressures.
- Lack of trust, accountability, and shared risk: Like outsourcing, cloudsourcing does little to bond long-term relations between in-house and contract developers. As a result, accountability becomes an issue, which leads to lack of shared risk.
- Lack of standardized best practices: Outsourcing to third parties who are paid by the hour results in little incentive to transform the way teams work and produce new software, leveraging the very best in emerging practices. The us-versus-them mindset created by outsourcing and cloudsourcing alike leads to divided development teams that do not promote your best practices, which in turn does not support your organization’s best interests.
- Poor visibility and predictability: Why would any outsourced or cloudsourced developer want you looking over his or her shoulder? Transparency would invite unwanted scrutiny. For efficiency’s sake, you’d have to install a system that establishes operational insight. Before you know it, predictability would replace accountability requiring a set of procedures that most developers are loath to deal with.
- No knowledge transfer: In-house developers remain isolated from outsource and cloudsource development work, leaving little opportunity to learn and grow from their contractors’ coding efforts. What’s more, outsourcers are not quick to wean their clients from their help because it directly contradicts their goal of increased billings.
Where do we go from here? My next post will get into my ideas for how to refine and improve the cloudsourcing model.