We made the claim in our last post on cloud resources that Competition-based Crowdsourcing was the “final frontier of cloud democratization”. To sum up:
To help us define “cloud democratization”, we turned to Phil Wainewright:
“You could call it people-oriented architecture: democratization of IT that puts computing power in the hands of users and lets them get a job done without having to adapt their processes to the way the technology works.”
In that quote, his use of the term “computing power” is clearly pointed at the technology. Yet the technology itself is powerless without the talent to drive value from it.
To help flesh out how to apply the benefits of a cloud model to application development talent, let’s return to another Phil Wainewright post: “Defining the true meaning of cloud” and break down his four base components through the light of competition-based crowdsourcing.
First Component – Abstracted Infrastructure
“In most cases, that means virtualization, but I’ve chosen a slightly more generic term because virtualization implies a specific technology choice and the key point here is that the underlying infrastructure isn’t tied to any specific hardware or operating software. In theory, any component could be swapped out or exchanged without affecting the operation of whatever is running above. Crucially, the abstraction provides elasticity to scale usage up or down without having to stop to upgrade the underlying infrastructure.”
When thinking about a specific application development resource, whether it’s a…
Creative/Graphic designer with UI focus, HTML5 expert
Mobile developer, iOS expert
Data scientist, Analytics expert
…it’s easy to ignore the infrastructure. It’s always easy to ignore infrastructure when thinking about resourcing on an individual level. No different than ignoring the infrastructure for a small web application.
Holding on the discussion around scale, let’s take a look at what “infrastructure” actually is for technical resources. On the technology side, “infrastructure is the integrated framework upon which digital networks operate. This infrastructure includes data centers, computers, computer networks, Database Management devices, and a regulatory system”.
To translate to application development talent, this translates to the organizational architecture – from management, to human resources, to devices, to office space, to payroll – that creates an environment for an individual to create value and receive compensation from an organization.
Abstracted Technical Talent
Let’s now apply the two main points from Phil’s first defining component of Cloud to technical talent – and see if the competition-based crowdsourcing model holds up:
“…any component could be swapped out or exchanged without affecting the operation of whatever is running above…”
“Crucially, the abstraction provides elasticity to scale usage up or down without having to stop to upgrade the underlying infrastructure…”
This is key. In any cloud architecture, abstraction is the methodology, and one of the resulting benefits is “no single point of failure”. Contracted employees, being directly connected, are obviously not abstracted.
We’ve defined the three main crowdsourcing model differentiators before. Let’s see if they hold up to the “no single point of failure test”:
One-to-one Model: The addition of the internet to the classic contractor/freelancer concept. While great for finding talent for a specific task, the “crowdsourcing” element of this model ends once work begins. From that moment on abstraction doesn’t exist.
One-to-many Model: This is the method and structure behind companies like Kickstarter, Trendwatching, and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (aka, Microtasking). While most definitely abstracted with amazing ability to scale, the model is self-limiting by nature. If you have a crowdsourcing model that is based on the fact that anyone can win, then you have to limit your tasks to be something anyone can win (microtasks).
One-to-competition Model: Organizations like Fold.it, 99designs, Tongal, and Topcoder all run off a crowdsourced competition model. In this model,
There is no direct contractual relationship between the sponsor and the task.
There is virtually no limitation to the complexity of the task or project that can be run.
There is no reliance on any single resource to deliver value. Resources can therefore be “swapped” without effecting operations, and the ability to scale any number of complex tasks is not limited by the underlying resource infrastructure.
In the fight for application development talent, it’s easy to focus on the individual battle. Yet if the Cloud has taught us anything, it’s to not think small. At every stage of the technology stack, a startup of two individuals has access to the same computing technology and power that runs the largest and most powerful tech firms in the world.
It’s time to take that same thinking to the global war for the ability to access and reward the best application development talent on the planet.