What do you do when you’re a half-billion dollar public company that provides a service that’s teetering on the brink of obsolescence and a much smaller company with a transformational product has poached two of your largest customers? You write a blog post touting a hollow acronym like “BPC” (business process crowdsourcing) and you pound your chest about why a breakthrough, proven technology isn’t as good as a dated service offering that’s been rebranded with buzzwords, that’s what.
Lionbridge is justifiably threatened by crowd computing. The success of the crowd computing platform model has drawn press attention and sparked a shift in the market from managed services to software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses such as ours. The most established and successful financial information providers and eCommerce businesses have proven the superior quality, cost and speed of leveraging software to not only manage crowdsourced workers but also integrate automation tools and their own employees into automated workflows. Lionbridge can’t be blamed for attempting to re-skin their product with a light crowdsourcing offering, but their efforts will, over time, be futile.
Why can’t “BPC” effectively compete with a crowd computing platform?
Here are the five fundamental reasons why BPC can’t compete with a crowd computing platform:
1. “BPC” uses a naturally elastic crowd like a rigid, captive workforce.
What does this mean, exactly? It means that Lionbridge’s offering misses the entire point of crowdsourcing. Their model is incapable of elastically scaling up to meet capacity peaks and scaling down during troughs. Workforce rigidity is one of the most fundamental business problems that crowd computing solves by elastically leveraging crowd workers.
2. “BPC” doesn’t work without a pre-defined process.
For all its touting of the “smart crowd,” Lionbridge is incapable of supporting the re-engineering of business processes. A customer that comes to the table with only a desired outcome and without a clearly defined business process is a customer that Lionbridge cannot service. One of the core value propositions of a crowd computing platform such as WorkFusion is the ability to start with a desired outcome and quickly and easily create the best, most efficient process that achieves it. This is what it means to be a crowd computing platform.
3. “BPC” is biased towards bodies.
Lionbridge and the like make money by charging a margin on top of human workers. There is thus a natural bias towards using more workers to increase capacity for customers in order to increase revenues.
Crowd computing platforms are designed to leverage the fastest, most effective and efficient worker to perform a task, be it human or machine, and WorkFusion is biased to automate more work over time as patterns in human work emerge. We in fact recently released a feature that pro-actively recommends a machine worker when a user adds a crowdsourced task to a workflow if the task can be more effectively performed by automation. This bias towards automation is the future, and only a SaaS business can and will enable this future for enterprise businesses.
4. The traditional BPO model is mired by project managers and void of technology.
Along with a bias towards human workers, Lionbridge and their peers rely on human project managers to build and manage workflows. Because there’s a limit to the number of people a human manager can manage, capacity growth is as linear as the increase in service costs.
Lionbridge defends this expensive relic of a model by touting the power of a partnership. Consistent human contact is optimal in a marriage, but what makes more sense when it comes to business: a) relying on a vendor’s human project managers to support your vital business processes until death do you part, or b) working with process and product experts to build the best process and then letting vastly more accurate and cost effective algorithms manage the process once it’s perfected?
5. Crowdsourcing is still an experiment for BPO businesses.
When you’re a half-billion dollar ocean tanker of a business, and you’ve been charting the same course for almost 20 years, you’re far more change- and innovation-averse. You regard new methods of work like crowdsourcing first with suspicion, then with trepid curiosity, and then with the same disdainful acceptance that Kodak showed to digital photography.
There’s a reason why crowdsourcing and WorkFusion are growing exponentially. There’s a reason why the most seasoned industry experts are endorsing our model. There’s a reason why one of Silicon Valley’s most visionary and successful investors bet on crowd computing and WorkFusion.
The reason is the promise of a better way of working. WorkFusion is fulfilling that promise because that is both the liberty and the imperative of being a new business with no legacy restraints, no heavy historical baggage.
There is certainly still a place in the market for traditional BPO businesses, but there is no place in the market for a traditional service dressed as innovation.