Crowdsourcing Project Management to the ‘Open’ Community


By Haytham Siala

Roehampton Business School, Roehampton University

London, United Kingdom


The aim of this article is to contribute both theoretically and methodically to the project management discipline in the context of information systems. This article provides a “multi-disciplinary” summary of the current literature that focuses on the socio-technical issues and theories surrounding the crowdsourcing phenomenon. One of the objectives of this exploratory literature review is to present the reader with practical considerations about crowdsourcing as a project management technique and a conceptual model that can help ‘shortlist’ candidates that are ‘appropriate’ for a crowdsourced project task. There are proponents and opponents of the ‘crowdsourcing’ approach but real-life case studies of crowdsourcing companies such as freelancer.com have demonstrated that crowdsourcing can be a success and findings from some seminal articles indicate that crowdsourcing could result in expediting the completion of a project; reducing a project’s overall costs; and higher user satisfaction levels towards the project’s final deliverable.

Keywords: crowdsourcing; open innovation; sustainable project management; community systems;

1.           Introduction

The term crowdsourcing is the brainchild of Howe (2006) who defined it as the practice of outsourcing problem-solving tasks to the crowd. The genre of tasks ranges from scientific complex problems to simple menial tasks and the rewards for accomplishing a task can range from monetary remuneration to some form of a social ‘recognition’ status. The Internet in particular has facilitated the virtual mobilisation of a task force of knowledge workers whose skillset and classification ranges from amateurs to intellectuals and technically adept professionals (Marjanovic et al. 2012, Brabham 2008), albeit some of the seminal studies for ‘crowdsourcing’ innovation have highlighted lead users as the primary source for leveraging on open innovation (von Hippel 1986, Johann Füller and Eric A. Von Hippel 2008, Lilien et al. 2002). Lead users are defined as the “users at the leading edges of the target market” (Lilien et al. 2002).

There are articles that question the practice of crowdsourcing and have pinpointed some of the ethical and legal challenges and implications that crowdsourcing can have on the incumbent workforce of an organisation (Marjanovic et al. 2012, Wolfson and Lease 2011, Whitla 2009). For example, some argue that since crowdsourcing involves soliciting solutions to a task from a cheaper external source, opponents of the crowdsourcing practice will regard it as some form of workers’ exploitation or slave labour and trade unionists would contend that the continuous utilisation of human resources outside the firm’s boundaries could eventually threaten the job security of the firm’s existing employees (Whitla 2009, Marjanovic et al. 2012). On the other hand, proponents of crowdsourcing argue that firms are beginning to accede to their consumers requests for new and innovative products and services by (1) sourcing creative ideas from the crowd of consumers (von Hippel 2005, von Hippel 2009, von Hippel 1986) and (2) engaging consumers directly in the design and development of a custom product or service. A research study that was conducted about the perception of retail brands by a community revealed that brands conceived by a community were considered to be worthy rivals to established brands (Johann Füller and Eric A. Von Hippel 2008), something that was reflected in the premium that the community members were willing to pay for the ‘community-created’ brand.


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Editor’s note: Full paper includes footnotes and list of references

About the Author

flag-ukhaytham-sialaHaytham Siala

Roehampton University

London, UK

Haytham Siala is Senior Lecturer at Roehampton University Business School, Roehampton University. He has written and published articles about the effect of culture on consumer interactions and behaviours in electronic commerce. His area of specialisation and research interests include cultural influences on consumer’s perceptions of brands and purchasing decisions, contemporary technology acceptance models, and the potential utilisation of crowdsourcing as a sustainable alternative to conventional project management methods and techniques.  Haytham can be contacted at [email protected].