Crowdsourcing Insights from KPMG

By Matt Sevenoaks, Global Crowdsourcing Lead at KPMG

Leading how KPMG uses crowdsourcing initiatives globally, I have had the opportunity to experience remarkable examples of how online communities consisting of hundreds or thousands of stakeholders, can provide valuable insight to inform the direction of strategic projects.

But “crowdsourcing” has many applications. You can crowdsource for insight, ideas, marketing content, equity, funding… The list goes on. Below are some examples of what we’ve been doing at KPMG recently, as we explore the many opportunities that crowdsourcing now offers organizations willing to tap into their own crowds or those outside their own walls.

Crowdsourcing for Insight:
Customer insight (Telecommunications sector)
In March 2014 KPMG created an online community consisting of 1,500 KPMG UK and KPMG India staff to explore over a 6-week period their attitudes and behaviours when using smartphone and tablet technology at work, at home and on the go. The client, a major telecommunication company, wanted to accelerate and explore the development of their consumerisation strategy. The results showed marked differences between what the key buyers in an organisation might think their enterprise employees need versus what their employees actually say they need. This project acted as a pilot, so they could explore the power of crowdsourcing for insight. They are currently exploring how they can expand their use of crowdsourcing across more customer groups in more markets.

Market insight (Healthcare sector)
In February 2014 KPMG Global Healthcare launched an 8-week “What Works” online community with hundreds of external healthcare participants. 51 countries participated. The outputs of this program will be incorporated into various Global Healthcare “What Works” thought leadership publications through 2014 and were referenced at the Global Healthcare conference in June 2014.

Employee insight (Financial Services sector)
In November 2013 our People and Change consulting team ran a 6-week crowdsourcing program inviting a crowd of a major bank’s 400 finance staff to explore the effectiveness of a recently implemented finance transformation project.

Crowdsourcing for Innovation:
KPMG has run multiple innovation contests using crowdsourcing platforms across the world. Each often involves asking the KPMG crowd to think of ideas or enrich the ideas submitted by other colleagues for new service lines we can offer to our global client base. Such competitions foster a culture of creativity across the global firm whilst enabling participants to knowledge share, network across geographies and have a positive impact on the business’ future success.

Why use crowdsourcing:
The business benefits of crowdsourcing are only just now being explored by organisations, but below are some of the key benefits associated with crowdsourcing for insight from customers, employees and the general public:

SpeedOnce the crowdsourcing platform is launched studies can be deployed and completed quickly, with participant contributions instantly available for review.
Cost – Save both time and cost, as moderators and participants do not need to travel to far-flung business unit/offices – as with focus groups.
Broad reachDiverse and wide-ranging participant communities assembled for a single programme easily and without incurring expensive travel costs.
Foster engagementHard-to-recruit or low-incidence groups can be invited to participate via e-mail/social media channels and contribute at a time that suits them.
Transparency Participants can be more comfortable discussing sensitive topics and sharing unpopular opinions than in a traditional face-to-face setting.
Real time dataView sessions in real time and interaction betweeen moderators and participants.

More broadly speaking crowdsourcing provides the ability for users to get things done in less time, for less cost and ideally obtain higher quality outputs.

What’s Next for Crowdsourcing?
The world is still very much in the early stages of exploring crowdsourcing in all its forms. Methodologies are still being developed and refined for each type. The coming years will see companies emerge who become known for expertise in specific types of crowdsourcing. For example, KickStarter is now synonymous with “crowdfunding” since it has established itself as a global platform that can effectively enable a user to raise finance from a crowd in less time and for less cost than would have been possible before the internet existed and enabled such crowdsourcing activity. Those that do emerge successfully will be the ones that can provide platforms that easily recruit and engage crowds to generate valuable outputs.




Show Me the Money!

By Eugene Ivanov, PHD, PMP, Innovation Management Consultant – Demystifying Innovation.

I strongly believe that as an open innovation tool, crowdsourcing has a bright future, but only if it proves its economic worth. In other words, when properly designed and executed, a crowdsourcing campaign should be able to solve a problem in a more cost-effective way than other tools.

This proof, however, doesn’t come easy, as economic analyses of crowdsourcing campaigns, whether successful or not, usually aren’t publicly available. Yet, fortunately, such data do appear in the open time to time–and they’re nothing short of spectacular.

In 2010, Forrester Consulting published a case study describing open innovation program at a large multinational agricultural company Syngenta. The study analyzed the total economic impact and return on investment (ROI) Syngenta had realized by using a crowdsourcing platform provided by InnoCentive, an open innovation intermediary. The Forrester’s analysis identified a number of benefits gained by Syngenta from this cooperation, including cost savings from finding solutions to difficult R&D problems, productivity savings for Syngenta’s researchers and reduction in intellectual property transfer time. The total value of these benefits was estimated at $11,861,688 over three years. Given that the total cost of using InnoCentive services over the same period amounted to $4,200,567, Forrester calculated that a three-year, risk-adjusted ROI for Syngenta was 182%, with a payback period of fewer than two months. Isn’t it cool?

More recently, a piece of data that would make crowdsourcing fans really happy came out of Harvard Medical School. In one of their research projects, HMS scientists employed the MegaBLAST DNA sequencing algorithm with a capacity of processing 100,000 sequences in 260 minutes. This was way too slow, and in order to improve the efficiency of the algorithm, HMS hired a full-time developer with the annual salary of $120,000. The developer did lower the processing time to 47 minutes, a 5.5-fold improvement, but this was still not fast enough. HMS then launched an open innovation contest that ran for two weeks and offered $6,000 in prize money. 733 participants took part in the competition, and 122 of them (representing 69 countries) submitted algorithms. The winning solution was capable of doing the desired job in 16(!) seconds, a 1,000-fold improvement over the MegaBLAST algorithm and a 180-fold improvement over the internal solution. Given a 20-fold difference in costs ($120,000 vs. $6,000), the HMS crowdsourcing campaign was overall 3,600-fold more cost-effective than the internal solution. Let me repeat: 3,600-fold more cost-effective!

However, as I said in the beginning, good things could happen only when a crowdsourcing campaign is well designed and skillfully executed. And here is where the problem with crowdsourcing seems to reside: many organizations simply lack an appropriate expertise. But this is a topic for another conversation.


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