The term ”crowd sourcing” has been coming up more and more lately. Crowd sourcing according to Wikipedia, “leverages the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals.” I am particularly interested in how crowd sourcing works with mobile applications as this is the area I focus on. I have found several recent examples of mobile crowd sourcing applications that I want to spotlight in this article.

As I write this article I am in Sydney, Australia speaking at the Mastering SAP Technologies conference. This morning, I watched an SAP concept demo of a mobile application that searches tweets (messages from Twitter) to gain insight into traffic conditions around Sydney. In real time this application analyzes public tweets, reports on traffic issues and displays icons on a map to show where there are problems. This is crowd sourcing at its best!

I also use crowd sourcing regularly when I need help. I post a question to a forum and let the collective expertise of the forum members help me resolve some of my many problems. I have personally found that crowd sourcing is an effective tool for harvesting community intelligence.

I have recently found two additional crowd sourcing solutions, both with mobile clients, that deserve mention, Salesforce.com’s Chatter and SAP’s StreamWork.

Chatter enables a group of people that are working together on a customer account to collaborate and share information online. This is very useful for an account manager as they often play a role similar to that of a project manager. Chatter enables the account manager to invite key individuals to join, share and collaborate so they can all have visibility into the status of the deal and what role each member is expected to play. There is a mobile version of Chatter that enables participants to collaborate and actively participate in the discussion from anywhere.

SAP’s StreamWorks is a new powerful collaboration solution that I use daily as an SAP Mentor focused on enterprise mobility. It is a solution designed to help direct collaborative decision making. Much like Chatter, a person with an account can set-up a new activity and invite people to join and help in a collaborative effort. StreamWork however, is not tied to a particular kind of decision or process. It can be used to invite all people involved in a branding decision, development effort, or for any other kind of group decision. Members share their thoughts, viewpoints, collateral and opinions as a group. StreamWork also has a mobile client that enables participants to actively contribute to the decision-making process from anywhere.

I believe that Chatter and StreamWork represent only the tip of the iceberg in collaborative solutions. Companies are just now realizing that they should be valuing and utilizing the collective intelligence of their entire organization much more than they have. Too often, decisions are only made by those in the room. The problem with that is too often a company’s most experienced, knowledgeable and valuable resources are mobile and offsite working with customers or on remotely. Their participation and contribution to a collaborative decision-making process is key, but it must be done in a way that permits them to contribute on their schedule and from any location. This is where mobile collaborative software is key.

In addition to experienced experts collaborating with those in the office, mobile and remote workers can also help each other solve problems. The collective intelligence and advice from one hundred experienced field service engineers can quickly help solve a difficult challenge that is being faced by a young service technician struggling alone in the outback.

Crowd sourcing, institutional knowledge and collaboration are the subjects of a recent book called The Smart Swarm, by author Peter Miller. In this book Miller explores how simple insects like ants and bees can make good decisions by making them as a group. Complex creatures like humans can benefit even more by collectively working together and sharing their intelligence and expertise. Mobile technologies can now extend these new, collaborative technologies and solutions to a much wider group of mobile contributors.

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