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WestJet Cuts Costs With Crowdsourcing

WestJet Cuts Costs With Crowdsourcing

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Oct 08, 2011
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WestJet Cuts Costs With Crowdsourcing
David F. Carr ,
October 03, 2011
Flooded with money-saving ideas from employees, WestJet turned to Spigit tohelp it organize those ideas and identify the best ones.
 Seeking to cut costs in a tough economy, the Canadian airline WestJet askedemployees for suggestions and was overwhelmed by the response--literally,overwhelmed.Within a year,WestJet realized that trying to manage the process with email, Excel, and SharePoint wasn't going to work, said Trent Tilbury, a senior businessanalyst with the airline. "We were inundated with ideas, to where we just couldn'thandle them administratively," he said.In addition to the staff tasked with managing submissions (2.5 full-timeequivalents), managers were finding it difficult to sort through them all andrespond to them appropriately, Tilbury said. That's when WestJet turned toSpigit,  an enterprise social application created specifically for the purpose of crowdsourcing ideas for product development and improvement, cost savings, andother corporate goals.
In general, Spigit focuses on internal innovation communities, meaning solicitingand nurturing ideas from employees. Some applications also include members of the public. An example is Spigit's work with the City of New York to gather ideas about improving life there from both employees and citizens. There is also a Spigitfor Facebook app, which is used more for market research with consumers.
WestJet has saved more than $10 million as a result of the suggestions submitted by employees during the pastthree years, including the period prior to theimplementation of Spigit, Tilbury said. Spigit'scontribution has been to make the process moremanageable by encouraging employees to participate inthe process of voting ideas up or down and determining
which ones should move toward implementation. Managers then need onlyrespond to the handful of ideas that have risen to the top of the list, he said.Also, because Spigit makes participation fun and engaging, participation expandedfrom about 450 people who had registered for the SharePoint application to about2,000 employees participating now, Tilbury said.Spigit keeps employees interested by applying the principles of gamification, asocial software technique that borrows from the mechanics of online games, saidLisa Purvis, senior vice president of product research and development at Spigit.The user interface takes advantage of "the rich and visual media that have existedfor a while in the consumer space," as well as mobile applications. The ultimategoal is "to ensure engagement is more than a one-time thing, that it's not justsubmitting an app and never coming back," she said.To keep people involved, Spigit lets them comment and vote on each other's ideas,while also keeping track of how their own are ranked by others. Throughleaderboards and other mechanisms, employees get an opportunity to develop areputation within the company as someone who is interested in innovation and hasgood ideas, she said.Annie Lawrenson, vice president of innovation strategy at Spigit and a formercustomer, said the software's ability to keep employees engaged is what first gother interested. "It's not just why are they going to come back on day two, but whyare they going to come back on day 200. For that to happen, you need habitinducing, habit forming behavioral guides," she said.Spigit allows companies to define a process for how ideas graduate from one stageof review to the next and ultimately move toward implementation "to make sureideas make their way through and don't just end there--that the required activitieshappen and make it to market," Purvis said. That idea graduation process "is fullyconfigurable to make those stages specific to your environment," she said.WestJet has taken advantage of that configurability to define its application as the"innovation hanger," where ideas proceed through a series of preflight checksbefore taking flight, Tilbury said.

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