corporate marketing.In an online world, collaboration tends to be through text-oriented venues. But that method ofcommunication doesn't always fit the reality of complex tasks, understanding complicatedinformation, and working together based on a shared corporate culture. One approach to makecollaboration more humanly social is through the use of virtual interaction, such as via avatars.That's the idea behind ProtonMedia's 3D virtual environment for learning and collaboration.It isn't cheap to develop the virtual SaaS environments; pilots typically cost $30,000 to 50,000,and full production systems typically cost $200,000 to $300,000. But compare that to contractclinical researcher Pharmaceutical Product Development, which usually spends $2 million a yearsending field staff to central locations for training. The $650,000 it paid for ProtonMedia's servicewas still a bargain, says CIO Mike Wilkinson. Even better, he notes, the levels of engagementand knowledge retention in virtual training were as good as face-to-face sessions -- and in someways better.Unlike traditional classroom training, the virtual classes allow a student to "monitor data, andhave their instructor in another part of the world or even their line manager in their region,monitor what they're doing" and provide real-time feedback, Wilkinson says. And although manypeople are "pretty shy" in a real classroom, they're more likely to speak up in the virtualenvironment because "it's kind of not you doing it, it's your avatar. It's a safer environment."
Crowdsourcing: Getting tasks done heaper, faster, and more flexibly
Another area where social technology has proven value is in crowdsourcing, a technology oftenassociated with social media and gathering content for use in blogs, videos, and podcasts. Butthose are hardly the only areas where crowdsourcing can be applied.CrowdFlower's "enterprise crowdsourcing platform," for example, taps 1.5 million online"contributors" for work such as trolling social media sites for information about sales prospects orensuring eBay offerings are listed are in the right category. This can save as much as 40 percentcompared to using a traditional outsourcer, the company claims. The contributors, who arerecruited from gaming sites and other online venues, are paid as little as 5 cents for simple tasksand as much as $10 for more involved work such as taking a picture of a physical location.uTest crowdsources testing to "contributors" whom it categorizes based on their technical skills,geography, and demographic characteristics. Direct marketing and teleservices firm RuffaloCodyestimates uTest costs only 15 percent of what using its own staff for load, functionality, and useracceptance testing would have entailed, says Paul Ruffalo, the firm's director of informationsystems. He also says the crowd-based testers did a better job than in-house engineers offinding creative ways to break the software and ensure it will work, allowing the firm to find anddeploy fixes more quickly than it could in the past.Likewise, mobile video software vendor Viddy found uTest to be faster and less expensive thanusing in-house testers or an outsourcer, says David Dean, Viddy's head of operations. Theservice also made it easier to find testers who can check the application on various versions ofthe iPhone running on different networks, he says.Crowdsourcing a basic function such as data entry can be 60 to 70 percent less expensive thantraditional outsourcing, says outsourcing consultancy Everest Group. It cautions, though, thatlarge customers worry there is less accountability with the crowd than with a traditional staff, andthat Web-based contributors do a better job on well-defined tasks than on more complex
Why social tech's real value is inside the businesshttp://www.infoworld.com/print/1783363 of 512/20/2011 4:49 AM