Crowdsourcing means raising an army of developers

Enterprises are grappling with a rapidly changing IT landscape and not enough in-house developer talent to deal with it. As the explosion of the cloud, Big Data, mobile and connected devices leaves organizations strapped for skills in emerging areas, more and more enterprises are turning to crowdsourced application development.

Crowdsourcing development platforms give enterprise organizations access to a free market of developer talent, ready and mobilized to work on an application right away. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement, giving enterprises the specific developer skillsets they need to build custom software, and allowing developers to supplement their incomes, choosing their own freelance projects in a collaborative but competitive atmosphere and gaining new programming skills in the process.

Platforms such as TopCoder—the largest online crowdsourced developer platform with a community of more than 630,000 developers and designers—open enterprise projects up as competitive challenges, breaking down the software’s components into itemized tasks for developers to complete. The developers, the majority of whom have full-time jobs, monitor the challenge boards for tasks that match their skills and interests, and in a matter of days or weeks code and deliver the software with the goal of receiving a cash prize. Any piece of software the enterprise customer ends up using, including a combination of multiple submissions, the developer gets paid for.

“Let’s say you needed to build a mobile front end to some application, and you didn’t have any skill to do that,” said Eric Knipp, managing vice president of application platform strategies at Gartner. “You can go to a digital agency and they’ll charge you an arm and a leg for it. You can try to hire someone with that skill; they probably won’t want to work for you if you’re a traditional enterprise because of the compensation. Or you can go to a crowdsourcing community where you can buy a little slice of their time and get this thing you need relatively quickly.”

In March, Gartner published a report, “Use Crowdsourcing as a Force Multiplier in Application Development,” in which Knipp explores how crowdsourced development applies a cloud operating model to the development and delivery of custom software. Organizations can use platforms including TopCoder and the crowdsourced testing community Applause (formerly uTest) to spin up, develop, test and ship software relatively quickly. A recent partnership between the development and testing platforms takes this a step further by consolidating the customer’s experience through the software development life cycle.