Big Data Reaches Out for the Human Touch

April 30, 2013 No Comments

Featured Article by Martha Crow, Senior Vice President, Global Enterprise Solutions, Lionbridge

After investing significantly in big data, most CIOs and organizations struggle to get the proliferation of unstructured content normalized and assimilated back into their workflows to be leveraged by analytics solutions. This challenge of ensuring all structured and unstructured data is gathered into the same format often requires human intelligence in order to deliver effective results. More so, organizations are under enormous pressure to reap a return and showcase all of the hidden insights in their data. But before organizations can even begin to analyze data, they must first ensure that it is analytics ready. A portion of this content typically still needs human intervention, such as transcribing a video file, or cleansing and de-duplicating records.

According to a December 2012 report from research firm IDC, big data market revenue will grow by 31.7 percent each year until it hits the $23.8 billion mark in 2016. As companies and CIOs continue to make investments in big data technologies, they are now realizing there are challenges with getting vast amounts of structured and unstructured content from internal and external systems into a format that allows analytics workers, such as SaaS modelers, to make real sense of this data.

Enterprise Crowdsourcing (ECS) is one model that organizations are tapping into which provides human intervention through a flexible workforce. ECS leverages online workers with a broad range of skills from around the globe who are paid to complete tasks that fulfill enterprise-level business needs.  With the right ECS provider, organizations can manage their big data and receive project management, risk mitigation, security, quality control, contracting and coordination support.

It is estimated by crowdsourcing.org that in 2011, the crowdsourcing industry was worth approximately $750 million and reached roughly $1.5 billion at the end of 2012.  Experts anticipate this rapid growth will continue through 2013 as well. This includes several variations of crowdsourcing such as ECS, contest work, ideation and crowdfunding.

A concern for many organizations trying out the ECS model for the first time, is understanding who is actually executing the work. When selecting an ECS provider, organizations should seek out one that can deliver a heavily screened and highly educated crowd. Today, many crowdworkers have higher education degrees and are often stay-at-home moms, retirees and recent grads looking for flexibility in their schedule and supplemental or secondary income. Further, it’s often important for businesses that the crowd is composed of bilingual workers from all over the world–which is essential to making sense of data that comes in the form of multiple languages and distinct dialects.

The practice of leveraging remote at home workers is not exactly new, although the process is maturing.  Today, businesses are better prepared to manage flexible talent models whether it is for employees, contractors or remote workers. Network connected individuals can deliver work in a way that once could only happen in a central structure.  In addition to the crowd, ECS is made possible by a number of factors that include cloud technology and the growth of SaaS that delivers a 24/7 exchange of information.

Another reason businesses turn to ECS to address big data, is that workloads for businesses are often cyclical and can fluctuate at certain points in the year. Consider how much customer data a retailer gathers during the holiday shopping season. Analyzing big data is likely to be cyclical depending upon the industry and which data collection initiatives are in place at a specific point in time. Elasticity is critical to meeting changing business demands and businesses ideally want to pay for work returned, not per employee. With traditional outsourcing models there is little flexibility.  Staff must be hired, trained and brought into a physical office location. Ramp-up time can be slow and the rigidity of this traditional model fails to accommodate the rapid ups and downs of business demands. ECS allows organizations to pay for only the work that’s completed, which allows businesses to get the human touch their data needs, while reducing costs.

Securing data is also a critical factor for any organization considering ECS or other forms of outsourcing. For example, this tax year, some state government agencies turned to ECS to convert paper tax returns and unstructured data into an electronic format. Securing data is critical when dealing with any information, but specifically personal tax information. Some ECS providers can offer a technology-enabled solution that breaks the form fields into unrelated, non-contextual snippets prior to leaving the protection of client’s facility. Then a team of pre-qualified data conversion specialists capture and confirm the data. Once the data is captured and confirmed, the snippets are then reassembled behind the security of the client’s firewall. Sensitive documents never leave the premises in context, ensuring that the sensitive tax data is fully secure. This same practice can be applied to secure any organizations’ corporate big data.

Analyzing big data to drive business decisions is a popular business initiative. However some organizations, CIOs and business leaders fail to understand the complex steps involved, in order to get data truly analytics ready. While technology has reduced the need for human intervention, in some cases the human touch is still necessary to assure the accuracy of data. ECS is providing a way for businesses to execute successful big data programs with support from a qualified and flexible workforce, in a secure environment. As big data programs ramp up and expectations rise, ECS will take on a new life.

martha1 Big Data Reaches Out for the Human Touch

Martha Crow, Senior Vice President, Global Enterprise Solutions at Lionbridge Technologies, Inc., leads the company’s rapidly growing Enterprise Crowdsourcing and Testing business units. Crow is responsible for one of the largest virtual workforces supporting Crowdsourcing from locations around the globe and leverages her extensive outsourcing experience to drive corporate growth.

DATA and ANALYTICS , Fresh Ink

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