FacebookTwitterGoogle PlusLinkedInEmail

By:

Brent Frei

- Feb 11, 2009

Posted in: 

Remember the story of Sildenafil Citrate (Viagra)? It was being developed as a possible hypertension drug – but showed compelling side effects for a then uncontested market – Erectile Dysfunction. While not identified in our initial business strategy, we too experienced a compelling side effect from the unique design of our service. Turns out, Smartsheet works really well for managing virtual workers at the very granular task level. Virtually everyone’s first sentence after being shown this new capability in our product has been, “Can I try it?”

And so, from today onward everyone can try it. We’ve released the first global switchboard that connects real and virtual teams on an as-needed basis to accomplish specific tasks. It’s called Smartsourcing, and it’s powered by Amazon Mechanical Turk. Smartsheet is the only service on the web to combine crowdsourcing seamlessly into your project management. We’ve added over 100,000 employees to everyone’s team roster.

Smartsheet’s mission is to manage the world’s work. For 3 years, we have worked on an online project collaboration solution that in form, somewhat mirrors a spreadsheet, but in function is purpose-built for managing projects, tasks and to do lists. We are unique in this design, as most online collaboration solutions are built as a series of web pages and forms. Compounding our advantage is our customers’ ability to include a virtual workforce as resources within any piece of their overall project.

Let’s cut to the chase. What does it do? It enables anyone to outsource anything. For example, maybe you want to get the phone numbers of 385 exterminators in the U.S. Pop the question into Smartsheet – ask a virtual worker to complete – and in 25 minutes you’ll likely have the phone numbers for 368 of them. You just saved hours of time on the web, looking up information that could easily be outsourced. And you only paid five cents per phone number.

Some other use cases:

• Find every article in which a particular Dartmouth professor has been quoted
• Find a reporter’s email address
• Build a list of all the people that have ever written about “crowdsourcing”
• Edit the grammar and spelling in a word doc
• Transcribe voice notes to text
• Have 100 people say what search string they’d enter to find a project management application
• you get the picture…

In writing this post, I used Smartsheet and submitted a question to 50 people asking them who was the most influential voice in crowdsourcing and why? The question took 3 minutes to submit and ten hours later, I had all 50 responses. Thirty responses were very useful, twelve were moderately interesting, and 8 were useless. But for a total of $5, I got a wealth of views on crowdsourcing, a lot of web links to good articles and the name Jeff Howe at the top of my target list for this launch.

With over 40% of our customers self-describing themselves as Owner, Principal, President or CEO, we’re certain that a surge in small business productivity is on the horizon.

For any of you interested in the deeper background of our focus on managing the world’s work, read on. For those of you just interested in the basics, you’ve just read the treetop outline. I hope you enjoy our efforts to expand your productive capacity.

Background detail on our innovation efforts:

In our 3 year effort to build the first killer app in the project collaboration/work management market, we’ve spent a great deal of time and effort on both evolutionary and revolutionary innovation. We discuss the difference between the two in an xconomy.com article titled Innovating New Winners in Established Markets. In a nutshell, evolutionary innovation is represented by incremental progress toward a broadly agreed upon design – the convergence of handheld devices like the phone, pager, camera and mp3 player into one device being one example. Revolutionary innovation is typically a fundamental departure from the current product designs and is often times arrived at serendipitously – Viagra being a good example, as it was being developed as a drug for hypertension (high blood pressure) but had an interestingly observed side effect. Viagra ceded the crowded hypertension market to others in favor of a massive greenfield of uncontested opportunity.

We differ from Pfizer in that we are enjoying success in servicing customers in our originally designed for market – even in the face of the 300+ competitors battling for relevance. We also differ in that this new market for management of virtual workers was not simply a happy surprise. We’ve viewed this as the logical evolution of work collaboration applications from the beginning. We’ve written about it in Chapter 10 of our book on productivity (“The Power of Done”), and described it in detail in a thought piece entitled WorkExchange.

The serendipitous surprise for us was how seamlessly the inclusion of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, and thus the on-demand workforce, fit into our product. We’d expected that to deliver on our vision, a whole new product effort would be required. As it turns out, our current design is so in tune with how work is managed, that the capability nearly wrote itself.

You know you have something special when what you’ve built just seems to fit perfectly when applied to several major market opportunities

END

Mechanical Turk - great for time-intensive tasks that require real people.

Comments

You described me here I am a one man show trying to find ways to share my knowledge and build my brand. Becomes a challenge when you need a second opinion or research done and I have to work a 9-5 until my big break comes and I cant afford a full time staff. I often get things done at 2am and need someone to implement my ideas or tasks that day. I often just need a review of a new service or product via Google and some cliff notes on certain topics. I presently have challenges getting that done with a part time employee. Since that constantly takes me more time to train them to learn the best way to use Google search . I am very excited and plan on learning more ways to use Smartsourcing. Thanks for your hard work and vision

Post new comment