How Technology Companies Can Use Crowdsourcing To Identify New Product Ideas

January 21, 2016 • Opinions

There are many examples of crowdsourced ideas in business, including adverts like the Doritos Super Bowl ads; recipes, such as Lays “Do Us a Flavor competition;” art like the re-design of the New Zealand flag; talent scouting like American Idol does; and many more. In the movie world, independent film producers regularly use script competitions to find new and interesting scripts to make into films. “A screenplay competition generates a range of ideas from a diverse set of international applicants that cannot be matched by an in-house writing and development team,” says Matthew Helderman, CEO of Buffalo 8 Productions and BondIt in Beverly Hills.

The same principle can work for technology companies. At my company Pentaho, we get ideas for new features from people using our software in many different ways all over the world.

Why It Works

The benefits of these competitions and open submissions are that people enjoy participating, creating and competing with each other. As well, your community of users are enabled to participate, which helps increase customer engagement. You’ll also then have a wide variety of options to choose from, and can quickly collect a large number of ideas.

Your marketing team also gets to run with the program and stir up interest over social media. This means there’s no need for focus groups and committees, and your customers are aware of your new product before it hits the market.

If you come from a proprietary software background it can be scary at first, as creating these ideas is all about transparency. Your first crowdsourcing campaign could be the same way. The downsides to crowdsourcing are that there are no surprise announcements — you will need to use a rolling thunder approach. You might also get a small quantity or low-quality submissions, and your competitors can see all of the submissions for your product.

The Disruptive Technologies That Make It Possible

The technologies available for crowdsourcing are cheap and plentiful. For Pentaho, crowdsourcing is a perpetual program that is part of the company philosophy. We use Atlassian’s Confluence for communicating our projects and their JIRA application for allowing people to submit new ideas. Of course, we make the applications public and allow community members to create new enhancement requests and vote on them. You can host these applications on your own servers or use Atlassian’s cloud. But for a first-time or one-off project, Facebook FB +1.05% and Twitter TWTR +4.03% are great tools to use.’s photo competition on Facebook is a good example of how simple and easy it can be.

By James Dixon

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