Thursday, February 26, 2009

Self-service, crowd-sourcing what are the impacts?

We live in the era of self-service. It all began with supermarkets, but then followed the internet-banks, self-service gasoline stations and so on and so on. IKEA ... and all the other furniture shops! Can you even buy a piece of furniture nowadays without having to spend half a day gathering it?

So one of the main ways of reducing price is letting the customers self-serve.

Today's successful enterprises and business-models have gone much further and have given a big part of their product development, quality control, advertising and sales to their customers. Don't believe this? Well, have you ever been a beta tester... or used Google-s Beta products (like Gmail)? These are all good examples of letting the customers do the product testing and quality control for the company itself. If the product is good and cheap you probably suggest it to your friends and social network and therefore doing the advertising and sales for the service provider.

And we like it, because we get the products cheap and we get them fast.

But I see some possible problems with the whole model:
Firstly, buying and getting things and services and being a client gets to be a lot of work:
- You spend your time being a product developer - design an Adidas shoe for example.
- You spend your time being a beta tester and giving feedback.
- You spend your time writing to Wikipedia.
- You spend your time writing and promoting things you like on your blog, social-network, Twitter.... (Hmmm... what am I doing now?)
- You buy the stuff from a super-market with a self-service cash desk.
- Then you configure the SaaS service yourself.

Secondly the services, especially the IT services and electronics, might lose in quality. As quality control is given out to customers the products have to be constantly in Beta and they are never formally quality controlled. If a quality controlled version gets out then the next two versions (in Beta) are already being used and tested by the customers.

The takeaways:
- Be aware that your work is sometimes used in making some products cheaper.
- And vice versa - if you work in development and if possible use your customers in product you don't develop useless products and have to spend less on the development - meaning cheaper products.
- Sometimes it is OK to pay for being served. :-)

And to take it to extreme. If a service-provider (Google or Skype for example) and its users voluntarily become a community - one giving its service away (almost) for free and the others doing product development, sales, and quality control (almost) for free.....then isn't this in a way a really positive kind of socialistic co-existance? How far can and will we go with such an economic model? :-) (As far as we can I hope!)

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