Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: A Case Study of Crowdsourcing Software Development

K. Stol and B. Fitzgerald (2014) Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: A Case Study of Crowdsourcing Software Development, Proceedings of the 36th International Conference on Software Engineering, Hyderabad, India.

Crowdsourcing is an emerging and promising approach which involves delegating a variety of tasks to an unknown workforce— the crowd. Crowdsourcing has been applied quite successfully in various contexts from basic tasks on Amazon Mechanical Turk to solving complex industry problems, e.g. InnoCentive. Companies are increasingly using crowdsourcing to accomplish specific soft- ware development tasks. However, very little research exists on this specific topic. This paper presents an in-depth industry case study of crowdsourcing software development at a multinational corporation. Our case study highlights a number of challenges that arise when crowdsourcing software development. For example, the crowdsourcing development process is essentially a waterfall model and this must eventually be integrated with the agile approach used by the company. Crowdsourcing works better for specific software development tasks that are less complex and stand-alone without interdependencies. The development cost was much greater than originally expected, overhead in terms of company effort to prepare specifications and answer crowdsourcing community queries was much greater, and the time-scale to com- plete contests, review submissions and resolve quality issues was significant. Finally, quality issues were pushed later in the lifecycle given the lengthy process necessary to identify and resolve quality issues. Given the emphasis in software engineering on identifying bugs as early as possible, this is quite problematic.