Sunday, May 18, 2014

Why Project Managers need to understand EBay's Rating Systems

Something new and exciting appears to be happening in the world of projects. It may just be the beginning of an entirely new kind of project bicycle; one that comes with many more wheels than we have been accustomed to see.

The perfect storm of ├╝ber-specialization added to the potent mix of ubiquitous internet access - is creating a new era of Micro Projects.

How are these different from the projects as we have known them?

Micro Projects are to projects what the factory assembly line was to manufacturing. Each component or task of the project is broken down to a far greater extent – many more wheels; the tasks are individually outsourced in an open marketplace of freelancers; these tasks may be completed by a person who specializes in only that one task; who may be located in a faraway place and speaks in languages other than English, and is someone you are unlikely to ever meet.

In this paradigm, every component, becomes a project with its own scope, vetting of the vendor, contract, acquisition, management, etc. It becomes a complete project - a Micro Project.

Micro Projects may have some unique characteristics which we have not encountered - at least not in the traditional way we have thought of projects:

1.    First, the units of work are very small- are hence far greater in number- and each unit can be completed by a freelancer.
2.    Such tasks are bid out to attract qualified independent contractors or freelancers who are increasingly flocking to this new landscape.  
3.    The buyers and providers of such Micro Project services are meeting in internet portals and sites setup to facilitate precisely this need.
4.    On some sites, freelancers are evaluated on the basis of work they have already done. They have ratings like a contractor might have on Angie’s List or perhaps a more sophisticated system like the buyer-seller ratings on EBay.
5.    As a buyer you may have a rating of your own for the contractors to evaluate as well.
6.    Payment is often handled via an escrow system like that on EBay where funds from buyers are held and dispersed to providers only upon task completion.
7.    Some even provide an arbitration process to assist with disputes.

This development is a natural evolution for certain kinds of projects where redundancy, costs, efficiency, timelines etc. are all positively affected as projects are broken down into far smaller and independent segments.

Imagine, for example, if the make-or-break tasks in the project (the Critical Path) are farmed out to multiple freelancers for the same task? Would that ensure a higher percentage completion, or quality, or timeliness? Call it “Micro Project Insurance.” If a particular outsourced task is extremely critical, why not have a backup plan and get two vendors to complete it independently? The Micro Project’s size of components reduces the individual component cost, thus making redundancy more cost effective.

In this model, the role of Project Managers becomes more of a broker involved with sourcing, managing, and integrating a rich dispersed vendor channel who are completing ever smaller elements that together embody the totality of the project. The emphasis shifts to detailed scope and task requirements, the vetting of freelancers, and multitudes of contracts to manage and administer.

The marketplace of websites facilitating this type of project, is proliferating. And more of these sites are appearing every day. There is a strong possibility that this may lead to a specialization of such sites. You may go to one site for marketing and another for designing a web site, etc. (see a short list of sites at the end of this blog).

Micro Projects are currently penetrating and altering traditional projects dealing with IT services, software development, design, marketing, communication and even administration projects. Over time, there is no reason to believe that other industries will not embrace this new breed of project.

As Micro Projects become more commonplace, Project Managers best be paying attention to riding and steering this new kind of bicycle. With many more wheels spinning under you, maintaining a common direction and making sure you stay in your seat, will take some new skills and much more dexterity.

The list below is but a small subset of the rapidly growing number of sites catering to this new phenomenon. Yes, Amazon is already in this game. Their tag line is: “We give businesses and developers access to an on-demand, scalable workforce”. Mechanical Turk is for HIT or human intelligence tasks and over 558,000 such tasks are currently available for freelancers. is another site where you can find freelancers to do tasks in writing, translation, web, design, multi-media, software, IT and admin tasks. MyCrowd, a startup that helps companies find freelance talent for specific tasks through Google Docs, PowerPoint and other software applications, is raising $500,000 in a seed round from unnamed angel investors to add more connectors and expand beyond its existing base of around 10 million specialists. is a site which matches requirements in mobile application development, design, analytics, web design etc. is a plain vanilla site but has a very long list of engineering, IT and other service categories. matches businesses with the best student coders. has a different angle. They fully vet every designer and developer and focus on web and mobile projects. has a built in escrow function and enable freelancers to even video conference on projects with employers. They will even assist project sponsors with a business analysis service to make it easier for them. is another site allowing buyers and providers to find themselves. is one of the oldest sites for this purpose and had been around since 1999. They are more expensive due to their 10% fee and thus attract higher budget projects.  has an online tracking system, which makes it stand out from the crowd. This system checks employees' work every ten minute so that their work is assured to be under progress.  has no fees: free registration and free monthly services. In general, this is a competitive marketplace with hundreds of projects posted every day and thousands of freelancers bidding.  registered freelancers have to pay membership fees for the services. here services start at $5. has published rates for some tasks and focuses on software and design development as well as marketing projects. is also focused on IT services. matches projects in marketing, design, communication, administration etc. is a marketplace for those wishing to create presence in the WordPress environment. launched in October 2007 and hence once of the oldest, has over 25,000 freelancers vying for your business. Bizreef also has an Escrow system that guarantees that freelancers will receive order services as well as protection of their rights


  1. Very nice list of sites. Thanks

  2. Hi is another startup portal for freelancers in India