Project Management Institute

One And Done

Could "Flash Organizations" Become A New Normal For Project Professionals?

A new era may be dawning for project professionals in the on-demand economy. New services are emerging that rapidly assemble one-off teams for client organizations as needed.

Earlier this year, a team of researchers at Stanford University introduced the concept of “flash organizations,” which are assembled on demand from globally distributed workforces. To create and manage these organizations, the researchers developed a web-based platform called Foundry, which brings together teams of project professionals in a matter of minutes and manages their work and task coordination. Examples of projects completed through Foundry include the creation of a card game and a mobile and web application for emergency medical service (EMS) technicians.

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“In a matter of seconds, you have access to all kinds of project expertise.”

—Daniela Retelny, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA

“We were trying to take crowdsourcing to the next level,” says Daniela Retelny, former project researcher, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA. “Traditionally it's been focused on microtasks completed by any worker regardless of expertise. This research paves the way for new types of teams and organizations that can achieve much more complex goals. In a matter of seconds, you have access to all kinds of project expertise.”

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For the EMS application flash organization, which aimed to help technicians report and track trauma cases in real time on the way to the hospital, Foundry hired a team of 31 people. The platform filled these positions in less than 14 minutes on average and then split the project team up into nine teams. Responsibilities ranged from design and development to marketing and video production. The team executed the project virtually (without an office) in 46 days.

While the Stanford platform automatically creates remote teams nearly instantly, other organizations use a more personal approach to build teams over a couple of days. Amelia Tyagi co-founded the Business Talent Group (BTG) in 2007 and has since built a global network of thousands of pre-screened independent consultants and executives who want to do project-based work. They are matched with appropriate work through the combination of a proprietary algorithm and “human-based vetting,” says Ms. Tyagi, Los Angeles, California, USA.

She and her co-founder, Jody Greenstone Miller, have worked with organizations including Pfizer, Kraft and Verizon, helping them staff and complete projects ranging from six to 12 months long without expanding their employee head count. “We worked with one of our clients over the course of several years, matching specific project managers to help drive initiatives in tandem with the client's internal team,” Ms. Tyagi says. “And at the end of three years, we helped them save $5 million in consulting fees and deliver over $200 million in value.”

But the benefit BTG provides is about more than just finding fast solutions and saving money, she says. “People are increasingly coming to us for the expertise our network of workers has.”

“We first need to understand how the project is structured and what success looks like for the client.”

—Amelia Tyagi, Business Talent Group, Los Angeles, California, USA

As more high-skilled workers choose to work independently, more organizations are choosing to tap top-notch project talent for one-time engagements through outside providers. But no matter how quickly gig talent can be summoned, upfront communications that align a team to the sponsor's goals and vision are irreplaceable. Ms. Tyagi says her organization sets BTG teams up to deliver through “a proprietary onboarding, knowledge and oversight structure.”

“We first need to understand how the project is structured and what success looks like for the client. Then we can make sure those systems are baked in before the project manager ever shows up to do the work.”

—Kate Rockwood

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

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