Elance > Upwork failure IMHO

Elance_movingto-upworkAs a seasoned Elance user and someone that relies on high quality and cost effective outsourcing to do my work I feel very strongly about the Elance/Odesk to Upwork migration.

Let me get straight to the point; Elance for me (and many other users I spoke to) was the ultimate outsourcing platform and from my perspective allowed me to do 2 main things:

  1. Find talent with a credible and verified track record easily
  2. Manage outsourcing projects easily (agree on terms, pay contractors, communicate etc)

For me the reason Elance was so good was because the platform facilitated the above through an extremely intuitive, usable and well though out web-application. From the first time I used Elance I was hooked and I dont remember having to learn how it worked (from a usability perspective the developers aced the platform). Everything worked as expected and the application was polished. There was even sufficient security measures in place to make sure freelancers were paid but only if the work was good. Odesk on the other hand (an Elance alternative I also used) worked in a different way that was less well thought out IMO. For example contractors doing fixed price jobs did not have the protection offered by Elance’s escrow system. Odesk freelancers even communicated to me that they had not been paid in the past on some ocassions, which simply would not have been possible with Elance. On top of that Odesk was a little simplistic. Dont get me wrong, I like simple, simple is good (Keep It Simple Stupid). However, critical functionality was missing and it couldn’t be so simple. My opinion of Odesk might be a little out of date as I gave up on it as a platform around 2012 so please bear that in mind. Also, it may have been that Odesk was more suitable to different types of workflow than I wanted. I used fixed price jobs always and I have read that Odesk was better for jobs that were paid hourly.

In any case my main point is that I think they screwed up by “upgrading” Odesk to Upwork then migrating the Elance user base across. This was wrong IMHO on many levels, for example:

  1. Odesk was a different platform to Elance and merging the user base assumes that a one for all platform can meet the needs of the users from 2 distinctly different ways of working. This IMO is an elementary mistake. Anyone in the software world knows software is unique, its definitely not a commodity and users cannot easily switch between platforms. It is like Corel acquiring Adobe and forcing the Adobe Illustrator user base to switch to CorelDraw after adding some functionality to CorelDraw that can only be found in Illustrator. Ok this example is much more extreme but I think you get the point. The 2 products have their own unique place and user base – there is no case to merge them.
  2. When you have a working platform drastically changing it is a leap of faith. It is always better to do incremental changes, although a version 2.0 will always be on the cards. However, drastically changing (deleting) 2 successful platforms and replacing them for 1 completely new platform is pure madness. Any chance of reverting back is lost and the fait of 2 major businesses and their employees rely on one application. Again a ludicrous and dangerous business move.
  3. Upwork actually has less features, is less intuitive and has a worse design than Elance, which it is replacing (my opinion and the opinion of all users I spoke to ). They seem to have tried to copy Elance but have changed certain things that made the Elance platform great. This includes:
    1. Making it more difficult to find credible & qualified talent; in Elance when receiving bids you would see a 5 star rating, total money volume a contractor had been paid and the number of jobs they had done. For me this was the best information that could be provided as I could easily shortlist candidates based on tangible and verified information. Now in Upwork this critical information is no longer displayed and instead there is a percentage job success rate, which doesnt help me assess anything.
    2. Collaboration and workflow is now more challenging. Before in Elance messaging contractors was a piece of cake and while messaging in Upwork is obviously a key feature it is not intuitive like before and I am constantly searching for the message options after using the application for some time.
    3. There are many other gripes and I strongly feel I am not being fussy and cannot think of anything that has been improved over Elance. Even the option to deposit funds by bank transfer no longer exists.

The only thing I can think of is that the changes of Elance migrating to Upwork were political and decisions made at a board level by people that do not understand the product and the users. Im sure there were many people inside Elance that know this change was wrong but were powerless to do anything.

I really do wish that they would conclude Upwork is no replacement for Elance and run it in parallel. When you have 2 platforms available why not use them? I’m sure business-wise the company will do better financially that way.

Sorry for the negative post but its got to be said!