Jun 18, 2013 0
When applying gaming principles to business operations, companies should seek to advance strategic objectives—not simply promote routine performance goals.
It’s likely that your company will try out gamification techniques throughout the organization during the next few years. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations.¹ Gamification is about taking the essence of games—fun, play, and passion—and applying it to real-world, non-game situations. In a business setting, that means designing solutions using gaming principles in everything from back-office tasks and training, to sales management and career counseling.
Unfortunately, it’s also likely that your gamification initiatives will fall short of expectations: Gartner predicts that by 2014, 80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives, primarily due to poor design.²
What’s going wrong?
In many cases, organizations aren’t thinking boldly enough about their objectives for applying gamification. In seeking to motivate employees by using gaming principles, many organizations focus only on awards such as points, or a single routine performance goal. But gamification’s potential is much more strategic: Systematic adoption of gamification throughout the business and tight integration with the core systems that drive front- and back-office functions can be the source of a significant competitive advantage.
A Whole New Game
Gamification isn’t just about scoring points—it allows for new ways of imagining, designing, and implementing solutions. As business becomes increasingly social, more opportunities are arising to augment performance and promote strategic objectives by embedding gaming mechanics into traditional processes.
Organizations can harness gaming principles to improve morale, motivate behavior, and get stakeholders passionately engaged in finance, sales, HR, manufacturing, and customer service, among other functions. By aligning game objectives with their desired outcomes, organizations can promote the adoption of leading practices.
Even more powerfully, gaming mechanics can be almost imperceptible to users, who find themselves motivated to find new ways to work, collaborate, share ideas, and drive business outcomes. In this way, gamification will be a critical enabler of organizations’ “social business” objectives.
As an example of the possibilities, consider how Engine Yard, a platform-as-a-service provider, used gaming mechanics to build a self-help customer-support community. The company had been responding to customer issues through support tickets—a slow process that also didn’t promote the company’s strategic goal of getting customers engaged in its knowledge base and forums. The company moved the forums and related documentation to a customer-support portal, and then deployed gaming techniques to reward customers who use the portal. Customers can earn “achievements” for specific behaviors, such as searching the knowledge base, reading articles, and creating topics. They can also complete “missions”—where a series of customer-support tasks are grouped together—to win special rewards or badges. As users accumulate achievements or complete missions, they raise their experience status and reputation on the portal to a higher level.
Since deploying the gamification effort, Engine Yard has seen a 40 percent increase in forum engagement and knowledge base searches; a 20 percent reduction in tickets per customer, on average; and a 40 percent improvement in ticket response time by Engine Yard’s support team.
Putting Gamification to Work
To apply gamification effectively, companies should understand the organization’s inner workings, process interdependencies, and stakeholder behaviors, including the interplay between people and technologies. Success factors include the following:
Identify the relevant social networks. Given the interactive nature of gamification, social networks are the starting point for implementing initiatives based on game mechanics. Companies should identify the social networks relevant to a specific business objective. They can then explore incentives that will motivate members of those networks to engage in pursuing that objective. It is critical to identify constraints on the use of gamification to achieve the desired objective.
Form a multidisciplinary team to design the game. A game will likely touch on individual incentives, operational and organizational goals, analytics, end-user interfaces, and underlying IT systems. Companies should form a multidisciplinary team to represent these dimensions—including social scientists, marketers, game designers, line-of-business managers, data scientists, back-end systems engineers, and architects. When applying game dynamics to a business process or the business as a whole, designers should understand the complexity of the rules that govern the organization—and how to increase interaction and engagement with audiences. The game design should offer clear benefits to users—as well as to the organization.
Measure results and fine-tune the approach. To demonstrate tangible results, organizations should benchmark current performance, measure the outcome once the application is activated, and revise assumptions, approaches, or tools in response. To get past the pilot phase, it is critical to maintain momentum by encouraging users to continue participating. If the game dynamics are too difficult, participants will likely lose interest and disengage. The same is true if the dynamics are too simple. The new data generated by the game can be used to derive insights for adapting it in real time. Measuring outcomes and fine-tuning the approach should be continuous processes to enhance the model and keep players engaged over time. Organizations should consider how to keep this process exciting and interesting after the initial achievements and how rewards, incentives, and recognition might be changed in light of the data regarding behaviors and outcomes.
Badges and leaderboards have their place, but they are a part of a larger, more interesting opportunity. Companies should seek to avoid becoming stuck with isolated one-off concepts that incrementally improve only a small part of the business. Instead, executives should rethink what a gamified business looks like from the ground up. Understand who you’re trying to engage, what motivates them, and how gamification can change the way they look at—and work with—the organization.
¹ “Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2013 and Beyond: Balancing Economics, Risk, Opportunity and Innovation”, Daryl C. Plummer et al, Gartner, Inc., Oct. 19, 2012
² “Gartner Says by 2014, 80 Percent of Current Gamified Applications Will Fail to Meet Business Objectives Primarily Due to Poor Design,” Gartner, Inc. press release, Nov. 27, 2012