Reaching nirvana: The enterprise and gamification

Adam Holtby, Analyst, IT Service Management, Ovum

Gamification (the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts) continues to gain interest among enterprises and the public sector. Regardless of whether you approve of the buzzword itself, there is little doubt that the practices gamification embodies and promotes can be beneficial to a wide array of organizations in achieving overarching business strategies and tactical objectives. To reach a nirvana state with any gamification initiative, organizations need to consider the key factors discussed below.

It must benefit the business

Gamification can help enhance customer engagement and manage employee behaviors and productivity levels, but there must be clear understanding of how such an initiative will directly benefit the business. Ideally, a mapping of the value that any gamified activity, process, or technology will deliver in better supporting business goals and desired outcomes will be developed as part of the planning stage. It is also very important to not lose sight of this overarching objective as ideas are put into action.

It’s about more than just points, badges, and leaderboards

Points, badges, and leaderboards (PBLs) are the most common elements associated with gamification, and gamification is often mistaken for being about these three things alone. Yes, they are valuable and can be used effectively in a variety of ways, but gamification is about much more than just applying PBLs to business processes or enterprise technology.

They are a set of tools that can be used to more effectively guide customer and employee behaviors, but only when used correctly and tied to a more intrinsically meaningful value system. What that value system is specifically will vary depending on the use case, but status, accomplishment, and the desire for feedback are good places to start.

It has been scientifically proven that people intrinsically value status, and have a self determination to drive for accomplishment. PBLs should represent these types of values to ensure success over the long term; these values are one of the key reasons why social technologies and gamification work so well together.

It’s about more than just behavior, insights into skills, and reputation

While much of the early coverage on gamification has focused on guiding behavior and increasing engagement, increasingly organizations can use the data generated by gamified systems to gain insights into the skills and reputations of both their employees and customers.

For example, the SAP Community Network (SCN), which has over 2 million members worldwide, has long used points to recognize and encourage participation in forums, helping other members with technical questions, posting content, and so on. A key success factor is that SCN is set up to recognize the quality, not just the quantity, of contributions. Some points are awarded automatically by posting content. In addition, members can also award additional points at different levels for the quality of contribution.

This crowdsourced quality assessment is not just useful for members and SAP, but other organizations as well. Employers looking to hire IT professionals with SAP product expertise are asking “What is your SCN status?” SCN members, whether IT professionals or third-party consultants, are now adding their SCN status to resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and other documents.

Recommendations for enterprises and public sector organizations

Ovum recommends that enterprises and public sector organizations start exploring gamification for either customer- or employee-facing uses. However, gamification is not just about the technology, but also strategy, organizational culture, and human psychology.

Because most gamification applications are SaaS-based and are reasonably priced, launching a pilot project is a low-risk initiative that can yield important insights. By having parallel tracks for learning about the technology and non-technology aspects, organizations can develop a nuanced understanding of how to deploy gamification for the maximum business advantage.

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