The application of the fun, play and passion that we find in games to a business environment will be one of the technology trends in 2012 according to Deloitte’s report “Tech Trends for 2012 – Elevate IT for digital business”.
Gamification uses game mechanics and dynamics, inspired by research in cognitive psychology, behavioural economics and game theory, and adopts them in the design of business processes and applications. As such it moves beyond entertainment to drive business performance, by using intuitive design, intrinsic motivation and the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing activities.
Andrew Douglas, senior manager with Deloitte in the Cayman Islands, admits the topic “is a little out there”.
“If people are shaking their heads and say ‘not in my business’, I can understand why, but we certainly see organisations trying to apply game theory and the behaviours that people enjoy [in games] to their business,” he says.
Gamification can for example take the form of leaderboards or quests, which divide a long-term project with checkpoints and milestones, awarding points to users as they progress. It can also take roles that are mundane and add visual enjoyment to these tasks, for example in call centre type or data entry situations, explains Douglas. Deloitte, he says, is getting a headstart on trying to gamify some aspects of the business, particularly in training courses.
Research firm and consultancy Gartner predicts that one quarter of day-to-day business processes are likely to take advantage of some aspect of gamification by 2015. That number jumps to 50 per cent for organisations with a formal innovation management process.
The driver of gamification is less about creating a fun workplace than it is about motivation and inducing specific behaviour in employees and customers. The value for businesses is to find the right combination of game mechanics that will resonate with stakeholders across a range of personality types to drive performance.
Engagement, getting stakeholders passionately and deliberately involved with an organisation, is one of the main objectives. “Interaction, collaboration, awareness and learning are related effects, where individuals are encouraged to make new connections and share information,” the Deloitte report notes.
In addition gamification lends itself to compliance initiatives as game behaviour is rule-based and can help raise awareness and adoption of policies and procedures. For businesses that are managing generational change, the familiarity of Millenials, those born after 1990, with gaming, social media and emerging technologies in their daily lives, means that game theory based processes can be a useful part of the integration strategy.
Over the past year a number of solution have emerged, providing plug-ins or third-party services for leaderboards, achievements and virtual currencies and rewards to help motivate and monitor employee engagement, compliance and performance. These typically cover areas such as education and learning, health and wellness, call centre/customer care, and sales and marketing, Deloitte said.
Examples for the adoption of the trend are iActionable which gamifies the salesforce.com system with rankings and leaderboards. Microsoft Visual Studio rewards specific achievements and by doing so creates a feedback loop for user behaviour through its awards.
Enterprise resource planning or business process management software producers are using gamification predominantly in education programmes. INNOV8, a IBM Business Process Management simulation game gives users a better understanding of how business process management can impact a business. ERPSim by Baton Simulations is a classroom-based competitive business game played in SAP designed to familiarise users with the SAP ERP system. A similar approach is taken by Siemens Plantville, a visual, FarmVille-style game that allows players to learn the connections of each part of the plant and manufacturing process.
These same mechanics can also be applied to customer-facing offerings to drive retention, loyalty and advocacy.
Gamification has already taken hold in customer loyalty programmes and customer relationship management. However, its adoption in a work environment is distinct from consumer gamification, because consumers have a choice whether they want to engage with a gamified platform, whereas employees or business partners have not.
In this context it must be remembered that systems aimed at fostering competition within the workforce that track user achievements can lead to disruptions in the workplace. In addition labour laws, data privacy and equal opportunity considerations may apply.
While data on the performance of each user can make bonuses, promotions or layoffs more transparent, it can be controversial with staff and also does disintermediate the power of managers to a certain extent.
Despite these concerns and the challenge of user engagement across generations and different personalities, Douglas believes that business will see more enterprise systems that have gamification features. “Don’t be surprised when you have to consider whether to allow gamification features in your business,” he advises.