What is gamification about? Is it a long term or short term project? Is it about just getting people to use enterprise software – so it won’t lie idle – or is it about something deeper?
Gamification as a cure for low usage rates of enterprise software
I sometimes see people describe gamification as a short-term “fixer” for enterprise software adoption. In this scenario, the enterprise just invested in new software – for the sake of this example, we’ll say the enterprise invested in an enterprise social network.
Since employees don’t seem to use that enterprise social network as they should have – not logging in at all, or logging in but doing very little, gamification has been called to the rescue. From now on, says the gamification vendor to the enterprise, gamification will encourage behaviors associated with adopting the enterprise social network. Usage rates will grow. Gamification elements used will range from the tried and true (but somewhat limited –see here) points, badges and leaderboards, to more effective next-generation game mechanics.
Gamification can even be part of the design of the enterprise social network. Reading a recent article in computer world, “Can gamification solve enterprises’ engagement problem” leads to this conclusion.
Here is what it says, quoting Steve Sims, founder and chief designer at Badgeville’s behavior lab:
“One of gamification’s best uses in the enterprise may be simply getting people to use the software the company has invested in. “There are many benefits of gamification for enterprise software, but if I had to pick one, it would be adoption and engagement with the software itself,” Sims said.
… Usage rates for enterprise software often aren’t much better than 50 percent, he pointed out. By tapping into the right motivations, gamification could increase those numbers considerably.
I still must raise the question of whether employee engagement equals software adoption (and no, I’m not discussing badgeville vs gameffective here…). I don’t think it does. My belief is that although software adoption is important – after all you want to make your technophile employee and the legacy employee use the same software and speak the same language – it isn’t what gamification is about. People can use the enterprise social network but not improve their performance, their team’s performance or the enterprise’s performance.
Additionally, the case study presented above strikes me as horribly short-term in its outlook. It doesn’t tie enterprise social network use with performance. In that, it not only risks rewarding behavior that doesn’t impact the organization, it also risks rewarding activities that shouldn’t be rewarded, like excess posting or logging in – a case where gamification rules were sloppily defined, resulting in an opportunity for some players to game the system.
Gamification isn’t just short term projects
Is there are better way to describe the interplay between gamification and software adoption? I believe there is. Gamification should begin by looking at software adoption, for sure, but evolve into a longer lasting game with a more intricate view of performance. In this case, software adoption will be accomplished using an initial onboarding game (gamification, onboarding and elearning fit together well, since gamification rewards completion of learning tasks in a way most people find compelling). Afterwards, gamification will be used to drive performance, not adoption or use. It can, for instance, rank social network posts by their relevance and usability, tie the social network into knowledge sharing, or encourage certain employees (based on gamification analytics) to do something differently on the network.
Gamification isn’t about software use; it is about what users do with the software
What’s important to note is that a longer term project will last in setting and communicating performance goals and getting the employee to think about them. For instance, in a customer service setting, gamificaiton can help state complex goals that can cancel each other out – speed of service vs customer satisfaction (for instance), teaching employees to balance the two and acquire the skills to do so, giving them real time feedback to adjust their work, and giving them recognition for a job well done.
Gamification isn’t a cute veneer on otherwise ugly to use software
Darian Shirazi writes in Forbes (“The Consumerization of Enterprise Software”)
A few years ago, I remember that I tried using Salesforce for the first time. When I first interacted with the product, I felt like I was driving a Honda Accord: it was efficient and got the job done, but it wasn’t all that enjoyable to use or aesthetically pleasing. To my amazement, most enterprise software followed this trend: functionally sufficient, but poorly designed and often times difficult to use.
He’s making the argument that Enterprise Software should be taking the track of becoming as pleasing and as intutitive as consumer-facing software. I fully agree. Slack’s success is great proof of this. In this respect, it is important to understand that gamification isn’t a walkme over otherwise ugly enterprise software with a cute “game-like” veneer. Gamification is about first encouraging behvaiours, but more importantly it is a way to set performance goals and manage them.