Gamification Basics

treeEnterprise Gamification Consultancy’s Gamification Industry Report 2015, by lead researcher Mario Herger– available here – makes for an excellent read about what the future holds for enterprise gamification and what companies should know about it. I believe the report contains many nuggets of useful information, and I don’t believe that just because we got a favorable mention in the report’s Gamification Platform Leadership Matrix. The report covers in detail twelve platform providers and makes excellent comments on the state of the gamification market.

The report (focusing on enterprise grade gamification, engagement and behavior modification platforms) reviews the state of the gamification world in 2015, marking its long-expected maturation from the novelty or exotic into a mainstream offering by large software vendors.

Since I’ve been following Mario’s work for a while, and since I think the report has some valuable points to make, here are five take-aways from the report:

Take Away 1: Enterprise gamification isn’t over and surely isn’t in the trough of disillusionment – in fact, it is just beginning to take hold in the enterprise

Herger predicts that the gamification industry market is set to double within the next 12 months. I find this comment truly indicative of the fact that although the media hype around gamification reached its peak in 2012, the understanding of enterprise gamification and what it can do to employee performance and engagement is maturing just now.

Herger makes the point that the entrance of new players, and especially SAP’s entry into gamification, signals a new phase in the market’s development. According to Herger, the entrance of such a dominant software vendor into the gamification market is a signal to corporate clients that gamification technologies are now moving from obscurity and novelty to the mainstream. Herger foresees that other large software vendors will enter the market within the next 12 to 18 months, and also expects a wave of consolidation.

Take Away 2: Niche gamification vs universal

The report focuses on universal gamification platform providers – such as gameffective, badgeville, bunchball, Infosys, SAP and others. Herger defines “universal” as gamification platforms that apply to more than one gamification use case – not just platforms for sales gamification, customer service gamification etc.

The point here is that in realistic enterprise implementations, gamification needs to work across several enterprise apps, and can’t be relegated to just one use scenario (inside sales reps for instance). The whole point of gamification is an ability to give almost real time feedback on performance, so that employees can react and self-reflect. This requires good integration – and the addition of other integrations, such as elearning, is also a great need in the deployments we’ve seen at Gameffective, regardless of whether they are in the sales, customer service or other applications.

Take Away 3: A gamification platform isn’t enough; customer success practices and game designers matter too.

While the report places an emphasis on both the vision and robustness of gamification platforms it mentions that the choice of enterprise gamification platform only accounts for a portion of a successful gamification implementation strategy, with the rest accounted for by training, objective definition, game design. We’ve written about the fact that “everyone should know game design” and I truly believe in this vision.

Yet fancy game elements and game mechanics don’t tell the entire story. As gamification merges with performance management, Herger makes the point (with which I wholeheartedly agree) that management needs to set good objectives that are well thought out… so that objective setting merges with gamification efforts, creating an integrated process and laying the groundwork for continuous improvement. On this level, I often hear from companies that they prize gamification for the fact that it made them focus on communicating objectives and KPIs clearly and tracking them on a real time basis.

Take Away 4: Empathy is a core consideration in gamification design

Herger mentions the importance of empathy in gamification design. I couldn’t have said it better. Empathy means considering gamification as a way to improve employee performance by increasing the employee’s well-being, and not by treating the employee’s work as mindless competition.

Designing games well requires taking the point of view of the employee – having the employee be the hero of their game and letting their training, coaching and feedback take center stage, as opposed to making employees feel belittled by emphasizing their peers’ performance. Promoting extrinsic rewards or killer-type activity that focuses on employees out-playing their peers in fierce competition, isn’t realistic and isn’t good for both the employees and their employer.

Take Away 5: taking a long term view of gamification

Herger mentions that “most vendors and customers also neglect to establish a long term strategy for gamification. The focus in most projects is narrow and applied to one project only… without a strategy for sustainable engagement”. Gamification in the enterprise should be sustainable, leaving lasting performance changes and not just a “Band-Aid” solution to artificially increase a certain activity.

This is the main challenge of the industry and it will be solved by deep thinking about performance, long term engagement, and game designs that are flexible enough to evolve over time, keeping employees engaged.

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