How you Can Use Gamification to Boost Business Performance

Software applications create the challenge of a steep learning curve and as a result are typically not well adopted. Even when they are, people often dislike using them. Employees only use them because their role requires it, because they have to rather than want to.

But, people love to play online games. They even pay money to play. So much so that there are estimated to be half a billion-people playing computer and video games for at least an hour a day and that as a planet, we play 3 billion hours a week of video games. 5 Million gamers in the US alone are spending more than 40 hours a week playing games, the equivalent of a full-time job! However, these games are essentially just another piece of software, so what accounts for the lure of games and why is the adoption and attitude towards this class of software so positive?

The answer is of course obvious: because game software is fun, engaging and enjoyable. Careful consideration has been given to how to engage users and more importantly, how to keep them coming back for more.

Can we make enterprise software more engaging through gamification?

The answer must be yes. After all, there are an increasing number of case studies that clearly demonstrate gamified software not only drives adoption, it leads to deeper engagement. Users learn to gain real value from the software through increased usage and encouragement to explore a broader scope of the application functionality. The social gaming dynamics fosters teamwork, collaboration and even a healthy level of competition within an organization. The result is ultimately a boost in productivity as users:

  1. Follow best practices
  2. Use more of the application functionality to their advantage
  3. Collaborate better with their colleagues

One major security firm, for example, deployed gamification across their sales team through their CRM system and experienced the following results:

  • 86% increase in sales performance
  • 60% growth in ‘active’ pipeline
  • 35% increase in the logging of new contacts
  • A shift from 75% to 98% in user adoption

If the answer is yes, then the hard part is how!

If gamification has so many benefits, why hasn’t enterprise software gamified from the outset?

Simply put because “making it fun and engaging to use” was never a design requirement for enterprise software. Software architects did not understand that “engagement” and “adoption” go hand-in-hand. The design requirement for enterprise software has typically been focused on process efficiency. There has been little or no focus on the poor individual required to use the application to execute the process! Who cared about them? After all they were being paid to use the software, so it wouldn't be a problem, right?

As it turns out this logic is fundamentally flawed. At this point if you haven’t read our white paper covering rewards and motivators (“Money – Is It The Only Motivator?”) it would be worth downloading – as this explains what really motivates us. Shockingly, studies by MIT show that, for complex cognitive tasks, using money as the only motivator can lead to poorer performance.

So, if you believe that by making enterprise software engaging people will use it and if you believe that used properly enterprise software will boost productivity then fun and engaging becomes a requirement for productivity. Never underestimate the power of fun.

Should we be turning enterprise software into a game?

No, of course not! Gamification is about taking the elements of game dynamics and game mechanics that encourage people to adopt the behaviors that will drive the outcomes you seek for your business.

However, one note of caution, simply gamifying existing enterprise software by incorporating game mechanics onto an already failing process is highly unlikely to achieve the outcome you seek.

Rather than bolting game mechanics onto existing enterprise software and hoping that this improves user adoption and engagement, we should focus on a careful design of the game dynamics – the content that includes which challenges you will define, the structure of your levels and the rewards you will deliver.

These should then be tightly integrated into the process you seek to modify. This way the game dynamics are delivered to the user at the appropriate time and in an appropriate way, gently nudging users and rewarding them as they perform the tasks you wish them to.

For example, nudging a user to complete all the data fields at the point they are first capturing a new lead and then rewarding them instantly if they comply, is likely to deliver far better results than say a disconnected list of challenges and rewards displayed somewhere else.

Game dynamics should be evaluated, tuned and refreshed on a regular basis to keep users engaged and ensure they remain matched to the business pains you are addressing (e.g. improving forecast accuracy, improving product mix, increasing data quality, increasing deal win rates, capturing competitive information or improving customer satisfaction).

Rewards should be carefully matched to the outcomes you seek – financial rewards (e.g. cash prizes or a technology gift) versus non-financial rewards (e.g. dinner with the CEO or additional vacation time). The timing of rewards should also be carefully considered - i.e. rewarding “little and often” versus “large but sparingly”.

Communication should be carefully planned and executed across as many channels as appropriate (e.g. email, social, video, online broadcasts). For example, thought should be given to how you will launch to your users, what communication content is needed to keep engagement high and how you will communicate success (e.g. emails to winners from the CEO or videos of rewards being given posted on corporate social channels etc.).

In summary, all five of the following elements should be carefully evaluated and planned to ensure success:

  1. The gamification software platform (i.e. the software that delivers the game mechanics)
  2. The game content (i.e. the game dynamics)
  3. An appropriate rewards structure (financial versus non-financial & frequency of delivery)
  4. A plan for constant communication
  5. A regular review & refresh of 2, 3, 4
Recommendation

To see how our gamification solution improves business performance, read our datasheet.

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How do you start planning?

Before you do anything, you will need a baseline from which to measure your progress. This creates a record of the current users’ interaction with the application. The gamification software platform should allow you to run in ‘silent’ mode for a period, during which users are unaware their behaviors are being recorded. This will give you the ability to profile your users, understand what the norm is today and determine which behaviors need to be changed.

Once this tracking capability is in place it will provide a profile of each users’ current usage. The software will constantly and automatically update all profiles, allowing historical analysis of how their behavior is changing over time.

Once usage is tracked, you can easily identify who is using the software well and reward them with the appropriate status and recognition. It also provides a clear picture of those employees that might benefit from coaching to bring the best out of them.

Once this tracking capability is in place it will provide a profile of each users’ current usage. The software will constantly and automatically update all profiles, allowing historical analysis of how their behavior is changing over time.

Once usage is tracked, you can easily identify who is using the software well and reward them with the appropriate status and recognition. It also provides a clear picture of those employees that might benefit from coaching to bring the best out of them.

To summarize…

Enterprise software is poorly adopted because being fun and engaging was never part of the design philosophy. However, as we now know, being fun and engaging is directly linked to productivity, because it’s the key to driving adoption, which triggers the network effect that benefits everyone and drives deeper levels of engagement that boost business performance.

The best practice for an effective gamification approach is:

  1. Create an accurate baseline
  2. Keep content fresh and regularly tuned to business outcomes
  3. Reward appropriately
  4. Communicate success often

If you achieve this then the future for adoption of enterprise software and the associated increase in business performance that it delivers will be bright.

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