So what is gamification?

Gamification is not having your staff lined up in a human tower whilst one unlucky member is jettisoned at them in the hopes of knocking them all down. In its simplest terms, it’s the utilisation of game thinking and mechanics applied in a non-game context to utilise a person’s innate competitiveness, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism and closure to engage users to help solve problems.

This can be anything from point earning, a progress bar, achievement badges, or even virtual currency with the end goal to improve return on investments, data quality, timelines, and learning. Gamification in non-traditional contexts allows the user or team real world feedback on tasks and projects. That strong sense of competition outside of the norm, in essence, treating work as a game, is a technique that should help competition.

Gamification calls marketing its home. Gartner reckons that by 2015, 40% of Global 1000 organizations will use Gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations. In 2013, over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies said they aimed to use gamification to improve customer retention and marketing. Some pretty weighty statements of intent, then, but it’s not all good news.

They will one day evolve into “Director of Sales”

Despite its continual growth and utilisation, Brian Burke, a Gartner analyst, predicts “80% of gamification initiatives will fail by 2014 due to bad design.” Combine that analysis with John Kotter’s research that found 70% of business transformation efforts fail, and that across the pond, 71% of American workers are not engaged or actively disengaged from their work (according to Gallup), and less likely to be productive, then we have an issue in employee engagement. Zombified workforce? Check. Not too great, is it?

On the face of it, gamification sounds like a great way for a business to engage with its employees to strengthen their workforce. Problem is, at the end of the day, it’s only as good as its engineers and implementation. There’s no denying it’s a volatile tool. So what ways do businesses employ gamification, who is it right for, and more importantly, is it right for your business? Chuck a couple of coins into the machine and let’s find out.

Methods of Gamification Integration

So you’re thinking of integrating gamification techniques and architecture into your business. But what kind of business are you, and what do you want out of it? Drive sales, bring you team together, connect with the customer, use your magic coins to buy a colourful array of fancy hats?

Social Environment

If we look at gamification in a more social and B2C arena, it has seen benefits in fitness sites like www.fitocracy.com, in which users are awarded points for the exercises they undertake, and progress in levels with the points collected. This incremental approach to setting goals is a powerful tool because the user is receiving continual feedback – no matter how small. This, in turn, kindles their competitiveness and need to continue towards their larger end goals.

The next level in a B2C environment is to utilise social network services mainly in the smartphone field. Starbucks harnessed the popularity of Foursquare to engage with their customers by allowing them to earn discounts by “checking in” at multiple franchise locations, even incentivising some to become “Mayor” (minus the robe and sceptre) of a franchise because of their returned business. In this arena, we have the customer being “rewarded” for an otherwise “normal” activity, drawing on our innate want of competition and reward.

Business-Centric

If we look at gamification in a more business-centric environment, it can prove to be a little bit trickier (mentioned prior) as our perception of what constitutes “work” and “play”, differ greatly in an office environment. But the purpose of gamification in business environments is to blur these lines. Sound similar to our post on why Yammer’s great? Same thing!

As it stands, users may see a divide in repetitive tasks in a work environment to that of a “game” environment. Imagine Space Invaders, Tetris, Candy Crush — any game that requires us to complete repetitive tasks… and then imagine data entry or updating a database. On a very basic level, both tasks require the user to complete the same set of actions repeatedly. But the game is a game and work is work… and we won’t receive invites for more lives or a million requests for livestock.

We understand that concept. Our brain has drawn its conclusion. However, with the game we understand our goal is clear, we are rewarded incrementally for our performance, to complete the task and receive feedback and accolades not just for ourselves, but to show others. Games and work are similar. It’s all about perception. Gamification wants us to imbue work with clear tasks, goals and repetitive but fun tasks with a focus on an attainable line of progression to incentivise users to do better and work harder.

Gamification for you

For our clients’ gamification needs, we work with CRM Gamified, a company that’s developed gamification software to work in tandem with Microsoft Dynamics CRM (something we know a thing or two about) that features all the hallmarks such as badges (fancy hats), leader boards, levels, real-time feedback, mobile client, and social interactions. It’s a tool for managers to automatically reward their Sales, Marketing and Customer Support teams.

Let’s see what they have to say about it:
CRMGamified® keeps track of every single operation performed by a user in the system. It then takes those records and feeds them to a set of administrator configured rules to calculate the rewards a user and his/her team will receive in the form of badges, achievements, points and levels. Rules are fully customizable by an administrator, enabling the creation of simple to complex rewarding mechanisms.

Besides the positive affect on user adoption, another very important feature of the tool is the possibility of extracting valuable information on how users are behaving. With this tool, Managers are now able to get a clear picture of how their employees are using CRM, enabling them to fine-tune the gamification rules and shape their behaviour into one that favours the goals of the organization.

A good way to monitor your staff’s activity and gather valuable information on their performance and thinking patterns, or an intrusive way to monitor your employees with the constant worry of competition and what one might consider arbitrary rules and objectives? It’s up in the air… and comes down to your business culture. You know your staff. You know how they work best, and what will give them the best benefits.

Tenets

So all that information has you clawing to implement gamification, but what can you do to get the most from the architecture? Well, in Elis Oding’s article on blogs.gartner, she brings up a few tips on utilising gamification effectively.

Strive for collaboration
With its leaderboards and reward system, gamification can appear competitive and alienating, and while that is true, it’s not all it can be used for. It can be used as a tool to bring employees together on tasks, which has them working more efficiently.

Define your transformation objectives, metrics, and desired outcomes

In its basic form, this is as simple as knowing what you aim to achieve with your users and with the gamification architecture you implement. Do you want to drive sales, help users learn software quicker and with more comprehension, simply inject fun into what might be considered laborious? It’s about knowing what you want.

Understand the business culture

Know your employees, know your groups — everyone is different in the way they work as part of your business. Not everyone will be open to, or incentivised by gamification and it’s up to you to recognise if it’s the right fit.

Continual progression

As with any long-term and short-term business goals and benchmarks, we need to know if they are feasible and the impact striving towards these objectives have on the user. It’s about continual engagement in a positive way and awareness of the difficulty curve you have set. There will always be an initial burst of interest, but it fades over time. You have to be aware and plan for this.

Game Over?

Thanks to the growing buzz of gamification, those on the outside may see the tool as simple as implanting new system architecture and let the users progress, which is, of course, flawed. At its core, gamification is a tool used to mask boring and mundane tasks by blending our perception of work and play. We know play is fun, and so, too, can work be, but it is always more uncertain. Through a bevy of faux points and achievements, we actually need to get somewhere. A new, novel idea at the beginning does not guarantee lasting user engagement.

Despite some of the successes in gamification, the industry is still on volatile waters. With any innovation, you’ll get poor imitation and implementation from those attracted by the buzz like over-excited techno-moths. Like anything, whether it’s in life or business, it’s subject to hype and while rising numbers are attractive to an outsider, it is not indicative of long-term growth and sustainability.

What’s important when we look at gamification are the successful models that surfaced at the start, others that arise and survive through the hype, and how they develop through various successes and failures over time.

The best areas for this are Sales and Marketing purely from the mind-set of the users. We know these areas of business thrive on competition and challenge, but would gamification (and the fancy, fancy hats) help this area to blossom, or would it simply be fixing a problem that isn’t there? It’s about asking why now and why us to save ourselves from putting square pegs into round holes