Gamification is a new trend emerging in IT. Loosely put, gamification uses game design, thinking and mechanics to influence online behavior. Naturally, gamification can be used in conjunction with programs to influence consumer behavior, such as loyalty programs. But the magnitude of how gamification can impact enterprises needs to be explored further. That leads to how gamification engages the enterprise.
What Is Engagement?
Everybody wants to influence our behavior: advertisers, politicians, family and friends. Although those attempts may encourage or reward our behavior, often they do not engage us. Engagement is more than just attracting our attention and simple immediate behavior. Rather, engagement provides the motivation for the participant to actively involve and commit to a course of action, such as following up on sales leads or learning a course. Engagement tends to be about long-term commitment rather than one-off behavior. So although gamification can be used for increasing short-term hits (encouraging the purchase of a product), its more important role is to facilitate the engagement of individuals over an extended period of time. And that leads to today's focus on engaging the enterprise through gamification.
Engaging the Enterprise Through Gamification
Bunchball, one of the leading companies in the rapidly growing gamification market, breaks the concept of an engaged enterprise into a three-legged stool. The first leg is how the employees use gamification to improve productivity. One way is to help employees improve their skills (which would seem to be a win-win situation, as the enterprise benefits from having workers with enhanced skills and the employees benefit from having more valuable skills). One illustration is that enterprises may have sophisticated software applications that are difficult to learn, which means few users take advantage of all the functionality. In turn, the proposed software return on investment may never be achieved. Gamification may be able to solve this problem.
Bunchball uses an example of a call center that required four to six weeks on average to train a new worker. Using a gamification approach, that learning process was cut to a day or day and a half on average. How in the world can that be? Think of the difference between general training that proceeds at a slow pace and an interactive experience that constantly requires the attention and participation of the learner, and moves on quickly once a topic has been mastered. Moreover, the faster a person learns, the faster the person starts to earn as a full-time employee.
The second leg of the Bunchball stool is to engage partners. Years ago, enterprises tended to run as closed systems and viewed suppliers, distributors, and so on as outsiders (external vs. internal). With the advent of shared systems, the distinction between internal and external has blurred, and partners--namely, the partner ecosystem--have become critical to an enterprise's success. Partners have their own agendas and do not do business exclusively with one enterprise, yet an enterprise wants to coax, motivate and incent their partners to do more. If gamification can help by providing faster and easier product training than the competition, then it becomes easier for the partner to do business with a particular enterprise than with a competitor.
The third leg of Bunchball's stool is, not surprisingly, the customer. Now, of course, enterprises want customers to buy products, but they also want those customers to be loyal over time. Retention of the customer base is critical for long-term success. One way to do this is to help customers become more adept with the products they buy, as this leads to happier clients who not only buy more products but provide referrals to others who also may become customers.
Of course, Bunchball provides software for gamification--its Nitro product is a gamification engine. But it also has integrated software and connectors to various enterprise applications, including solutions from partners such as Adobe, IBM and Salesforce.com.
Gamification is not as ubiquitous in the tech world as bring your own device (BYOD), cloud computing or big data. Even though gamification is likely to become pervasive and have a subtle (but powerful) impact in a number of ways, the media trumpets are not as likely to sound as loudly. That is because although gamification is not showy, its effects can be dramatic as it becomes embedded quietly in the IT infrastructure.
Such is the case with engaging in the enterprise. For example, Bunchball intends to integrate gamification in a number of touch points within each of the three great constituencies of the enterprise--its people, partners and customers. Gamification contrasts with traditional process-driven applications, such as CRM, that are tightly focused with data-driven connections to many different applications (one of which may be the CRM system). Each enterprise would draw from a common pool of gamification design and mechanics methods and tools, but employ a different mix to meet its particular requirements. It will be very interesting to see what happens if some enterprises become more creative in deploying gamification approaches than others.
Bunchball is not a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.