Airline hopes gamification can make its Oracle ERP users soar

WestJet's initial gamification project focuses on expense reporting

Canadian airline WestJet believes gamification, the notion of applying elements of game design to a workplace setting, can help its employees use more effectively its Oracle J.D. Edwards ERP (enterprise resource planning) system.

Gamification is being used increasingly in conjunction with sales, support and employee performance management software, but isn't often associated with core ERP.

WestJet worked with Oracle and enterprise gamification vendor Badgeville on its pilot project, which focuses on expense reporting, said Mike Mihaichuk, manager of ERP and finance applications at the roughly 10,000 employee company.

Expense reporting was chosen because it provides the biggest possible pool of users to test the gamification concept, Mihaichuk said during a presentation Wednesday at the Collaborate conference in Las Vegas.

Gamification is "a look at human behavior and what motivates people," he said. "Different people are motivated by different things in different situations."

The concept addresses both the logical thinking associated with the left side of the brain, as well as the emotion and creativity generated by the right side. Badgeville and other vendors provide tools for both scenarios, from small "quests" and hidden Easter eggs to personal avatars, "friending," "touting," leaderboards and of course badges that denote a particular accomplishment.

Gamification "has been around for a long time," Mihaichuk said, using the example of a poster upon which parents place a series of stickers as their child becomes potty-trained. "The underlying question is why did it feel so good to get that sticker?"

WestJet's project, which is about to be rolled out, targeted four specific behaviors: timely submission of expense reports; timely approval or rejection of reports; the attachment of receipts to expense reports; and the use of a corporate credit card if one is available, versus a personal credit card.

Working with Badgeville, WestJet created "a lot of badges that were just for fun," as it is important for badges to be easily attainable, Mihaichuk said. It also plans to continuously add more badges after the project launches.

WestJet is going to encourage participation in the project with a series of prizes. On the low end, employees will be able to get gift cards for various accomplishments. But they can also build up points that they can cash in for lottery entries for big prizes such as flights and vacations.

Not that WestJet necessarily needed to convince its workforce to take part. "People were interested to see this use of technology because it's something they use today all the time" on sites such as FourSquare, he said. "People are so used to this these days."

WestJet is about to roll out the project initially to its IT staff, and to the broader employee base some months later.

There's plenty of potential for gamification within ERP processes, according to one observer.

"This is a methodology to improve influence and influence outcomes," said analyst Ray Wang, founder and chairman of Constellation Research. "In ERP, what do you want to influence? For a manufacturing line, it may be the defect and quality process. You would apply an incentive to identify defects and also one to internally crowdsource solutions with rewards. You can apply gamification to everything."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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