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Game on: Enterprise apps gain gaming features to boost usage

Adding a competitive component to enterprise software improves adoption and real-time decision-making, gamification advocates say

By Sandra Gittlen, Network World
December 10, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Network World - Businesses that have had to bench costly enterprise software because users found it too onerous could learn a thing or two from FarmVille and other popular online social games.

"Most people will spend five hours playing Angry Birds, but won't spend three minutes to learn new business applications," says Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer at gamification company Bunchball. One CIO, he says, almost wrote off a 200,000-seat collaboration software license investment because he couldn't figure out how to boost end-user utilization.

For CIOs banking on enterprise software to revolutionize their business, non-adoption is not an option. Instead, they need to find a way to engage users.

Enter the gamification collaboration of enterprise applications. Gamification involves the integration of game design concepts such as goal setting, real-time feedback, and voluntary participation to non-game settings such as sales force automation, call center, and help desk support.

IN DEPTH: Gamification of the enterprise

Simulations in play: Real-world scenarios unfold in virtual environments

Bunchball, Badgeville, Gamify and other gamification companies work with enterprises to incorporate behavioral analytics, competition, and collaboration into everyday application usage.

"We work within the application to get the users exposed to its capabilities," Paharia says. "Imagine if you opened FarmVille and there was simply a plot of dirt. No one would ever play it. Being the farmer helps you get used to the game - training by doing." Most notably, gamification appears embedded in an application, not as a separate tool.

M2 Research estimates that the market for gamification of non-traditional applications will reach $242 million by the end of 2012, a near doubling from January 2011, and $2.8 billion by 2016. Enterprise usage alone has spiked to 38% this year, up from 9% last year.

Gamification follows the concept of positive reinforcement and aims to increase the chance of certain behaviors to recur, according to M2 Research.

The object almost always is to create desire to win the game, either individually or as a team, the research firm notes. To spark this response, gamification features: competition; status, scores and leaderboards; metrics leading to key performance indicators; monetary rewards, non-monetary rewards, and achievements; and progress updates.

Gamification companies spend time with enterprises to understand their challenges, processes, user learning strategies, and business objectives. They translate that insight into the above components to directly pique user interest.

For instance, in the case of the unused collaboration tool, Bunchball used its Nitro gamification platform to develop 27 missions that spanned four levels within the collaboration software. Users could track each other's individual and department progress on a leaderboard and ask for help from more accomplished players. The immediate feedback of going on to the next mission sped up the learning curve, as did competition among teams.

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