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OK, let me be honest, I was sort of skeptical when I started hearing the TechEd theme around “gamification”. To be fair, growing up, I was taught that game and work don’t mix together. I was taught all work and no play made Jack a dull boy and all play and no work made him pretty useless and stupid. So gamification in TechED seemed to be more of a marketing gimmick than anything.

However, I also wanted to give the whole theme and Dr. Mcgonigal a fair choice to educate me why gamification in an enterprise may be a good thing. To be fair, I think she did a great job in delivering this message through the keynote. I think all of us should give some serious thoughts to the interesting points that she is trying to make.

Key “take aways’ for me and points to note in the keynote are:

  • If gamers can develop totally cool user interfaces that engage the users to play for 3 billion hours a week (that’s the time we can come up with many more Wikipedias), well, then why can’t enterprise software provide a welcoming user interface and totally rewarding user experience to motivate the users to use the system for 8 to 9 hrs a day
  • You may say, that will cost a lot of money and time. I say, actually not.  Angry birds is a great story where there are frequent releases with awesome UI designs and the apps costs peanuts (may be they make more money from plush toys, but that’s a different story)
  • You may say, enterprise business software deals with complex business process, so they are different than developing games. Actually, that’s not true either. If you have played some of the most famous games (OK, not Farmville or Angry Birds) like Halo or Metal Gear, they have a lot more complex logic than many enterprise business processes I have dealt with
  • Dr. Mcgonigal shared with us top 10 emotions experienced by gamers. The top most being creativity and some of the notable once include Joy, pride and sense of accomplishment. Now, aren’t these qualities that employers would want to cultivate in their employees and they spend thousands of dollars doing so? Looks like gamification is already does this.
  • Lastly, Dr. Mcgonigal shared with us some of the cool real life use cases and applications developed by gamers. Some examples include speeding control, mushrooming libraries, real-time event management etc. I am sure there are a lot more enterprise processes that can benefit from it.

Now, the big question at hand for me is, how can I try to put this in practice? Here are some of things I am planning to do in my work to try these out

  •  As an integration consultant, one of the biggest challenges I have faced is motivating the business process owners to own the interface data and errors. I am going to build an error handling tool that will reward the user with points based on number of errors they resolved, how fast they resolved it etc. And every month, the winner gets a profile published in the company’s intranet or may be even gets a day off from fixing interface errors.
  • Most of my projects are also in the utilities industry. One of the main areas where utilities can cut cost is to let customers use their portal for self-services instead of picking up that phone to call customer service. However, how do you motivate customers to visit your portal if it’s boring and not user-friendly? How about a puzzle or quiz game that will deal with energy reduction and greening themes and award the customers with points that they can utilize for priority outage restoration, sort of award points that airlines/hotels give you

I am sure there are lot more use cases that can really benefit from “gamification”. Hopefully you enjoyed the keynote as I did and hopefully you were able to see some of the hidden potential that exists beyond the normal skepticism that goes with games in enterprises.

Lastly, I think knowledge quest is a great idea from the organizers. It is amazing you can motivate people to pay attention when you include competition and rewards in the mix. Moreover, SAP will donate $10,000 to KaBoom, so it’s a noble cause, game on people.

I will be following through this theme in the next couple of days to see how I and my customers can benefit from this and would love to hear from the community on your thougts as well.

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  1. Gretchen Lindquist
    I love your idea about using gamification methods to reward users for finding and resolving errors. Motivating users to do what we need them to do is exactly what need more of in our enterprise applications. I look forward to reading your blog post when you report on your results.

    Gretchen

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