Should businesses take games seriously?
This is a common question from people who assume that games are just for fun and have little application to the serious world of business. On the contrary, the SAP Community Network (SCN) is proof that game mechanics (also known as gamification) can add significant business value for customers.
To that end, this week we launched a new and improved gamification platform on SCN to inspire positive contributions from our 2 million monthly visitors. What this means for SAP customers and prospects is that SCN – already a vibrant, industry-leading community – is about to get even more useful, interactive, and fun!
What is gamification?
Gamification describes the application of game design concepts to non-game environments to inspire deeper engagement and to reward behavior. If you have accumulated frequent flier miles, bid for products on eBay, or checked how many Facebook “likes” you have, you are already using gamification.
On SAP Community Network, we incorporate gaming elements very thoughtfully and deliberately as a way to make our members more successful. In order to keep customers at the center of everything, we have always used the following objectives as guiding principles:
- Facilitate customer success through collaborative problem solving
- Empower the community to help each other
- Enable learning through knowledge sharing
While our new gamification platform introduces modernized concepts of Missions, badges, and leaderboards, the idea of earning points and building a reputation is not new to SCN.
Our initial system was implemented nine years ago and has undergone frequent updates over the years, including t-shirt giveaways, “Food for Points” with the U.N. World Food Programme, and even handing out physical badges to top contributors.
More recently we have recognized contributors through our Member of the Month program, through recognition on stage at SAP TechEd events, and by featuring high-quality content on our SCN home page and topic pages.
Why gamification matters to SAP customers
With more than 270,000 content contributors since 2003 and currently more than 2,000,000+ unique visitors per month, SCN brings together a staggering amount of collective intelligence that could be further harnessed to benefit the community.
Whether it’s getting a product question answered, collaborating on a tough business problem, or sharing your opinions and insights on a blog, there is so much untapped knowledge that individuals could share to improve each other’s professional lives. In addition, technology tools continue to improve and enable more effective applications of game techniques, which is why we decided to upgrade our gamification platform on SCN.
The new platform focuses on the following user benefits to encourage positive behaviors and greater participation for everyone:
Quality content and knowledge sharing
- We’ve introduced a concept called Missions, which represents a variety of activities and contributions. The focus is not just on creating content, but also exploring the community, engaging with others, and recognizing the quality and value of others’ contributions.
- There are more than 20 Missions available today, with more to come. Examples range from simple tasks such as rating a good piece of content, to more complex achievements like being seen as a community “Influencer.” The introduction of simpler tasks also provides a comfortable first step for standby observers to get involved in SCN.
Identify and connect with SAP experts
- New leaderboards show rankings of the top participants across all of SCN, as well as how you personally rank compared to your followers and the people you follow.
- Updated profile cards (when you hover over someone’s name) will show your level and Missions completed to provide a quick snapshot of a member’s expertise.
- Experts on a specific topic can also be easily identified on the member’s profile page.
Build your professional reputation
- Since you can view other members’ activities, that means your information is also transparent and can amplify your own reputation.
- All Missions, badges, and levels will be reflected on the Reputation tab in your main profile for other users to see.
- This improved transparency allows community members to celebrate each other’s achievements, instill some friendly competition, and have fun!
You can learn much more about the new gamification features on Chip Rodgers’ announcement blog.
SCN as a journey to “self-actualization”
Good games take people on a journey, giving them something to learn, master, and share. Through our new gamification system, we can provide members a self-guided path to “self-actualization” (from a professional / career standpoint) from their initial registration on SCN to ultimately becoming a community leader. An illustration of someone’s journey could be the following:
- Once a new member registers, they can participate in an onboarding mission to understand how to engage in the community.
- After they have been onboarded, they can begin to interact and collaborate with others.
- As they start to become known, they gain recognition and followers, earning higher levels of badges, and badges for specific areas of interest.
- They can see where they stand on leaderboards, and what they need to do to surpass other’s levels.
- They are challenged to share their knowledge through answering questions, writing blogs, and sharing personal experiences.
- Once they’ve achieved all of this, they often become altruistic and are encouraged to “pay it forward,” giving to others who are just beginning their journeys in the community.
For psychology buffs, this journey is analogous to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and, while admittedly an ambitious statement, is something we’ve seen time and time again during the past 10 years on SCN.
While gamification is a hot topic in business, at the end of the day it is simply a tool to help people connect and help each other. And we will continue to look for ways to design an enriching, effective online experience for our members.
I recently gave a talk at the GSummit (Gamification Summit) conference entitled “Nurturing and Growing Global Communities” (you can view my slides here). There were hundreds of people in attendance – from startups and VCs to large global brands.
It is increasingly clear that gamification is not just a fad for early adopters, or an ‘edge case’ for just a narrow slice of potential uses.
The concepts of “game mechanics” are now being applied across enterprises and organizations of various types and sizes, including in marketing and sales, human resources, product design, and training.
Together as members of the SAP Community Network, even after ten years we are still in the early stages of realizing the potential of gamification.
And as a member of SCN, you are once again on the cutting edge of using social technology to enhance the community experience and of gaining value.
Get in the Game!
To get started on our new gamification platform, please register or login to SCN to check out the new system. You can start participating by completing any of our 20+ Missions.
Meanwhile, the team will be adding more, and we welcome your feedback in the comments section below or on the announcement blog how we can continue to evolve the use of this powerful new tool.
The SCN team and I are looking forward to engaging with you in our new and improved community.