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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!

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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

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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:

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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.

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     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

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  • 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:

  1. Once a new member registers, they can participate in an onboarding mission to understand how to engage in the community.
  2. After they have been onboarded, they can begin to interact and collaborate with others.
  3. As they start to become known, they gain recognition and followers, earning higher levels of badges, and badges for specific areas of interest.
  4. They can see where they stand on leaderboards, and what they need to do to surpass other’s levels.
  5. They are challenged to share their knowledge through answering questions, writing blogs, and sharing personal experiences.
  6. 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. 

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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.

Looking ahead

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.

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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.

Game on!

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57 Comments

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  1. Nishan D Singh

    Mark,

    As usual, I try never to miss your blog, as it has so many information, collaborated in simple words, great thought, I never know “like and accumulating miles” is one of the way we are involve in gamification.

    Now Microsoft really need to add this word in their default dictionary, word is well described in wikipedia but missing in microsoft word dictionary, so user need to add this word in Microsoft dictionary.

    Best Luck,

    Nishan Dev

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  2. Marilyn Pratt
    Mark writes:

    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.

    Well said! That’s the beauty of engagement.  And hopefully what sets us apart from being “just” a repository of knowledge or a content library.  At its best gamification can showcase a real collaborative community, made up of human beings who enjoy the human act of commending and acknowledging others (and also guiding, mentoring and teaching through experience).  The journey here is not a flat one.  There are dips and curves (yep love Mark’s image of the roller coaster as being with this community over the last decade has certainly been that kind of ride!).  We have exhilarating drops and peaks, sometimes we veer a bit off track, but I believe it is and has been a truly “fun” ride because the human beings engaged here know how to mix work with play or even make work playful!

    Thanks Mark for throwing your support to this initiative that Laure Cetin so passionately believes in.

    Let the games continue and bring value and enjoyment to us all.

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    1. Custodio de Oliveira

      It’s really well said, but I’m afraid it’s easier said than done. My currently concern is that people will create really poor or even dummy content just for the sake of completing a mission, hence decreasing the overall quality.

      As an example, SCN Blogs (SCNblogs) retweeted this The specified item was not found. blog. Who knows whether it was a real test from a new user or just a way to make points? Let’s give the user the benefit of the doubt, shall we?

      Anyway, when gamification was firstly announced I thought it was BS. I’m totally converted and loving it now.

      Cheers,

      Custodio

      *off topic: whoever handles the SCNBlogs account should take a look at the content being tweeted. I’ve noticed a few #notablogs and the mentioned “test” in the last copuple of weeks or so.

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      1. Mark Yolton Post author

        Thanks for your comments Custodio.  You’ll see all blogs (good and bad) tweeted by @SCNblogs since it’s automated… as soon as any blog is published here on SCN, @SCNblogs (the machine) tweets it.  On the other hand, @SAPCommNet is a real human, so you’ll see the better blogs RT’d.

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  3. Mark Yolton Post author

    If you’d like MUCH more info on gamification concepts, practices, etc., many of the slides from the GSummit (Gamification Summit) earlier this month are now posted here: http://www.gamification.co/gsummit-2013-slides/ … the rest are coming, as are videos of speakers.  If you’re interested in gamification, this will keep you busy (and informed) for a while…

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  4. Julie Barrier

    Hi Mark,

    An interesting and well-articulated blog post, as usual. We wouldn’t expect anything less from you. πŸ™‚ You are such a wonderful sponsor and strong supporter of gamification at SAP. We at the company, and in the SCN community, are very fortunate to have your leadership on these types of initiatives. Maybe one day the industry will coin a new term for “gamification” so that people (and companies) start taking it more seriously (oxymoron intended πŸ˜‰ ). Until then, we at SAP are continuing to set/raise the bar for enterprise gamification, and how to do it right!

    Julie.

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  5. Maarten Molenaar

    Good blog and a good overview on about why these gamification elements tend to work.

    I really like the offline/online crossover. I wonder what we can learn from your experiences with the new platform!

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  6. Kavindra Joshi

    This was a feature that was available in SDN (I liked the SDN thing better ) and now some portions of are being made available in SCN. Thanks for that. I personally liked

    a) The lifetime points feature

    b) The ranking feature.

    c) The leader board feature. It makes the process very transparent.

    Again some of the things are missing

    a) I still can’t see topic wise list of contributors with points apart from top 10.

    b) Company wise list of contributions is still not present.

    I hope in future it would be available.

    Regards,

    Kavindra

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    1. Kumar Akshat

      Hi Kavindra,

                             

      a) I still can’t see topic wise list of contributors with points apart from top 10.

                         

      I don’t know if I got you right on that one but have you checked the ‘Expertise’ section? There, now you can see the points earned by you per Space.

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    1. Mark Yolton Post author

      Kavindra – you mention a couple of desired features that the team will take as feedback to evaluate for further developments. We will continuously evolve the gamification capabilities, so watch for releases on a regular basis from this point forward… the new platform makes this much more agile. Thanks for the feedback.

      M.

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      1. Kavindra Joshi

        Hi Mark ,

        I think delivering few features at a time will increase interest in the gamification. I would keep on watching this space for more. For now I am relishing these features.

        Regards,

        Kavindra

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  7. Jansi Rani Murugesan

    Hi Mark,

    Well Said!!! Liked the target of  “self-actualization” .. Indeed Inspirational!!

    We cant improve what we cant measure, happy to see SCN provides more levels of assessing our own self and makes the path smoothest for long journey…

    Thanks once again all team worked behind.

    Regards,

    Jansi

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  8. Paul Hardy

    Some people have said that if someting is wrong on SCN e.g. bug or missing feature, it is (a) not very intuitive where you have to report it and (b) sometimes difficult to tell if you get a response.

    Maybe you could make this into a game as well – in my company I would LOVE IT if people told me what was wrong, so I could fix it, but it must be too difficult for them.

    What we do, is that when I visit a site and Joe Bloggs tells me the XYZ is not working, then I go back and fix the XYZ and then post on our “bulletin board”  what the problem was and now that is working again, and who told me it was broken. That gives Joe Bloggs loads of brownie points with his colleagues all over Australia, as they all had the same problem and now they don’t, he gets more credit than me and rightly so..

    In the same way, if you gave people points for reporting – valid – problems with SCN and then fixed them everyone would win.

    Cheersy Cheers

    Paul

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    1. Mark Yolton Post author

      Thank you, Paul.

      The general place to post suggestions (or identify broken or un-intuitive things) about SCN is over in SAP Idea Place… because then we can track them better than if they are scattered all over 400 topics in SCN, and because people can build on each other ideas to make them better, and because then individuals can vote-up or vote-down ideas so there’s a prioritized list and not just a random list. 

      The specific place to post SCN ideas or suggestions is in this “SCN Innovations and Enhancements” area.  There are already 300 ideas in there, and 2500 votes. There are even sub-categories. This is what we use to drive our development roadmap — and many of the enhancements you see on SCN (every time there’s a “SCN will be down for an hour on Sunday” notification) come from this list. 

      I think we can always do a better job communicating the source and status of ideas better. Our colleague Scott Lawley posts blogs that do some of that as he announces the next wave of new features to be released.

      Maybe we award points or badges to the people who suggest ideas that get implemented on SCN, and to those who contribute or vote on those ideas.

      Good ideas like these are welcome!

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  9. Benedict Venmani Felix

    Hi Mark,

    As always a good blog. Congragulations to everybody who made SCN a more fun and interesting place to use.

    But, do you think the points system that was put in place also needs a re-haul. A document or a blog earn the same points as a ‘correct’ answer in the forum. I think it is unfair as it is, given the amount of effort and thought that goes into putting a good document or a blog. I do not understand the rationale behind the current point system. Can’t we re work our points system too!!!

    Disagreements are very much welcome πŸ™‚

    Benedict

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    1. Mark Yolton Post author

      Thank you, Benedict, for the suggestion. The points system was reviewed and revised with this latest refresh, and it’ll be revised as we go forward as well.  The best expert on this is Laure Cetin so I’ll rely on her to capture all of this sort of feedback and make ongoing revisions to the entire program.  Keep the ideas coming…

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    2. Laure Cetin

      Hello Benedict,

      We received similar feedback in the past from other community members. They feel it is unfair that a a correct answer in the discussions gets as many points as a blog or a document.

      In the long run we expect blogs and documents to get more points than 10 publication points, because there is engagement around the content, and the community likes, rates, provide comments on the content. We are still observing behaviors and we are open to making a change the situation is still unbalanced. We did see an increase in engagement around content since gamification launched, so blogs and documents that are good quality – as judged by the community – should get more than 10 points.

      In a few months’ time we’ll analyze the situation again and make a change if we feel it’s needed.

      Best regards,

      Laure

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      1. Bruce Armstrong

        The issue I see is that there’s no restrictions on what somebody can post as a blog, and I’ve seen some rather trivial blog posts.

        Just a thought, but perhaps like a response to a question has to be marked as ‘helpful’ or ‘correct’ in order for points to be awarded for it, perhaps blog posts would need to be ‘liked’, ‘bookmarked’ or ‘rated > 3’ to qualify for points.  That way they don’t automatically get points for them unless others in the community actually see them as valid contributions.

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        1. John Leggio

          Hi Bruce,

          That’s why we have space moderators. A moderator would have the ability to reject, approve or delete content. Don’t forget you also have the Report Abuse button as well.

          Thanks,

          John

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  10. Dell Stinnett-Christy

    I’m also enjoying the new gamification features.  However, I’m finding that it’s difficult to determine which missions I can start working on as well as how to actually start them vs. missions that I don’t qualify for yet.

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    1. Mark Yolton Post author

      Hi Dell: go to your profile (click on your name at the top of the page), then click on the “reputation” tab. Now, see “missions” on the left-hand navigation. Click on tiles to drill-in further. Does that help?

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  11. David Sheridan

    Mark,

    As a newcomer to SCN, this has been very insightful.  I have noticed how seemless the gamification has become on this site, as most of the time I am unaware that it is occurring.  Truly revolutionary when it comes to rapid onboarding and having a bit of good old fun at the same time!

    Cheers

    David

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    1. Mark Yolton Post author

      David, I’m so glad to hear that. IMHO, gamification should be seamless and a natural part of the flow of the site, supporting the members’ tasks and personal reasons for participating, and not a distraction. For some people it’s a great motivator and they focus more sharply on points, levels, badges. We’re trying to find the right balance to appeal to a wide spectrum of member types. I’m glad you find it a positive experience!

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  12. Kavindra Joshi

    Hi Mark , 

    Any blogs posted by a member posted fetches 10 points. Same is the case with blogs meant for information dissemination ( SAP or SCN announcements . Correct me If I am wrong). IMO posts meant for information dissemination should not be eligible for points. Debatable topic I must agree.

    ~Kavindra

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    1. Mark Yolton Post author

      Yes, any blog gets the same initial 10 points. The determination of value and quality of the blog is then “crowdsourced” to all of us in the community… there is no all-powerful lord or judge over blog quality or blog type; it’s all of us.  When we, collectively and individually, recognize that a blog is good and useful we give it 4 or 5 stars, we like it, we share it … and when we do so, that blog is given additional points.  If we appreciate and value information dissemination, and like or share it, it gets more views and more likes and more traction. If we like theoretical debates, that gets more points. If we like technical how-to discussions, they get more. Everyone appreciates and values different types and kinds and styles of knowledge sharing. By leveraging the power of our massive community, there’s room for all of these, and the “best stuff” as judged by the community members, get the most traffic, traction, and points.

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      1. Kavindra Joshi

        Hi Mark ,

        For normal blogs it is very true. The crowd sourcing provides the perfect way to judge them and if they are good, they are shared and liked.And this is square and fair and I strongly believe in this methodology.

        Announcements are very different category of blogs. They are either official SAP announcements ( by SAP employees /others ) or call for events. Only a select few are privy to such information and when points are allocated to them for information dissemination I find it a tad unfair. It tilts the balance in favor of select few. May not be popular view  and many would be considering it cynical

        ~Kavindra

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  13. Bhavya Kamaraj

    Hi Mark,

    I must congratulate for such an in-depth observation of your’s . What makes it even special is that, the simple observations that most of us do not notice or fail to analyze the psychological facts surrounded.

    Having read your post, now if I sit back and think, there is definitely the concept of gamificatin involved in every move of the business in any industry. As customers, we actually get captured by gamification regardless of age, profession, education. That’s truly the magic of Gamification.

    Thanks for your blog.

    Cheers,

    Bhavya

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    1. Mark Yolton Post author

      Yes, Bhavya, isn’t it interesting and a bit unnerving to notice all the ways we are ‘manipulated’ and our emotions and motivations are activated in the course of daily life? Done well and we don’t even notice it. Done ethically, for the right reasons, transparently, and we don’t mind but rather see it as an added benefit.

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    1. Audrey Stevenson

      Hi William,

      There will, indeed, be badges for Inside Track ’13 and other event speakers this year. We’re working on some of them now. Stay tuned.

      –Audrey

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  14. Sayan Pal

    May be I am late to check this block but better late than never. Really like the concept and I will try to implement at least in my organization. You are a true influencer !!

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  15. Miguel Arcanjo

    Its about time scn SAP try to keep their main search engine updated. I know some senior consultants with too few posts on scn. Do they have no knowledge to share or is it just because there is no gain on sharing information? I’m not sure this gamification is the best path to follow but its obviously a positive try. I hope scn get more used by consultants around the world.

    Anyway, nice post, Mark

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    1. Mark Yolton Post author

      Thanks Miguel. Please do encourage consultants to “make a name for themselves” here on SCN. Those of us close to SCN know of endless stories of individuals who have accelerated their careers, and companies that have gained increased recognition for their expertise – and with that came invitations to participate in new business with new customers, through the visibility and credibility they earned through actively sharing on SCN. 

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  16. Mark Yolton Post author

    Happy to see this blog still getting traction (comments, and shared on Twitter and elsewhere) over a year later! πŸ˜†

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