Enterprise gamification: Will it drive better business performance?

Enterprise gamification: Will it drive better business performance?

Summary: Concepts from the gaming industry have become increasingly useful as a way of improving and optimizing how we get work accomplished for our businesses.


Hard hitting results

 \Over the last few years, the gamification industry has been building up an impressive string of wins that are becoming hard to ignore. Long-standing problems in science and industry are beginning to fall as gamification is aimed at previously difficult to solve and otherwise highly stubborn problems. Just couple of months ago, Scientific American reported that online gamershad achieved the first crowdsourced redesign of a protein, and one that is commercially useful in many vital industrial processes, ultimately resulting in an eye-opening 18-fold improvement in outcome. In another example, The Wall Street Journal recently explored how a call center was able to reduce wait times up to 15% and increase sales by up to 12% using gamification. Numerous other examples exist. These are significant achievements that by themselves -- using non-game approaches-- experts often have great difficulty reproducing.

Related: Made on the Web, designed by us.

How gamification works is important and uses processes that been understood since the start of the Web 2.0 era. In particular, crowdsourcing can be a particularly important element of successful gamification. By cost-effectively enlisting peer production and mass collaboration to rapidly creating a large group of players, who are then driven towards the desired objective through an architecture of participation that has gaming features used to improve the rate and length of engagement. Although gamification can be successful without crowdsourcing, tapping into diverse audience of outsiders increases innovation, scalability, elasticity, and capacity of the gamified business process.


Gamification tools and platforms arrive


Effectively realizing gamification requires the right software and until recently, most gamification efforts have been bespoke efforts involving custom-developed software due of a dearth of enterprise-ready platforms. That is no longer the case, as a combination of startups and established vendors have entered the space.

Here are some of the leading providers of gamification services, platforms, and tools. Note that these companies have offerings that are either 1) explicitly designed for business use or 2) can easily be used by businesses, but may have other uses as well.


  • Bunchball. One of first companies to provide game mechanics as a service, Bunchball is one of the most established enterprise gamification players. Offered primarily as a platform that companies can use to integrate into their own intranets, Web sites, and other applications, Bunchball increasingly has off-the-shelf experiences such as the new gamification module for Jive Software's social business platform. Feedback to users includes achievements, status, and rewards. Includes real-time analytics.
  • Badgeville. This cloud gamification services combines concepts from from social gaming, traditional loyalty programs and social networking to create what it calls a "behavior lifecycle management solutions." Badgeville offers a portable gaming profile across multiple digital touch points such as company website, mobile applications, online communities, CRM systems, and support desk programs with matching analytics.
  • BigDoor. Claiming to have rewarded over 280 million user actions, BigDoor is more customer facing and has a roster of well-known enterprise clients. The service aims at increasing user loyalty and improving engagements levels in existing touchpoints. User received badges, quests, and even tangible rewards to drive participation.
  • Gigya. Gigya's new Game Mechanics platform offers a set of plug-and-play or fully customizable plugins that reward and notify users, drive sought-after behaviors and promote competition within a community site. Gigya's platform allows customers to earn points and rewards for activities like participating in contests, leaving comments, or encouraging others to participate. Users level-up based on their points and their progress can be syndicated out to Facebook and Twitter.
  • IActionable. Offers a set of gamification services designed explicitly for employees, customers, and other general purpose users, the company's manta is "Measure. Design. Engage. Improve." Now includes out-of-the-box integration with Salesforce.
  • Punchtab. Designed for a number of turnkey scenarios including loyalty, engagement, and incentivized actions, Punchtab is one of the easiest gamification tools to set up. Primarily focused on external gamification, the service offers badges and achievements and also enables giveaways and other high-value reward mechanisms.


It's clearly very early days yet gamification however. Even though management strategy thinkers like John Hagel and John Seely Brown have been espousing gaming for business in respected places like The Economist, much of the enterprise world, like so much with the trend towards consumerization, is largely reactive instead of proactive on gamification at the moment. In fact, companies are still reeling from all the other big technology shifts taking place today. This means gamification won't be high on the adoption list, at least strategically, for a while. However, I do expect plenty of tactical experiments this year at the business function and departmental levels.

Related: Gamification: Still a bad word

Also, just like with enterprise social media, the companies with cultures more amenable to new ways of working and adopting fresh ideas from the outside will likely be much more successful at meaningfully adopting gamification. These will be the companies that gain the requisite first-mover advantage from a competitive perspective, further driving the leaders and laggards apartin the world of business.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Exploitation

    We seem to be skirting around the real reason people are interested in gamification. It holds the potential of getting workers to invest lots of their time, energy and focus for the benefit of someone else. The point here is not to entertain and reward people, but to use gaming methods to harness this focussed behaviour for the "good" of their employers.

    It's a process of convincing your employees to provide more productivity without the annoying requirements of praising them, paying them more money or giving them better facilities. Motivation is reduced to the equivalent of attaining gold stars.

    Games are fun, entertaining and relaxing. Gamification is the dark side of the Force ;-)
    • Interesting perspective

      If you were given the "carrot or the stick" options, it sounds like you would prefer the stick. I think most would prefer the carrot, but there is not an endless supply of carrots, and as more carrots are consumed, less are desired. So how does an employer keep the carrot option viable without having to resort to the stick? As the metaphor shows, the carrot is dangled from a string in front of the mule to get movement. This is what gamification is. It's a cost effective carrot, no different than other techniques (e.g. job titles, perks, ect.) have been doing for many years. The only difference is the use of technology.
      • That's an inference

        But I'll let tonymcs go into more direct detail. For we might both be missing out on some details or wearing proverbial blinders... ;)
    • AGREED

      It's parasitism. Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, and others who acknowledged the value of labor - even Ayn Rand - would all be most upset right now. (and that's my inference.)

      It's not unlike the episode of "The Simpsons" where the public school got privatized, the school educators brought in did less work but covertly encouraged the kids to come up with a new toy and its name ("Funzo", as I recall)... crowdsourcing in action and to a cynical bent as they attacked privatization of education in the process... (which may have been unfair; depending on the issue, private or public schools have issues...)
    • Employee are paid for their efforts however

      Even crowdsourcing does not work unless there is value being created and shared on both ends of the relationship. While gamification might be used by some employers in an attempt to exploit workers, such cynical efforts will generally be identified for what they are, just like any in any dysfunctional workplace. Instead, gamification holds the promise to make work more rewarding and engaging. That's better not just for the employer, but the employee.
    • Gamification is a tool

      It's important to remember that game mechanics in enterprise gamification are not intended to be games or even necessarily fun. At RedCritter, we view game mechanics as a toolset. If you have a culture of exploiting your employees, gamification isn't going to help. However if you have a culture of fostering excellence and learning they can offer new ways to recognize achievements and celebrate victories.
  • A sign of the times

    Nice article. And interesting comment just above - I think it's a valid point that gamification is a way of 'rewarding' people without offering them promotion or more money, which would have been the standard way of rewarding people before the world economy took a dive.

    Perhaps that's why this 'new' concept (which isn't really new) is enjoying so much attention at the moment.
    • Because is redistributes wealth

      from the worker to the entity that's compelling people to crowdsource?

      Why do people fall for it, giving it up for free? Do they not value their own time and labor?
  • "Crowdsourcing" = free R&D

    To coin a phrase,

    "Holy parasitism, Batman".
    • The more successful crowdsourcing efforts have clear value exchange

      For example, Mechanical Turk (from Amazon) pays all contributors with cash, while Innocentive only takes on crowdsourcing projects with significant price tags ($25K) or more. While value exchange is often non-monetary, I only have to point you to the vibrant open source community as an example of how community-based crowdsourcing can produce truly impressive results and everybody generally wins.
  • a disturbing trend...

    The economist Max Kaiser has spoken of a model in which everyone will basically be playing games as work. He doesn't look kindly on the prospects for humanity in such scenario.
  • A Note From IActionable

    Great article and interesting conversation development. At IActionable, we take a slightly different approach to enterprise gamification - it's not about fun, it's about feedback. More importantly, gamification is not as much about the user as it is about the tool or application itself. The addition of game mechanics (we don't much like the term gamification) is a fundamental shift in user interface and user experience - NOT about cheesy methods to drive or herd employee behavior. Our employees too smart and too valuable to be subjected to transparent, self-serving gimmicks - and I'll bet yours are too.
  • As a former interaction designer at IDEO...

    ...I loved this paragraph:

    [quote]A combination of design thinking, which is rooted in empathy for the context of a problem, and user-centered design, a philosophy and process in which the wants, needs, and limitations of end users allow for the creation of more effective products, gamification has the potential to greatly optimize the way humans are connected to and go about their work. In other words, if you want work to get done in the best possible way, then it should be designed for the way humans actually work best.[/quote]

    This is exactly the point of view we've taken since we first started working on our Nitro gamification platform in 2007, and I love that you called it out.

    - rajat paharia
    Founder, Bunchball
  • This is part of a much larger shift

    This concept of rewards, resource utilization and problem redesign all fit together in a way that I believe organizations are just starting to get their mind around:
  • Love the Enterprise Angle...

    ...because as you said, it's a tough topic to breach in those settings because of its less-than-serious perception as a concept and burgeoning industry. Applying the ideas in hip, small companies is an easy fit, but the potential for the enterprise is still largely untapped.

    I'm a big fan of gamification as a former game designer. My concern moving forward is the distillation of the concepts by bandwagoners who throw a bunch of achievements at their employees or customers without bothering to make sure that the product or service underneath is actually compelling enough to be continually engaging: http://shift.pgi.com/2012/shift-to-gamification-part-3-where-its-going/
  • Gamified project management still a tricky proposition in the enterprise

    As the article shows, there's been good traction in the B2C space for gamification, but inside the enterprise, it's a different beast altogether. Leaderboards, points and badges presume you're competing against your peers, and this kind of winners/losers approach that pits you against your teammates only damages morale. In fact, there is good social science to back up the notion that carrot/stick motivators don't provide lasting benefits.

    The key for an effective gamified enterprise system is to rethink the rewards so they aren't win/lose. For example, consider a reward for helping other people on the team, chosen by team vote. As you strive for this award, you are actually making the whole team better by sharing your knowledge and helping people learn new skills. Simple "You closed 100 sales!" targets reward seniority and don't truly make your workplace better. They just make your new salespeople feel worthless.

    We've been using a gamified project management system on projects in-house that we've just opened to the public. It aims to re-imagine the gaming principles that work in B2C, but put them in service of what is truly needed inside the enterprise. Check it out here: http://propstoyou.com

    Alden, CEO Six Fish, makers of PropsToYou.
  • Agreed

    I'm a big fan of gamification as a former game designer.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FucSpGFrbFw
  • A comprehensive presentation about Enterprise Gamification

    You can find a comprehensive presentation about Enterprise Gamification - http://www.slideshare.net/galr10/gam-effective-intro-20131110w