SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Roger Strukhoff, David Linthicum

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Gamification & the Cloud – 3 Tips & 2 Examples

gamification for business

Question: “Would you like to turn your business into a game?” I think the resounding answer, from everyone, is, “Absolutely – when can you make it happen?” Bosses like gamification because it engages consumers and employees. Consumers and employees like the concept because it makes online platforms much more interactive and, well, awesome – that is, if it is done correctly. According to Adam Holtby of business and technology analysis group Ovum, gamification is defined as “the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts.” It may be a buzzword, but it is also becoming a major trend throughout a wide variety of sectors. Like many tech concepts, this strategy is surrounded by some degree of confusion. Two notable places in which it has been linked to game theory are on Dell’s Tech Page One and on GreenBiz. Barry Hughes of Game Theory Strategies says that is a misunderstanding – game theory is an economic model, and it is not the source behind the IT movement. It appears that the word “theory” was added somewhere along the way to couch the trend in scientific authority, when really all the approach involves is making computer applications more game-like. Despite difficulty understanding exactly what this idea is and what terms make sense, using the cloud to gamify has become increasingly popular, per Dell. In 2011, Gartner roughly predicted that “over 70 percent” of organizations in the Forbes Global 2000 would have an application utilizing this model in place by 2014. Similarly, M2 Research has estimated that by 2018, the general industry will reach $5.5 billion. Keep in mind, this concept is still unsure ground. It was at its peak last year in Gartner’s Hype Cycle, which suggested it would plateau as a field – allowing easier implementation for businesses – in 5 to 10 years. Well, that’s fine to wait 5 or 10 years for those of us who don’t want to be ahead of the curve, but clearly there seems to be an opportunity for competitive advantage now. Gamification as a challenge & role of the cloud Games seek to engage the competitive and strategic side of consumers and employees – and the side that appreciates immediate goals and strong visuals – to improve morale, increase productivity, and drive sales.The principles of this model are simple, but turning something that’s not a game into something that feels and reacts like one is complex: it uses motivational tactics that can feel offputting if not framed correctly. The reason cloud hosting is so integrated with this strategy is that it enables the performance and reliability necessary to process the data at a user-friendly pace. Using distributed virtualization for gamified applications allows businesses a cost-effective way to achieve their core business interests. 3 gamification tips Speaking of business interests, it’s wise to look at that factor alongside other top considerations that can determine the success of the approach for any business, as outlined by Ovum’s Holtby:
  1. It must have an obvious and defined business benefit – Sure, it’s great to engage customers, increase productivity, and manage employee interaction within a user-friendly and interactive system. However, the benefit to your business must be obviously and clearly described, so that management is onboard. Create a strategic plan, spelling out the general business objectives.
  2. Think outside the PBL – Points, badges, and leader boards, a.k.a. PBL’s, represent typical scoring mechanisms of this concept’s environments (measurable parameters to drive competition and overall effectiveness). However, don’t mistake the forest for the trees: PBL’s are not what it’s all about. Like any user content, PBL’s are optimized “only when used correctly and tied to a more intrinsically meaningful value system.” In order to determine what those bigger-picture values are, you need to think about what desires drive people. Status? Praise? Achievement? User desires should be met by the environment.
  3. Utilize the big data generated by the application – Clearly engagement can be improved with games: plenty of case studies prove that, and it also seems to make objective sense because they tend to be fun. They also give us large pools of data (on such parameters as reputation and skill) about individuals internal and external to our companies.
2 gamification examples – one successful, one not The below two examples from CIO.com give us a sense of how this strategy can go right or wrong (though note that these case studies are both specific to employee scenarios):
  1. Target – We all have heard the bad news from the Target checkout line, but the good news is that Target has come up with an innovative technique for its cashiers. The time a given cashier takes to scan each item is measured against a set standard. If the standard is met, the cashier appears in green; if not, they appear in red. Frankly, this solution sounds like it could be both motivating and irritating (what if you are “red” because you stopped to answer a customer question, for instance?). It illustrates the fine line that must be walked in this arena. However, the results are in: Target’s system is a win.
  2. Omnicare – This organization creates software for pharmacy administration, essentially serving as a third-party helpdesk. Omnicare felt its employees were great in the area of expertise but that the average interaction was too long. To create a more efficient workplace, Omnicare put a leaderboard in place and started giving monetary prizes to the speediest reps. Again, it’s easy to see here how quality of service can take a hit with this model, a lesson to ensure you don’t prioritize speed at all costs. In fact, Omnicare’s model had to be modified because it was a disaster. The revised model used “non-cash incentives” and provided more open-ended goals, such as helping 3 customers on a particular day with billing-related issues.
Gamification is being used increasingly by businesses to engage both customers and their own workforces. The cloud provides the speed and agility necessary to successfully implement applications that optimize play and competition in real time. An organized and creative plan at the outset is paramount, as is learning from the successes and failures of other companies.

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