Is gamification a business fad gone too far?

Given the fact that gamification is so clearly based in consumer technology, it can be difficult to make the leap to how it may work for the likes of an ERP system or operational control software.

When one looks at ‘typical’ gamification elements – virtual currencies, badges, competitions and progress bars – they seem more Facebook than factory floor.But look again. Some, though not all, of these elements fit incredibly well into modern business computing and solve real issues.

Firstly, the concept of including games as part of business software – especially end user training – is not new. My company has used a game to train people in supply chain network design modeling for quite some time. It is a great way to see to instantly see the cost, customer service and environmental impact of your decisions on where to locate plants and distribution centers, without a university lecturer in logistics standing by.

Secondly, techniques such as leaderboards, trophies or badges are already in place in many departments. It is simple enough to transport these techniques to operations and begin to rank suppliers – publishing those rankings to encourage healthy competition.

These leader boards can be based on a wide range of characteristics, rather than just on time delivery. For example, the ability to provide advanced shipping notices, offer vendor managed inventory programmes or exchange order and supply information electronically via the web, could all be rewarded with a higher ranking.

What business wouldn’t want its suppliers striving for recognition and pushing its way up the leader board? And incentive for those suppliers who look like they’re not going to make the cut?

Progress bars also offer low hanging fruit. Take the example of co-manufacturers who may be using different ERP systems to develop components that are then integrated into a finished product. Each co-manufacturers ERP has different levels of ‘completion’ – because they have different levels of comprehensive, accurate data that impacts upon the quality of the output.

Progress bars showing that level of completion could become a quick visual reference that highlights the source of delays or problems.

Whilst most finance departments would groan under the weight of managing a virtual currency, the development of a points system that can be used to secure rewards is common place in many industries. Chances are you carry an example – the Tesco Clubcard or Nectar card – in your wallet.

Many larger companies with extensive travel already participate in such schemes via frequent flyer miles or hotel rewards systems which benefit both employees and the business.

However there is very little to stop this initiative being extended to other departments. And in this case, points might not make prizes, but they definitely lead to collaboration as teams come together to bargain and barter.

If this all sounds a little far-fetched, consider that the consumerisation of business computing is already underway. Businesses are demanding that the software they use is as easy, quick and intuitive as the software they have on their laptop, iPad or PC at home. Boundaries are blurring and in some cases have already come down. Gamification is just another example of those dividing lines being rubbed out.

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Andrew Kinder is director of product marketing at Infor. He is charged with setting the strategy, determining focus industries, aligning forward development direction and driving global execution through marketing and sales enablement for advanced ERP and supply chain solutions.

  • Great overview of gamification, however the title is a little deceiving based on the content. I believe you are correct in pointing out that many companies use gamification and most of us would be surprised to realize how-wide spread it is today.

    Unfortunately a lot of these implementations are custom, with every company creating their own systems to support it. There are only a handful of companies providing easy to implement system to bring gamification to the enterprise – of which we are one. You’re also dead on when you say that it isn’t far fetched to think that other areas of business can benefit from this new tool.

    Our Agile Management Product, RedCritter Tracker is an example of how gamification such as points, leaderboards, rewards, and ribbons can all come together to increase team communication and cooperation as well as create a more engaging workplace. Video overview here http://vimeo.com/25905793