In previous posts in this series I started by asking “what is the goal of gamifying enterprise apps?” Is it to make them more fun, is it to make them more engaging? The answer is “neither” – the goal is to enable the users to be more effective or better at their jobs. Making applications more fun and engaging is a plus but it should be a side effect of enabling users to be more effective. The fundamental driver behind this concept is that the users of enterprise applications are already motivated to do a good job – that’s why they have the job in the first place. And the problem of enterprise applications isn’t that they’re not engaging enough or fun (although those are problems). The problem is that the applications typically make it hard to get the job done correctly or right or easily. This isn’t good for the users or for management.
I then laid out an example of an application that I’m very familiar with, Accept360, that will be a good testbed for some ideas about gamifying enterprise applications. And then in my previous post on the subject, I listed out Gabe Zicherman’s (@gzicherm on Twitter) six rules for gamification, and started to work through how those rules applied to the example application.
Now we’re on to the next step: to start applying some game mechanics to our example app. Again, not to make the application more fun or more engaging, although those are desired side effects, but to make the application support the goals of the users to get the job done well in a more effective way.
What are some approaches that we can take as a first step to making this application better at helping people get their jobs? As Mario Herger has said, “Even the s***ty stuff leads to double digit changes [in engagement].” And even though engagement is not the goal, it is a good tactic that will have impact on improving the quality of work that’s done with the application. So let’s start with a very simple addition, in fact, what’s usually the first step. We’re going to put a point system into the application. This is also the approach that Gabe Z uses in his book, Gamification by Design – he starts with adding a points system to his example.
What shall we reward points for? There are a lot of activities of people do in the application that are either considered good in general, or are indicators that the user is doing something useful. These are activities like:
The primary benefit of points is to encourage individuals to use the application, and the use of different point values for different activities influences their choices as to where they spend their time.
But in addition to encouraging use, I have two other ultimate goals in gamifying Accept360: 1) encouraging and promoting collaboration between users and 2) promoting quality work, by pointing out and featuring excellent examples of the work products of the application – which means requirements, product plans, value propositions, and all the other types of elements that can be created within the application.
We’ll combine points with the mechanism of badges as the approach to achieving those two goals. To encourage collaboration, I can reward users who initiate collaboration, using a set of “collaborator” badges. And I can reward users who provide expertise with a set of “expert” badges. I want to encourage users who need help to ask for it, and more importantly, to know who to ask.
So for each of the activities, we’ll specify one or more badge series to which the activity contributes. For example, if you participate in a conversation about a feature, you are working on your Collaborator badge. If you create a new requirement, you are working on your Author badge. If someone votes up something you wrote, you’ll be working on a Expert badge. If someone marks one of your items as an example, you’re working on a higher level Expert badge (perhaps the “Master” badge).
This also requires adding a few more activities that are directly related to collaboration and becoming an expert:
So, summarizing what we have so far. We have a points system in which the following activities are rewarded:
And then we also have a set of badges or recognitions that you work toward as you do the desired activities, including the following series:
That’s all we have space for in this post. There’s obviously one key piece of data missing so far, which is how many points do each of these activities get you? And we also need to explore how you build up enough points in the badge categories to get the badges. I’ll cover those in the next post in detail.
After that, we’ll need to come up with a few UI approaches for displaying all this new data – the points and badges, as well as leaderboards, at minimum. Then we’ll playtest these settings to see if they have the desired impact. We’ll take up that discussion in future posts, and start talking about more advanced ways in which to increase engagement, which are more than just “slapping points” onto existing activities.
For one thing, we’re going to talk about turning certain activities into actual mini-games or puzzles. For example, one of the things that people doing product management should do is create what’s called a “value proposition” about their product or release. But this often doesn’t happen, and this is because value propositions are somewhat difficult to write, even though there is a canonical form, and they are extremely valuable when creating marketing materials around the product, or indeed, in deciding what features to add to the product and which ones to defer or drop.
So, a mini-game around the creation of value propositions will give users a fun and engaging way to do a task that they normally prefer to skip, despite its value. And by gamifying that task, users may even end up with higher quality results than they would have without gamified tool support.
As always, please let me know what you think in the comments, and feel free to sign up for my email list so you can get new blog posts in your email.
Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.
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