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3 heavyweights give gamification a go

Tam Harbert | Sept. 19, 2013
Think gamification is just a gimmick? NTT Data, SAP and Accenture beg to differ, and they've got the ROI to back up their stance.

Both Hsu and Kaukonen stress that gamification is just one component of Accenture's overall program to encourage participation and collaboration, part of a broad initiative of change management.

Lessons learned: Hsu recommends that companies think carefully about what motivates people as they add gamification. Consider not only what will interest them initially, but what will keep them engaged. Extrinsic rewards might work at first, for example, but if there's not some kind of intrinsic reward that comes from participating, then interest can quickly wane, he warns.

Gamification dos and don'ts

Although Gartner expects gamification within enterprises to start taking off, it also expects some significant bumps along the way. For example, the research company predicts that next year, 80% of gamified enterprise applications will fail to meet their business objectives.

More often than not, the failure will be due to poor design, says Gartner researcher Brian Burke. Often companies design the game to achieve only the company's objectives (such as better trained salespeople), without any regard for the individuals playing the game (salespeople won't play the game unless there's something in it for them, too). And sometimes the objectives aren't defined at all — neither the company's nor the individual's.

"If you don't know what you're trying to achieve, you're unlikely to achieve it," says Burke. Instead of having clear-cut goals, companies will say, "'Let's try this,' and then they look at the results and declare that a success," says Burke.

To avoid those kinds of pitfalls, follow these tips from analysts and early adopters:

-- Start with extrinsic prizes and rewards — such as a $100 gift card for BestBuy — that have allure to newbies, but then add and eventually transition solely to intrinsic rewards like peer recognition and career enhancement. NTT Data found that intrinsic rewards, such as being tapped for new assignments, were more effective at getting and keeping experienced employees engaged. "These are things that you can't go out and buy in a store," says NTT Data CTO Imran Sayeed.

-- Include elements to encourage cooperation over competition. The game can turn ugly when people's competitive nature kicks in and they race each other to achieve status. To address this, NTT Data started including "share-only" points. These are points that one individual gives to another individual for being particularly helpful.

-- Start small and then iterate. Accenture started by gamifying just a handful of elements in its online community, gradually building up to more than 30.

-- Make sure to reward quality, not just quantity. One way to measure quality is by proxy, looking at how much influence that person has, similar to Klout, says Thomas Hsu, executive, global social collaboration at Accenture. Don't just look at how much an individual posts on an internal social site, but who's reading it and how much conversation it generates.

 

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