How gamification success is realised by focusing beyond the superficial

Adam Holtby, Research Analyst, Ovum

In researching Ovum’s upcoming IT Service Management Trends to Watch for 2014, it has become very apparent that gamification is viewed and leveraged by many vendors, both within and beyond the ITSM space, as an important and emerging performance management functionality.

The application of game mechanics and game theory to traditionally non-game contexts has increased significantly throughout 2013, and enterprise gamification is one of the key reasons for this growth.

In the consumer space, applications such as Nike+ have been leveraging gamification for some time and to great effect. The increased use of gamification in an enterprise context is encouraging, but for gamification to improve processes or enhance the capability of any solution, and subsequently the value realized by customers over the long term, vendors and customers must ensure that they look beyond the superficial.

The use of gamification in the enterprise continues to grow

The enterprise gamification space is really hotting up, and Ovum believes that IT consumerization is a key reason for this. The use of game mechanics by many popular and widely adopted consumer applications such as Nike+ has exposed people to the way in which intelligently applied game mechanics and game theory can help improve performance in a variety of different tasks and activities.

As the wider benefits of these performance-management techniques have become more widely known, gamification is increasingly being leveraged by vendors with an enterprise focus in helping manage behaviors around a variety of different disciplines, such as technology engagement and utilization, recruitment, and enterprise collaboration.

Ovum believes that this trend will continue to grow as education around gamification and its associated benefits increases, with a rising number of enterprise applications offering some form of gamification capability.

Vendors must be aware that offering only gamification capability is not enough

Ovum’s published case studies show that when applied and used effectively, gamification can have a huge impact on the success of a process, technology, or culture. However, the application of game mechanics to a solution is not enough. For customers to leverage value from any gamified enterprise technology or process, vendors must also deliver formal education about how it should be effectively leveraged, and more importantly, of the business result(s) that it will help deliver.

The exact benefits and nature of the way in which game mechanics should be applied will vary according to the context in which gamification is being used.

Ovum believes it is imperative that vendors educate customers less so about the superficial (points, badges, and so on) and more about the business benefits that these elements will help deliver. These include the ability to quantify both performance and specialist knowledge, as well as a means by which performance-related feedback can be delivered more rapidly, and a way in which strategic goals can be better communicated and made more transparent through the corporate hierarchy.

Vendors that offer gamification only as a product functionality enhancement without supplementing it with the relevant education are likely to be less successful than those that adopt this desired approach.

Enterprises should understand the business value that gamification functionality can help them realize

Enterprises investigating new technologies should certainly have an awareness of the gamification functionality offered by a tool (Ovum’s soon to be published report Gamification Request for Proposal will help enterprises build an understanding of the features that should be expected). Equally, if not more importantly, however, is building an understanding and awareness of how and where gamification will be of benefit specific to the use case in question.

Gamification can be a powerful performance-management mechanism, but only when applied correctly. A top-down approach is desirable. Identify an overarching business or IT objective and then work down through all of the components that will help deliver on this objective, and identify whether gamification is a mechanism that could help in achieving this goal.

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