I've been working in the interactive gaming and gamification industry for more than four years now, first as the founder of a now-defunct start-up focused on developing interactive training games, and most recently in enterprise gamification. It’s been gratifying to see this idea become a topic of considerable interest--and research--in 2012.
The majority of what has been done with enterprise gamification has been about marketing and customer engagement. But I believe that we’re poised for an gamification revolution inside the enterprise that will take the largely unrealized concepts of social collaboration and create the engagement metaphor that will, finally, help companies achieve these lofty social/collaborative goals. This revolution will also provide some payback on lofty investments many have made, users and vendors alike.
[ For more on enterprise gamification, read SAP Plays Games With The Analysts. ]
The bottom line as to why enterprise gamification will enable real social engagement and collaboration is this: Our existing enterprise business culture and its processes and technology have left us ill-equipped to support the kind of ad hoc collaboration that we need in order to take business efficiency and effectiveness to the next level. Nor are we able to use new social media and collaboration tools to force fit this requirement into the enterprise. Why? Because, fundamentally, we don't know how to collaborate in this wild world of unstructured, ad hoc, highly interactive, always-on and highly virtual people-to-people-to-enterprise connectivity.
We don't just need new technology but new kinds of processes in order to meet these requirements: Enterprise gamification will show us the way.
In the old world of ERP-based transactions, business processes were largely proscribed – either by regulation, law, or practice. This made it relatively easy to design and build a process for, say, invoice reconciliation, that, while perhaps boring and inflexible, was proscriptive precisely because there was a process that had to be followed to reach a desired outcome. This ability to define processes led to the growth of the enterprise software market that we know today: proscriptive, repeatable processes codified in packaged software. That's been the state of the market for over 20 years.
In the new, post-ERP, post-transaction world, we've discovered that trying to harness the potential for human interaction and collaboration can't be based on neatly proscribed processes, because real human collaboration simply doesn't work that way. Indeed, we often cannot begin to fathom what the process would be to, say, collaborate on building and maintaining an enterprise knowledge base, mostly because to command that it happen, the way we command that invoices be processed according to GAAP rules, is neither possible nor desirable. You simply can't order your way to a truly collaborative process.
Rather, when looking at the post-ERP requirements of the 21st century social/collaborative enterprise, instead of proscribed processes, we have desired outcomes. This notion of outcome becomes the focal point of a collaborative process the way transactions were the focal point of classic business processes. Thus, an outcome might be something as basic as "better customer service" or "better cross-business unit collaboration," but in either case outcomes start with two basic characteristics: that lack of proscriptive process I just mentioned and a conviction that an outcome can benefit from collaboration between different stakeholders, if only there were a collaborative process in place to make that happen.
The notion of outcomes has two more essential characteristics that need to be understood: they have a genuine value to the enterprise, and that value can be turned into a KPI that hopefully can be measured in some fashion. Gamification, it turns out, is ideal for analyzing and reporting on these values.