"We are not known for having compelling UI designs," Herger admitted in an interview. When working with an SAP application, "you work with it to do stuff you're required to do, but it's not as engaging in form as we'd like to see." The gap between SAP apps and the most compelling applications only seemed to grow wider with the advent of mobile phone and tablet user interfaces, Herger said. He began studying video games as a source of innovative user interface ideas and stumbled across the idea of gamification as part of that process.
Gamification is the application of game-like techniques for user engagement to applications that need not be games per se. In that context, SAP has already been applying gamification to some of its user experiences, such as the SAP Community Network, where the most active members are recognized with badges and placement on leaderboards. Since then, SAP has sponsored a series of gamification hackathons, first for its own developers and then for partners, in search of ideas for applying gamification principles to business application development.
Herger said SAP is evaluating Bunchball and competing products that provide a foundation for gamification apps, but has also custom-designed applications using the principles of gamification.
Bunchball's Paharia said SAP's interest is one of many sign of the rising interest in enterprise gamification. In addition to providing a gamification platform, Bunchball is preparing to launch its Nitro for Salesforce application, designed specifically to boost sales team performance.
In partnership with Adobe, Bunchball recently created the LevelUp game for Photoshop, which is designed to boost the conversion of users who download the free trial into paying customers. The challenge Adobe is addressing with this application is created by offering a full-featured image editing product with thousands features--an overwhelming prospect for a new user.
"The game walks them through a series of missions, where there might be five to ten things we want everyone to know by the end of a 30-day trail--things like how to lighten something or reduce red eye," Paharia said. The goal is to propel new users through the introductory tutorials quickly, so they will understand the basics and feel comfortable that they can learn the other features as they need them, he said. "If we can move the needle even a little bit on that conversion ratio, that would be huge."
Proving the enterprise business benefits is "the holy grail of gamification right now," Herger said. "The message, for me, is that gamification is not a fad, gamification is going to stay," Herger said. "It's just like social media--when it makes sense to use it, you will use it."
Ultimately, the benefits will have to be proven in the traditional business terms of additional sales or reduced expenses, Herger said. "If the side effect if people have fun, that's a side effect I want to have--I can live with that."
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