For Serious Business Training, Nothing Beats Computer Games - InformationWeek

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2/23/2009
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For Serious Business Training, Nothing Beats Computer Games

Cost savings and better retention are behind growing adoption of "serious gaming" for business training.

Game play shows the effects of the player's choices on a simulated business, its partners, and its customers, says Boinodiris. A version 2.0 upgrade to be released in May supplements courses in BPM, Corporate Strategy, and Operations and IT Management, adding new simulation scenarios covering supply chain, traffic management, and call center processing. The smart supply chain scenario teaches students how to optimize costs and improve efficiency while also capturing "green" concerns. The smart traffic scenario is aimed at government planners of traffic infrastructure and congestion management, and it teaches the use of emerging tracking technologies such as RFID tags. The call center scenario teaches smart customer service focusing on customer retention and other key metrics. User avatars navigate a virtual space populated by a collection of typical corporate characters, encountering and solving business puzzles and problems.

"IBM is big on using customer stories to drive software development," says Sandy Carter, IBM vice president of SOA and WebSphere strategy, channels and marketing. She cites online vendor Zappos.com as one of many IBM customers that influenced Innov8 development, adding that the 2.0 release takes BPM training simulation "from a university setting into the business mainstream." The upgrade is to be supplied at no cost to selected business customers as well as to the company's academic affiliates. The new version will be downloadable, replacing the current CD distribution, with an online version programmed using Flash.

Here you go.

American Public Media's 'Budget Here' game lets participants choose how they would balance government priorities.
American Public Media's 'Budget Here' game lets participants choose how they would balance goverment priorities.
(click image for larger view)
IBM is one of many developers of learning games, and BPM is only one of many areas of application. American Public Media's online Budget Hero game, developed in cooperation with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is an entertaining and instructive government budgeting simulation that anyone can try (click on the "Budget Hero" screen shot at right).

More than 160,000 people have played Budget Hero, according David Rejeski, director of the Wilson Center's Foresight and Governance Project. An analysis of nearly 15,000 player sessions concludes that Budget Hero provides "a new way of engaging the public on serious and complex public policy issues," Rajeski says. "That engagement can tell us important things about how people are thinking about these issues."

A key point is that the cost of reaching people drops inversely to the number reached, "which changes the economics of engagement," Rajeski concludes. It's a case where the software model has big advantages over the fixed-cost model, and that's the big reason why corporate adoption of gaming is on a fast track. Given training-cost savings, expanded reach afforded by computerization, and demonstrated effectiveness, serious games have a promising future in the enterprise.

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