Don't Screw Up Your Gamification Strategy

By Christian Buckley posted 12-31-2013 20:01


"In the past, the only things that companies were really measuring were transactional purchase data. And they were only measuring it from the consumers. But now you have all this other data. Every time somebody shares a link, posts a Facebook status update, buys a video, all that kind of stuff, it's all there and it can not only be used by your customers, but by customers, partners and employees who are all interacting and living in your systems."

Rajat Paharia, founder of Bunchball (via


Gamification is a fascinating topic amongst collaboration and intranet specialists, as it promises to help solve some issues surrounding end user adoption and engagement -- a critical factor in the success of any collaboration platform. Gamification is not just about adding games to work activities, but is the broader field of behavior analysis through loyalty and motivational techniques, measured and constantly fine-tuned to reward the right behaviors. An example I always use is the loyalty program at my local grocery store, which encourages consumer behavior by rewarding buyers with discounted gasoline and lower process. As a result of this gamification strategy, I am more apt to purchase groceries at that one location, rather than other stores that may sometimes be more convenient, because of the anticipated reward.


At recent events in Madrid, Spain, and in both Berlin and Stuttgart, Germany, I discussed the topic with various SharePoint user groups, and have made slides from my presentation available online via SlideShare (A Business Perspective on Productivity, Gamification, and SharePoint 2013).


In a September 2013 article entitled Playing Games With Developers, SDTimes editor Suzanne Kattau shares some sobering facts about the difficulties of getting a gamification strategy right. She begins by asking "Will gamification be short-lived in the enterprise due to unrealistic expectations?" That question sums up the primary problem with the space, in my experience -- everyone loves the idea of automating systems to drive employee behavior, but few then understand what it takes to build out such a solution, maintain and monitor its progress, refine as needed, and then measure the benefits achieved.


A November 2012 Gartner report predicted that "by 2014, 80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives, primarily to poor design." And according to Carter Lusher, independent industry analyst formerly with Ovum Research, "While gamification has the potential to be game-changing by encouraging positive behaviors, it also has the potential to fall flat on its face if seen as just a cynical move to manipulate behavior."


A sound strategy must first establish a set proper expectations -- be open with your team and employees about what you are trying to achieve, and work closely with them to develop the right solutions that will motivate the right behaviors. Your strategy must focus on end user objectives -- the desired behavior - and align with business processes. And it is also critical to align incentives and rewards with team and corporate culture, ensuring they will truly motivate your team. For example, many sales reps are driven by leaderboards (another gamification technique) with highly competitive rewards by day, week, month, quarter, and year,  but that strategy may not span other parts of the company (marketing, operations, engineering) if your goal is to create programs across the entire company.


According to Brian Burke, an analyst at Gartner Research, there are a number of issues that a company must consider if designing a gamification strategy, including "gaming the system, forced participation, and adding work to the work." If gamification is a method for measuring adoption and engagement, then avoidance of the gamification tools or systems should be a clear signal that something is not working. Burke continues, "Gamification is not about video games: it is about motivation." So if your metrics are showing that people are not motivated, it may be time to modify your gamification strategy.

#enduser #Adoption #gamification #engagement #Collaboration #SharePoint #social #Collaboration #Motivation