Last weekend I watched my friend’s 2-year-old son swipe through her iPhone to find his favourite video clip. I realised then just how much the future of business applications will need to change in order to keep the future generation of iBabies engaged.
Game dynamics have long been used to build loyalty in brands and to encourage behavioural trends. From supermarket loyalty cards to gold stars for homework, what makes games engaging on computers is proven to work in ‘real life’ too. This is what’s known as ‘Gamification’.
It is not a new concept, far from it, but it’s potential use in enterprise applications, and even business processes, is now being realised. Users no longer only have exposure to software applications at work. With access to hundreds of thousands of ‘apps’ at the tap of a smartphone and a proliferation in attractive, yet functional web design, users expect more. Add to this the ‘coming of age’ of those gamers weened on Atari’s and Sega’s, who now unwind after work with their Xbox 360s and PS3s, and it’s clear to see that there is a wider acceptance of the notion that fun does not necessarily mean unprofessional.
Of course, I’m not saying that we can turn any application into a game, but I think the rules for games can also be applied to enterprise tools. Dynamics such as ‘see our progress and get rewarded’, ease of use, intuitive attractive interfaces and customisation can all be applied to business applications.
The opportunities for these dynamics in enterprise tools are endless and they can create a lot of advantages for companies and people:
- Reduce Costs: Applications built with the aim of teaching a person to use it without them feeling like they are learning could save considerable sums on training costs, as well as easing the transition to the new tool.
- Encourage Knowledge Sharing: From utilising Facebook-style ‘Like’ buttons to rewarding prolific sharers with titles (‘Expert’, ‘Know it all’ etc…), game dynamics can encourage people to share their knowledge regularly.
- Boost Productivity: Whilst most apps won’t need to go this far, a Finnish company Microtask created a web based application called Digitalkoot (http://www.digitalkoot.fi/) to encourage data entry on a massive scale – The digitisation of a museum’s archive. So far ‘players’ have completed nearly 5 million entries, simply by getting moles across bridges made of words. By making the input method more fun, it is likely that productivity rises.
These advantages are not the only ones, far from it –what people could get from it comes in all shapes and sizes.From encouraging achievement via competition to inspiring creativity.
So what does this mean for business? It means a shift in paradigm. Enterprise applications needn’t be grey-toned and require weeks of training to use. They needn’t be a chore to work with either.
Gamifying applications is all about engaging people better and encouraging ‘blissful productivity’ – this will improve life for both employers and employees.
And the great thing about gamification? It can also be combined with other upcoming technology such as Xbox Kinect and augmented reality. Indeed, these technologies themselves are a clear example of the blurring of lines between work and play.
While not everything should be gamified – some things just wouldn’t benefit from it – the future looks to be a little more aesthetically pleasing, and, dare I say it,fun!