Gamification of Enterprise Applications – Applying Gabe Zichermann’s Six Rules of Gamification

In my first post in this series I discussed some of the issues that enterprise applications have from a usability and engagement standpoint, as well as the key fact that the users of these apps are inclined to be motivated, both intrinsically and extrinsically, to use them. In the second post, I described an enterprise product planning application – Accept360 – that will serve as a “testbed” for applying gamification ideas.

As a refresher, the key usability and engagement issues mentioned in the first post included:

  • A choppy experience
  • Lack of flow
  • Rigidity
  • Lack of feedback to the user on whether he or she is doing a good job
  • No ability for a user to get advice or guidance in-context from another, more expert user
  • No ability for a user to be recognized as an expert

Now, in this third post we’ll start from Gabe Zichermann’s six rules of gamification and see how we can address the usability and engagement issues in the context of our sample application.

Gabe laid out his six rules in a blog post in November 2011 as guidelines for people working on gamifying applications (not necessarily enterprise applications):

  1. Understand what constitutes a “win” for the organization/sponsor
  2. Unpack the player’s intrinsic motivation and progress to mastery
  3. Design for the emotional human, not the rational human.
  4. Develop scalable, meaningful intrinsic and extrinsic rewards
  5. Use one of the leading platform vendors to scale your project (don’t roll your own)
  6. Most interactions are boring: make everything a little more fun

These rules are great, and I don’t think you can go wrong with applying them to any application to get better results and better engagement. However, I think for the purpose of our enterprise application example, we can reformulate the first rule a little bit to talk about “the user,” rather than “the sponsor.” After all, as discussed in part 1, we’re talking about a tool that motivated professionals are using (and disliking, typically) to do a job they are motivated to do. So we don’t have to consider directly what the organization considers a win, we can consider what the user considers a win – by definition that’s something that furthers the interests of the organization.

Focusing initially on rule #1, “Understand what constitutes a win for the user,” we can think of a lot of opportunities for user “wins” in a typical enterprise app – things that users cannot accomplish easily, but which a game-inspired redesign can enable. At a high level, of course, simply getting through their job is the big “win” for our users. But making the process of getting through the job better will constitute the smaller wins we’re looking for:

  • Getting out of their way, that is, “don’t make me jump through hoops to do my job.” This relates to the issue I listed above of a “choppy” experience, where you have to navigate back and forth through lots of screens to achieve a goal
  • Let me know how I’m doing and where I am – how much work is left to accomplish this goal, am I close to “good enough?” How much more to get to “Exemplary?” This is like the progress bar in games like WoW that tell you how many more experience points (XPs) you need to get to the next level. And which is missing in pretty much every enterprise application.
  • Making it easier to complete a process that I do every now and then, but I have to relearn each time – this could involve a wizard-like interaction that provides context-specific guidance for completing the task effectively. Some applications have wizards, but they are often provided for the tasks that one does regularly, which means they are actually obstacles once the user learns the application and uses it regularly.
  • Guiding and structuring collaboration on a process that requires multiple people to complete. Of all the “win opportunities” this is the one that is probably best handled by existing enterprise applications. Because the workflow of information is often a critical business requirement, many enterprise applications incorporate a workflow approach.

Each of these activities constitutes a “win” for the user.

In the next post of the series we’ll continue our look at applying these rules to improve enterprise applications. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts, questions, and concerns so far in the comments.

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