Gamification: Round 2

GamificationThese things go in predictable cycles: Somebody has a transformative idea that gets a lot of press. In five years, futurists are making dramatic predictions about how the idea will rapidly transform corporate culture. Five years after that, they’re all trying to explain why it didn’t.

Gamification is riding that wave today. Ten years ago it was little more than a broad concept, an inspiration to apply the instant feedback and rewards incentives of gaming to everything else—consumer apps, productivity software, back office, anything—in order to make consumers more engaged and workers, especially those who grew up on video games, more productive.

By 2011, the Gartner Group was predicting that more than half of organizations that managed innovation processes would gamify those processes by 2015. Less than two years later, Gartner was saying that four out of five gamification applications were failing to meet business objectives because they were designed poorly.

Those of us who had been around for the identical boom-bust-remorse cycle for ERP experienced déjà vu. And in gamification’s case, the backlash hit before a mature approach to achieving gamification had even had a chance to evolve.

Failure to meet hype shouldn’t kill a good idea

Since then, a lot of the steam has gone out of the gamification craze, and the reason is both ironic and funny: Companies jumped into the game because it was trending, then bailed when they found out the game was difficult, and that they could lose it.

Whether adoption rates are rising or falling, the core concepts of gamification remain a great idea for a wide variety of applications, including education, banking and many more… even truck driving. But it’s not an easy win. There’s not a lot of historical overlap between game designers and business application designers. The game people have never needed to understand business goals, and the business people typically have little understanding of the rich, complex universe of game theory and application.

Successful gamification of a business process requires a rare breed of developer with a foot in both camps, like some of our top designers here at Nitro.

Another reason gamification projects fail is philosophy. Companies set out to create games that perform a business purpose, but that’s not really the objective of gamification. The proper aim is to create a gameful experience that drives ambition, through the same intrinsic motivators that appeal to us when playing actual games—elements such as feedback, rewards, a social community and a sense of achievement.

Getting gamification right at that level is less a matter of technology than of imagination and vision—more art than science. And at the technology level, a highly flexible platform is needed to enable developers to rapidly, reliably convert imagination to action.

Right designers, right environment

Nitro’s deeply flexible middleware platform and best-in-class mobile development and integration technologies provide a habitat ideally suited to the development of imaginative, attractive, addictive gameful experiences that transform routine tasks into worker obsessions.

But there’s another aspect to gamification that absolutely demands the scalability and any-system integration possible only through middleware: Big Data. Companies that have gamified successfully, especially for consumer applications, are reaping big Big Data rewards from information about user preferences and habits culled from interplay with gamified applications, and now forward-thinking companies are looking to do the same with business processes and even employee applications.

Big Data is all about scalability and processing power. Collecting and making sense of the valuable data generated by gamified applications takes a platform that can get that data into and out of the best systems for dealing with it, and that takes a middleware layer that can hook anything to anything.

Right now, there are highly successful gamified applications in the field built on Nitro’s platform, and designed with Nitro’s gamification expertise. The pundits calling “game over” are calling it early. The game is just beginning.

About the author:
Pete Slade - CEO of Nitro Mobile SolutionsWith more than 20 years experience in software development and strategic businesses practices, Pete Slade’s mission is to help enterprises streamline and optimize their business through technology innovation. With expertise in a range of technical operating systems, languages and databases, Slade works in concert with Nitro’s development team to offer clients superior products and services.

His experience as a technologist, talent developer and business strategist has resulted in Nitro Mobile Solutions being named “Technology Company of the Year” by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, one of the top 100 small businesses in America by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and earning position #248 on the Inc. 500 list for a three-year growth rate of 1,797 percent.