Winning at a game of productivity (Published in The Business Times Singapore)

The link to this article on Business Times is no longer available. Here is on link to a cross syndicated site.

Here is the article reposted for my readers,

COMPANIES often dangle incentives and benefits in front of employees in order to motivate them, but one tech specialist is betting that the same concepts used in video games can go a long way in boosting employee morale and productivity.

Suhas Kelkar, BMC’s chief technology officer for Asia-Pacific, leads the firm’s global innovation and incubation effort. He researches trends that are coming up on the horizon several years in the future and expects game concepts to be a big feature in a few years.

He told BizIT: “We are anticipating that gaming will affect enterprise software in some ways and particularly in the aspect of employee engagement,” he says. He adds that there is a link between the feeling of achievement and pleasure that people derive from video games. “People get hooked onto them and there are certain game mechanics that you can borrow.”

For instance, BMC has a “ninja club” for its programmers, where different grades of “belts” are awarded for different achievements and completing tasks. The status that is eventually attained by the expert-level programmer comes through genuinely going through the rigours of getting new skills. It’s elusive to the rest, and best of all, it is free of charge.

Mr Kelkar: ‘In a way, the enterprise software world has
been separate from consumers till now. But new users
have different expectations of (how) our enterprise IT
should work.’

Using a call centre example, he says a typical metric used to rank customer service officers is how many tickets they resolve. “But people get burnt out, so what if we’re able to create different tasks for different months, to keep it interesting?” he says. One month could see a prize going to whoever resolves tickets the fastest and the following month the award could go to a staff member who gets the highest customer satisfaction rating, for instance.

This concept isn’t science fiction; plenty of vendors are using it to alter and encourage certain behaviour traits with users. Mr Kelkar pointed to Nike+, a range of equipment from the sports manufacturer that tracks a user’s workout history. The data is connected to the users’ social networks in order to allow them to compete with friends and win digital accolades.

Codeacademy, an online educational portal, uses the game concept of dishing out awards and ranks to users who come on its site to learn how to write code.

Foursquare, a successful location- based social network, also handed out little in-app badges to users for using it often enough, preventing users from abandoning it like many of its networking app peers.

BMC creates enterprise management software, so it’s easy to see how the multinational firm is keen to see if game concepts should be worked into its products.

Still, it’s more than just buying a new software from a vendor to get these benefits, Mr Kelkar cautions. “It’s not difficult to implement, technically, but it’s hard to figure out what you need to do, how to embed that into your processes,” he says. Once employees feel that the goals and incentives in the “game” are trivial, the entire concept is defeated, he adds.

Why have these concepts only come up now more commonly, when the mechanics of games is far from new? Mr Kelkar says he thinks it’s how mass-accepted video games have become, especially with the availability of games on social networks like Facebook, and in inexpensive apps on smartphones. “Last time, if you could afford one, it was limited to just the Nintendo set, for example. Now, the platform and access is irrelevant,” he says.

“What we see is that a lot of consumer trends eventually affect the enterprise. So the more quickly (enterprises) can adopt trends, the better aligned they will be with new workers coming in,” he points out.

For now, “gamification” isn’t on the average CIO’s radar, he says. “They have much more urgent problems like cost pressures and keeping up with demands. But the trend will hit in about two to three years with software makers at least.”

He added that a lot of start-ups are coming up with game-driven products for customers. “In a way, the enterprise software world has been separate from consumers till now. But new users have different expectations of (how) our enterprise IT should work.”

New users, he said, are more accustomed to the do-it-yourself mode of finding answers online. They will expect that to be something they can achieve at work if they encounter issues with software, by going to a website, rather than have to call someone.

This accessibility is flowing right to the top, where CEOs are being pressured to blog, or to be part of chat streams. Being able to send an instant message to the CEO immediately dissolves the hierarchy in the company and this is changing the way workers communicate bottom-up, he says.

Still, it has to do with what comes naturally to employee behaviour, he repeats. “If you force users to create an ID and log onto the company social site, it will fail. It has to be something seamless.”

And in Asia, the needs are slightly different, so BMC will tweak its social aspects to suit the region, he says. He notes that Asians are generally more reliant on mobile phones and there is a younger workforce here, so they are helping to drive early adoption of some of these technologies.

“Unlike markets like Europe, which have stricter rules, Asian countries will see pockets of adoption that will further drive region-wide take-up,” says Mr Kelkar.



One Response to Winning at a game of productivity (Published in The Business Times Singapore)

  1. Great innovation to build gamification principles to drive BPM , Social Support within Enterprises!

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