What is this gamification thing anyway?

If you look closely you’ll see that gamification is actually all around us in our everyday life. From collecting points at your local supermarket, to achieving “mayor” status on foursquare, gamification is ever-present and it’s growing. It’s a way of shaping our behaviour, building brand loyalty, and then rewarding us for it. Put simply it’s a method of applying some of the typical concepts of game playing with traditionally non-gaming activities.

But despite this prevalence gamification is an often misunderstood word and concept. To some it’s a rather childish attempt to bring “silly” games to serious business issues – just another passing fad, whereas to others it’s a modern method of engaging, motivating, and rewarding staff for going beyond the call of duty – galvanising teams to do better, to achieve more. For the record, we fall into the latter camp.

It’s no secret (at least internally here at Sunrise) that we’ve been wary about labelling ourselves as having “gamification” functionality. This term can have just as many negative connotations as it does positive. At Sunrise we use the term “gamification” to represent just part of a wider service desk personal incentive programme to engage, motivate, recognise effort, and reward employees for their contributions to the business. Yes it’s true that on its own the ability to achieve and compete with peers can be a novelty, and just as likely a passing fad within an organisation if it doesn’t have the correct structure and buy-in, but as part of a wider framework of employee motivation and performance management, it’s just as valid a tool as a formal appraisal.

As a developer of a platform-style service desk we’ve essentially introduced a non-prescriptive gamification engine for processes managed within our software. This can be designed and implemented as each of our customer’s see fit and supports any service desk processes. Using these gamification features companies can build rewards and introduce competitive concepts that work for their own culture and for their “players”. These rewards can be based on very tangible statistics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as service level performance, customer satisfaction scores, bounce rates, escalations, and first call fix rates. This is not gaming for gaming’s sake, this about shaping behaviour towards achievement of the KPIs that matter to the operational effectiveness of service desks.

But it’s not just the service desk that can enjoy gamified processes. Any supporting ITIL processes can also benefit, from problem management, change and release, to contracts and supplier performance. We want to be known for providing the gamification tools that allow companies to offer rewards and healthy competitive challenges within their service desk processes. Over time, it will be interesting to see how effective the results are, and where the main operational benefits are derived.

So don’t think of gamification as some kind of cheapening of “the serious business” of serious business. Think of it as just another tool in an organisations armoury, allowing them to better manage, motivate, recognise and inspire their teams to work towards the shared goals of the business.

Let’s play!