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  • By Graeme Routledge
  • In Blog
  • Posted 13/02/2017

Being a long time gamer, rooted firmly in the console generation, the concepts of applying game mechanics in business make a lot of sense to me - a technique known as gamification.

Typically applied to affect behaviour, you’ve probably seen and perhaps experienced gamification as a customer or employee of many successful companies. Basic examples include loyalty card schemes, in which you collect points for rewards, and bonus schemes for hitting individual or group business targets. These techniques take advantage of our natural human thirst for clear attainable goals and to be recognised and rewarded for achieving them.

These behavioural examples have grown more sophisticated and complex as they are intertwined with our customer experiences and digital social fabric. I’ve been both bemused and impressed with recent marketing campaigns that have caused adult men and women to flock to retail stores in search of rare digital monsters, sport brands that have encouraged zealous exercise regimes as their customers attempt to top their social circle performance charts, and children proactively doing their homework to obtain credits to spend on sweets and school rulers.

However, coercing behaviour is just the start. Having a background in data analytics and control systems design has led me to believe there is also a higher use of game design in business that is currently being overlooked.

Running the Business like a Game

I’ve been in management for many years and have continuously been subjected to conflicting priorities, shifting market dynamics and a lack of access to the data that would make my decisions clearer, problems easier to solve and direction simpler to communicate. All of these traits can be found and are made effortless within management style simulation games (EA Games FIFA, Simcity, Clash of Clans, etc), in fact, if this wasn’t the case, some of these management/kingdom builder type games would be quite laborious and unenjoyable. So how can these traits be moved from the game world into a business environment and context?

Designing a User Interface, not a Dashboard

I believe this concept starts with its user interface (UI). The UI is the key to provide mechanisms for both;

  1. Understanding the current state of your operations
  2. Directing and affecting future actions to achieve desired outcomes

The former is quite common - most companies use some form of dashboard or reports to visualise information on the current state of business and inform management planning processes. The concept of having a meaningful dashboard that contextualises and summarises business data to report performance metrics and alert potentially important conditions is not a novel concept, but all too often they are flawed, missing realism and are too abstract or disconnected from the real pulse of the business. Most importantly, they lack direction beyond basic key performance indicators (KPIs) and do not connect to the business vision and ambition.

Take the below example of a typical sales performance dashboard. Granted there is little story behind this dashboard, but it is the norm for business data to be surfaced and analysed in this manner.921-dashboard.jpg

Now take a look at this screenshot from a game called the Sims. The information is surfaced with more context, more depth and is far more engaging.922-sims.jpg

Connecting Actions to Dashboards

The example above exposes available actions to the user in the bottom left corner. This addition represents the next step in gamification of business - aligning insight with the ability to make decisions, generate work or progress business towards its vision.

At the moment, most of us rely on our general communication platforms (email, phone, etc) and some progress has been made with disparate business execution systems, but there is an opportunity for an application that acts as a single control hub across all these systems.

So many may ask; Is this just integration of our business process and execution systems (work order management, ERP, CRM, email and other data and systems tools)?

In my view, this is most definitely an objective but not the answer. The heralding of Industry 4.0, availability of performance data and the connected nature of business assets means that the information required to inform current state operations is much more available, but it still doesn’t surface it in a way that is easily consumable. Managers require a single interface for this combined system view - an interactive model, or digital twin of the business, augmented with business insights and designed to accomplish long term goals based on company strategy, in other words, an end game.

Business consultancies have for several years been acquiring marketing agencies to lead improvements in customer experiences and provide creative flair behind business strategy. I would not be surprised if they now turn their attention to game developers in an effort to design better integrated solutions that aid management in the execution of their vision.

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