Gamification Of The Enterprise – post SAP Teched 2011 thoughts and actions

I am a big fan of innojam – despite the pain of sitting through hours of mandatory speeches (after all the sponsors need air time in return for their money and time).  Once we got through the speeches, I had an idea for an enterprise game which I jotted down , and deposited in my pocket. And since I was pretty bored and hungry (ok..and thirsty)  by that time – I looked around, and readily found a bunch of mentors who were ready to go get some dinner. It was the best dinner I ever had at a Teched – and when dinner was over, we were all pretty much psyched enough to go make gamification work.

Actual software part took very little time – between the group we knew HANA, BI 4.0, ECC and so on. And we had some very creative minds who mocked up data, created facebook pages and so on. And then we went around the room,  giving a hard time to other teams. Despite my thick Indian accent, my team “gamely” put me up to go present in front of the judges. We did ok but did not win. I don’t think any one felt bad – we just had more beer, cheered for the winners and went on to the next fun Teched activity.

Once Teched was offer, I started thinking about the possibility of making gamification work in a real business scenario. Since we had more than 10 applications to choose from the innojam – and since we had it on video, and since the memory is still fresh in my mind – I thought why not use these as examples. So I actively checked with people who had an hour to talk to me. I let them watch the video,  explained in more detail – and asked them if this was in real life, will they do it.  Out of 6 people – 1 consultant, 2 power users, 1 IT manager, 1 Solution Architect  and 1 VP level executive –  I got 4 NO and 2 MAYBE as answer.  I tried to give them all the talking points that the gamification keynote speaker used – but still could not convince them that this is useful.  I will try to do this exercise for another week, and see if I can get 4 or 5 more people to sit down and talk to me .

In short – here are the general themes that came out. I am sure I missed a few since this was not a structured survey or anything.

1. I have real games that I like. Why won’t I just play those like I do today?

2.  I don’t want my employer using this to game me. Is this another way to exploit me?

3. Will this lead my team to have unhealthy competition? or will they get carried away and use it to skew real business results ?

4. What happens when they get bored with this game? will productivity drop? What will it cost to keep building new games etc? Can I measure ROI? Even if it works – is there a big upfront change management investment?

5. How can I define a game? I have colleagues in 4 continents and what appears like a game to me might end up as an insult to one of them. Is it worth the trouble to deal with it?

6. With economy not doing well, aren’t people motivated enough to do a good job now? Why bother tinkering with regular business models now and take a chance? Contrary to what consultants tell me – my business has not actually changed fundamentally. is this a way for you guys to skim more money off my company?


There are three possibilities I can think of here

1. I did a poor job explaining gamification to these people – since I only know what was conveyed to me a week ago at Teched.

2. The examples at innojam were not enough to resonate with these people

3. Gamification is just another buzzword, and even if I explained better with nicer examples, people will not buy in.

Till I talk to a few more people, I am not going to make any final judgment for my own case. But the questions that came up are all good ones in my opinion.  As always – I am all ears to hear what you folks think.


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

12 thoughts on “Gamification Of The Enterprise – post SAP Teched 2011 thoughts and actions

  1. Vijay, very nice writeup. Yes, i agree that Gamification is a buzzword that is just thrown out there for no reason. At the end of the day if you think about SAP as a transactional system, should my finance people earn badges based on how fast they complete their invoices? I don’t know… After being out of the SAP space for about a year now, I see that there are some interesting ways to use gaming, but I just don’t see it being effective in corporate settings. Funny thing is that the consumer space has moved so far ahead of the enterprise space that there are so many things that you can do to enterprise software to make it more user friendly, or make it more “Google-y”, and let the users love using the enterprise software. Right now, the general consensus is that enterprise software sucks, why can’t it be more like Google, or Facebook, or the iPhone?


  2. Hi Vijay

    First of all, I’m glad to hear you had fun at InnoJam 🙂
    Regarding your take on gamification: had you interviewed me, I guess I would have come up with similar points. You know, I play games online. Most of the time it’s Fifa Soccer, this really gives me the kicks. I am thinking about giving Pro Evolution Soccer another try this year. But I wouldn’t consider spending time on my SAP-provided “solve the magic HANA puzzle” game instead. At work, the most rewarding tools for me are the ones that let me do a job quickly and without any hazzle.
    But then: At InnoJams – and in any setting where you compete by impressing a jury or audience – we totally overdo it. Gamification is not really about letting your work feel like you’re playing a game so you work harder for less and feel happy about it. It’s the subtle things that enterprise software developers can borrow from game designers to make their software slightly more engaging and less frustrating. E.g. the points you earn on SDN are a gamification element. But for your readers, it’s a valuable indicator for your knowledge and experience. Or concepts of guiding a new user through “first levels”, so he/she will never have to read a manual. There’s a number of elements we can just learn from good computer games. And I guess that’s what stays once the “Gamification” hype settles…



    1. Hi Juergen – i sure had fun at innojam. And many thanks to you and Anne and everyone else who practically stayed there all night to help us through.
      Our conversation during the innojam marathon was one of the highlights of my Teched this year. I should have engaged you more on this topic while we spoke – missed opportunity. But glad you shared your perspective here.

      I agree with you – first we need to let the hype die. Then we can see what enterprise developers can actually borrow and use from their gamer buddies. Till such time, we can write blogs, listen to keynotes, have more conversations over beer and so on 🙂


      1. definitely no “missed opportunity” then. See you in Madrid, and I look forward to all you feedback – on HANA, InnoJam, Gamification and whatnot. Positive or super-critical. Let’s just make sure we all hear it. I’ll better write it down, I know how I react to sangria…


  3. Thanks for sharing your experience with the gamification theme. I unfortunately was buried in traditional activites and didn’t get to enjoy mental game it was. Entertainment has invaded other aspects of our lives like hours a week of TV/iTouch/gaming have gone up. No better example than entertainment’s take over of US/Global News. In this case it has been catastrophic, but why couldn’t “work” have aspects of “play” and still be productive? You don’t have to worry about people boring of a specific game, if the concept is proftable, it will evolve similar that of PS3, Xbox, Wii, more games will apprear, more investments will make it continually better. I guess I worry if we play vitrually at work do we ever stop and at what point touch reality? Will we spend our waking hours stuck in a fantasy land?


  4. Fascinating analysis! I’d prefer to talk with more power users, but instead of talking to them about the concept of gamification (which sounds like using psychology to exploit them), I’d give them before and after examples of a process that’s been gamified to achieve some goal.

    To me, gamification is just another way to look at user engagement of enterprise software. Overdone, or poorly done, it will be a passing fad.

    Also, I suspect a deeper understanding of gamification would have us looking at it from a collaborative point of view. How do you inspire WOW type “guilds”, and allow them to set up their own competitions? Is there another kind of achievement than just climbing the hierarchical corporate ladder? These games already exist in the corporate world (or should) – maybe our systems should assist them. This doesn’t sound like exploitation to me. It means I just might enjoy my job more 🙂


    1. Thanks for commenting, Greg – much appreciated.

      Explaining the theory is a bad idea – I agree. But I did it only after the videos of the game prototypes didn’t make an impact on these folks 🙂

      Maybe we need a few gamified apps from SAP to prove the concept before people “get it” – or atleast for me to get it


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