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Gamification: Not Worthwhile For Enterprise DAM?

by Naresh Sarwan on December 4, 2012

This post by Chirag Mehta discussed the role of Gamification with special reference to enterprise applications.  For those who has unfamiliar with the term, Gamification means the application of gaming techniques to create more engaging user experiences.  Chirag argues (correctly in my view) that flow and a simple, uninterrupted user experience where the application appears to the end user to ‘just work’ and enables them to more naturally complete tasks is a superior technique to Gamification:

Application designers have traditionally ignored flow since it’s a physical element that is external to an application, but life and social status extend beyond the digital life and enterprise applications. You get to be known as that finance guy or that marketing gal who is really awesome at work and helps people with their problems to get work done. Needless to say, helping people and getting work done are intrinsically rewarding. Help these people with their core activities and make non-core activities as minimum or transparent as possible. If I am hiking, make my drive to the trail head as easy as possible but make my hike as rewarding as possible. That should be the design principle of how you integrate flow into enterprise applications.” [Read More]

An earlier post by Chirag from April last year contains a more detailed critique of Gamficiation when applied to enterprise software (like DAM systems).

The fundamental reason behind poor adoption of the enterprise applications is that they are simply not easy-to-use and they almost always come in the way to get the actual work done. In many cases, they are designed to be orthogonal to the actual business process that it is supposed to help an end user with. Also, in most cases, these applications are designed top-down to serve the needs of senior management and not the real needs of end users e.g. a CRM system that helps management to run pipeline reports but doesn’t help a rep to be more efficient and agile. In cases where broader adoption for enterprise applications is required, it is typically achieved via a top-down mandate e.g. annoying reminder emails to fill out time sheets. The end users don’t see themselves as a clear beneficiary of these applications.” [Read More]

I would have to agree with Chirag’s points in both articles.  As he says, I can see a role for Gamification in consumer oriented applications where the user’s interaction is more casual and fleeting, but for enterprise applications, it will quickly become annoying and get in the way of doing serious work.

I can’t help but come to the conclusion that a lot of the reason this topic is on the agenda is a “toys for boys” mentality that is prevalent in the IT arena.  Developers and engineers seem to love fiddling around with games and gadgets as a distraction from addressing more mundane (but important) tasks.  My guess is that Gamification assignments in most software companies that are involved with them get far more volunteers than jobs like fine-tuning the usability of some fiddly batch metadata manipulation feature or testing the latest database backups have been successful.

Perhaps for extremely minimal interaction tasks like educating infrequent users of a DAM system about something like when to use a given logo or brand asset Gamification might possibly have a specialist role.  That tends to be a rarer usage scenario, however, usually it’s about delivering the important assets quickly to infrequent users with a straight single click – and providing heavy DAM users (who typically spend many hours of their working day with one) with a range of ‘power tools’ to let them carry out batch tasks quickly and effortlessly.  As we discussed last month, the situation for production DAMs seems to have worsened in terms of capabilities offered in recent years and a big issue that DAM system designers will need to address is how to bridge the gap between the low-medium level DAM users with the more hardcore Digital Asset Managers who need them to be much more powerful.  Gamification isn’t going to solve that problem and, in my view, it may make things worse as the proponents of it endeavour to force it on to unwilling end users who just want to get on and finish a task off as quickly as possible.

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