Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Game mechanics in the Enterprise software

It boggles my mind how we still tolerate all the incredibly stupid apps (B2B or Enterprise software in general) that we use at our workplace everyday. While consumer apps have shown us what Web apps should look like in the 21st century, enterprise software, even the ones that are currently being built (might I say in the process of re-platforming- from Mainframe to Java / .Net), are still in the dark ages. There are a few reasons for these,

1. Strict adherence to specification, hence no room for innovation,
2. Strict focus on correctness of features rather than usability & user engagement,
3. Fear of challenging status quo,
3. Generational gap (not in literal sense) between the people (developers) who work on enterprise apps vs who work on consumer apps.

Recently I came across a few posts by Brad Feld on the same topic dubbed as Enterprise 2.0. These posts are a bit dated (in 2007/2008). It is now almost the end of 2011. I guess Enterprise is not quite social yet. I would still agree with Brad that the Enterprise software is ripe for disruption more now than ever before. However, I would look at this disruption from a different perspective- usability and engagement than social. In consumer space, apps became social (interaction with friends) first before they became usable and engaging (through game mechanics). While making the enterprise software social (interaction with colleagues; see what I mean here) may seem interesting, I contend that it is not as beneficial as making these apps highly usable and engaging in and of itself using game mechanics.

Here are few trends in usability that enterprise software can easily adopt. Applying game mechanics on the other hand could be tricky and will require analysis of the domain as well as business goals. Nevertheless badges, points, voting,  recommendations, check-ins coupled with clever data visualization can be put together in a way to foster right collaboration and coopetition among employees (in other words encourage right behavior) to achieve business goals faster. In fact, enterprises can tweak these elements in a way to encourage a work culture that is unique, and thereby gain competitive advantage.

Are you using any application at your workplace that has these features already? Or are you currently working on a project where you are going to implement / experiment with some of these features? Or, I would love to hear how you would incorporate game mechanics in the apps you use at your workplace.