This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Gamifying IBM Connections

The enterprise social software gets an option to make the onboarding process fun and competitive.

If you have been to any sort of IT conference lately, you've surely heard that gamification is coming soon to an enterprise near you. The latest announcement, "Level Up for IBM Connections," is a good example.

Tom Murphy wrote about gamification recently, noting how it is moving into the enterprise space from its original beachhead in business-to-consumer marketing. Gamification refers to the addition of game elements such as points, challenges, missions, levels, rewards, and leaderboards to software whose main purpose is something other than gaming.

Gamification makes perfect sense in B2C, where the goal is often to encourage the customer to spend more time on-site (or in-app, in the case of mobile), and to engender positive emotions about a brand. Engaging the user in gameplay is a good match to those goals. But where does gamification fit into the enterprise?

The area that springs first to mind is sales. The competitive and peer-pressure aspects of games played in teams are a natural fit within many sales organizations. And the metrics that define success in sales are easy to quantify -- leads generated, leads contacted, sales closed, that sort of thing -- so the analytics are straightforward.

A company called Bunchball, which Tom mentioned in his earlier post, calls itself the leader in gamification. Their Nitro platform has been in development for four years; it is used by more than 100 B2C companies such as Warner Brothers, USA Network, Playboy, and Wendy's. Bunchball is now leading the charge for gamifying the enterprise.

Their first foray was Nitro for Salesforce, introduced just a month ago. This sales motivation application uses points and levels, with real-time statistics, to engage sales teams in competitive missions. The goals are set by sales management. Leaderboards apply peer pressure within teams.

The second easy fit for enterprise gamification is in training. Tom paraphrased Bunchball founder and chief product officer Rajat Paharia as he spoke on a panel at the Enterprise 2.0 conference: "For example, you could gamify the onboarding process for new employees, giving people incentives to learn business processes."

(Click to open larger image.)

Level Up for IBM Connections
This is exactly what Bunchball has done with IBM, which sponsors this site. Level Up for IBM Connections adds fun and competition to the onboarding process to boost uptake of the enterprise social software.

Employees play through a four-level structured learning process to familiarize themselves with the available collaboration tools. They learn how 27 specific tasks are done in IBM's enterprise social software -- such things as update profile, join a community, or create a wiki. Nitro includes deep analytics capabilities by which managers can develop insight into employee skills and behavior.

"People resist training like going to the dentist," Rajat Paharia told me in a phone interview. When the training that employees work through is fun and consistently engaging, Paharia says that both adoption and expertise levels will benefit.

Level Up for IBM Connections will be demoed at IBM's LotusSphere conference beginning today. Paharia said that the Nitro integration has not seen much hands-on user testing so far -- in fact it was developed over a period of several weeks preceding the conference (this is a testament to the maturity and agility of the Nitro platform). Paharia is looking forward to feedback and suggestions from LotusSphere attendees.