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Adding Gamification into the Oracle User Experience

 

Erika Webb

Author: Webb, Oracle Applications User Experience
Revised: Jan. 7, 2013
First published: January 2, 2013




The new buzzword in the business world is gamification. Recently, members of the Oracle Applications User Experience team have actively explored gamification and its uses in the enterprise work space. Team members have conducted research and run focus groups to better understand Oracle customers’ experiences with and interest in gamification.

 
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As an expert on gamification within Oracle, I have frequently spoken on the subject at Oracle and at several conferences, including the GSummit, a large gamification conference in San Francisco, and the Enterprise Gamification Forum, a smaller gamification conference in San Diego.  In May of 2012, my team developed and hosted a design event for 150-plus individuals to pitch the gamification concept within Oracle’s own user experience team.

What does it mean to incorporate gamification into enterprise applications? To answer that question, let’s first look at what gamification is, and where it is already being showcased.

Making Tasks More Fun in the Consumer Space

 
 
Gamification
     
   
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The term “gamification” means making real-life tasks more like playing a game.

The term “gamification” means making real-life tasks more like playing a game. The premise is that users are more likely to complete tasks if they are having fun. Gamification is about making the mundane interactive and exciting. For example, the fast food corporation Taco Bell has a consumer website, TacoBell.com. The corporation’s goal is to have consumers visit and spend time at its website. Users who go to the Taco Bell website looking for the calorie content of menu items are welcomed by two contests on its homepage. If users enter the contests and play the games, they stay on the site longer than they may have planned, and they get more exposure to the Taco Bell brand and the corporation’s brand concepts. The hope is that more time spent on the website will equate to more visits to Taco Bell restaurants, or at least additional visits to the Taco Bell website.

Airline loyalty programs provide another example of gamification. United Airlines, for example, rolls out the red carpet for frequent fliers boarding the plane, enforcing the idea that most people are motivated by status. By rewarding specific behavior, such as booking with United, which provides overt status indicators as well as other rewards, customers are more likely to book with United in the future.

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Photo by Martin Taylor, Oracle Applications User Experience

Erika Webb, Senior Manager, Applications User Experience, speaks frequently on the subject of gamification and the enterprise. In this photo, she is talking with members of the Oracle Usability Advisory Board at OpenWorld 2012 in San Francisco.

Research shows that these tactics work. People do spend more time on websites when there’s something that engages them. People do try to fly the same airlines because they get rewarded for accumulating miles on those airlines.

The previous two examples suggest the proven success of gamification in the consumer space.

Gamification Means Engaged Workers

“Playing beats working. So, if the enjoyment and challenge of playing can be embedded in learning, work, and commerce, then gamification will take off.”

Gamification in the enterprise work space specifically focuses on a company’s business goals and addresses how to keep employees engaged in their work.

Employee engagement is the degree or extent to which employees feel committed to their work and their organization. Research shows that engaged employees produce more than unengaged employees because they are more involved in activities that make the company successful. According to a Gallup poll from 2001, engaged employees are also less likely to switch jobs.

A number of market research companies have studied the engagement of employees and offer the following statistics:

  • Hay Group found that actively engaged office workers were as much as 43 percent more productive.
  • Towers Watson found that companies that have highly engaged workers have a 4 percent improvement in operating margins, while companies that have workers who are less engaged have a 2 percent decrease in operating margins.   
  • Kenexa’s KHPI group research claims that companies with engaged workers had shareholder returns 5 times higher over 5 years.
  • In an article in HRMagazine, Nancy Lockwood studied sales teams for the Society of Human Resource Management and found that the performance-related cost of low- versus high-engagement teams across a set of companies was more than $2 million annually.
     
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These two games on the Taco Bell website are examples of gamification.

Editor’s note: All logos and images remain the respective copyright of the original owners.
Companies care about the effects of employee engagement on their bottom lines.  So it makes sense for the Oracle Applications User Experience team to work on how to get employees, whom we call users, more engaged in their work. Gamification is one way that we can accomplish this goal. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, “Playing beats working. So, if the enjoyment and challenge of playing can be embedded in learning, work, and commerce, then gamification will take off.” That idea is influencing and guiding next-generation designs for the Oracle user experience.

Gamification in Call Centers

Call centers are one of the first places that gamification has been employed successfully. Call centers have a huge turnover rate among employees, and employee turnover is expensive. The Society of Human Resource Management, a research and resource organization devoted to human resource management, reports that the cost of replacing one $8-per-hour employee can exceed $3,500, so companies have a strong financial incentive to hold on to an employee—even those who are not highly paid.

Live Ops, a call center outsourcing firm located in Redwood City, California, has added gamification to its training and employee work tasks. The company rewards employees for things such as the time that it takes to complete a customer service call and the level of customer satisfaction. Live Ops showed a 23 percent improvement in call metrics, compared with employees who were not using the reward system; 9 percent greater customer satisfaction rates; and reduced training time from 4 weeks to 14 hours. Other studies have suggested that companies can reduce the turnover rate at a call center from every 3 months to every 6 months. These numbers are compelling when a business looks at its bottom line.

Gamification in Sales

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) organizations focus on sales activities. Companies buy CRM tools in order to better track and understand the activities of their sales forces. Companies want to know who the sales team is talking to within a company, what they are talking about, and what techniques are closing deals. However, sales representatives view entering information into CRM tools as time not spent selling, and because their income is usually based on the sales that they are making, time working when they are not selling is time wasted. One of the ideas that the Oracle Applications User Experience team is examining is how to gets sales teams to want to use the CRM tools provided by their companies.

Digital Natives: The Next Generation of Users

The young people who have grown up in a technology-rich, internet-filled world—those referred to as digital natives—are yet another reason why companies should care about gamification. The digital native’s world has always been filled with technological interactions, and such interactions and devices have greatly influenced the experiences and expectations of this generation of employees. Digital natives expect immediate and frequent feedback. They expect to know how they are doing at whatever task they are performing, and they want to know what will happen next. They have experienced measurement and reward in a different way than older generations of employees or users, and they believe that their work life should fulfill these expectations.

Digital natives constitute a generation of workers who have been playing video games their whole lives. They have come to understand the underlying mechanics of games and the reward and feedback structures of such games. Because they are the next line of workers entering the workforce, companies need to be prepared for their expectations around work and technology. Applying gamification to enterprise applications is one way to address the expectations of this emerging audience.

Kick-starting Gamification Design at Oracle

In the spring of 2012, the Oracle gamification team conducted a design event for 150 people who were either part of the Oracle Applications User Experience group or were invited guests. The group was divided into 15 teams, each composed of a mix of designers, usability researchers, managers, and others.  After a review of gamification principles, each team was given an application workflow. We asked the groups to think creatively and out-of-the-box.  Each team was given a set of tools to use and three hours to “gamify” the application workflow.

To make the event even more fun, the Oracle gamification team gamified the event itself. Using an application that we built for the day, we awarded badges and points, and showed leader boards and information boards. The idea worked. Team members were actively engaged in the process and the level of creativity was apparent in both their faces and their designs. At the end of the day, we held a contest to present and award prizes to the team that came up with the best gamified application workflow—a qualification decided upon by peers from among the group. The best design was a gamified version of a new hire, or “onboarding,” application workflow. This design not only gamified the existing flow, but also found unmet business goals. The team realized that the application workflow could be used to increase the new employee’s awareness and engagement with the rest of his or her new team, as well as to assist the manager with securing resources for the new employee before that employee started work.

The point of this event was to get our fellow Oracle team members inspired about gamifiying in the enterprise work space. Now, the Oracle Applications User Experience team has employees working on the gamification of workflows and tools in Human Capital Management, CRM, Financials, social media, and more. The Oracle Applications User Experience team continues to test these ideas with customers at user group conferences.

Visit the Usable Apps Events page to find out where you can join a focus group or a customer feedback session on gamification in the coming year.

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