Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Gamification of ECM and the Role SharePoint Plays

imageThe concept of Gamification has been going on for a long time. I suspect it has been a factor in the oldest profession for a very long time.

As much as I don’t like the word “Gamification” I think the time is right to talk about how ECM systems and how the businesses they support can be improved by applying concepts developed using Game Theory.

Why Gamification? I’m pretty sure even people practicing the oldest profession were keeping score and probably having some fun with it at the same time.

Just in case you are wondering what the oldest profession is … it’s probably NOT what you are thinking. It’s Sales!

As in the classic movie Glengarry Glen Ross … sales is a game. Business Processes are also a game. Maybe not in the same Zero Sum Game results as too many sales efforts often turn out to be, but in the sense that every process and every effort involving the human touch can be changed* by adding Gamification. As I wrote about here Competition is a Good Thing – there are benefits to competing.

*Note: I didn’t say improved --- that is still to be determined.

To this end ECM is part of a business and drives business processes. A lot of ECM processes involve humans. I submit that these ECM processes can be changed (and perhaps improved) by adding Gamification. These Gamification efforts are not necessarily exclusively aligned to making work fun, rather they should be used to drive corporate performance initiatives too. I do think that both the aspects of Fun and Corporate Performance need to be included in overall mix when considering adding Gamification.

First of All … What is ECM?

ECM is Enterprise Content Management. The traditional definition is generally limited to the documents (paper and electronic) that every organization must deal with in order to run their business. My old(er) definition is here which I will be updating soon.

The newer definition includes all content that effects and affects the enterprise. Which includes everything from the traditional paper and electronic documents to data that lives within the Line of Business (LOB) silos and all the internal and externally facing Content Management Sites (CMS) which includes web sites, intranets and more. Also, in the new world order of ECM the Social Media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, YouTube, et al) need to be accounted for too.

Second … What is Gamification?

imageGamification is the application of game theory and game principles to a process or practice. 

As mentioned above I’m pretty sure it’s been going on in the worlds oldest profession for a long, long time.

Gamification is the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts in order to engage users and solve problems.[1][2][3] Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness, and learning. via Wikipedia

Why does Gamification work?

  • People are naturally competitive
  • People do like to know where they stand in comparison to others in a given business process (even though most would deny it … they want to know!)
  • It’s fun!

How Can SharePoint help with Gamification?

SharePoint does a lot of things. ECM is one of them. As part of their ECM efforts the SharePoint team has made it easy to add rankings, voting, and other reputation management aspects. With the purchase of Yammer I predict that SharePoint (and Microsoft) will become much more tightly ingrained into businesses by using Yammer’s Social and Gamification capabilities.  I wrote about the implications of a Yammer powered SharePoint and Microsoft here and here.

imageSharePoint has more than a few things in it’s favor that make it perfect for Gamification. I predict we will see a lot more uses of SharePoint with built-in Gamification … especially with the new App Model of SharePoint 2013.

Why? Because ….

  • SharePoint is widely available – Meaning ALMOST EVERYONE has access to SharePoint
  • SharePoint is extensively customizable.
    • Key Point - The best SharePoint sites don’t look like SharePoint and aren’t called SharePoint sites. See and the SPS.CloudApp sites for thousands of examples.
  • SharePoint is Pervasive. Almost every business on the planet has the rights to deploy SharePoint capabilities by the mere fact that they own a Windows Server license.

Using SharePoint as a platform and foundation to build solutions it’s very easy to apply game theory (aka Gamify or add Gamification) to processes. Whether it’s for complicated roles or more mundane roles … I think we will start to see more Gamification of SharePoint based solutions.

SharePoint isn’t the only Game in town

Beyond SharePoint there are other players getting in on the game (pun intended). Including Box, Alfresco and even the bigger players like EMC’s Documentum, IBM’s FileNet and even behemoth SAP. Box is one I really like to watch because Aaron Levie and his team are making ECM Fun … as I wrote about here in The ECM Industry is Alive & Well.

Corporate Performance and Gamification

While I’m pretty sure most corporate CxO’s don’t sit back and think of how fun they can make work. However, I do think they sit back and think about how they can impact the overall effectiveness of the business.

Do they think about the term Gamification? Not likely.

Do they think about how they might be able to increase employee satisfaction while at the same time improving operational efficiency? I think the answer is yes.

To this end Gamfication can be applied to ECM.

  • Gamification can help every role, even those seemingly mundane roles, become part of the bigger picture.
  • Where every person in any role can impact overall corporate performance.
  • I predict there will be a lot of process improvements that come as part of this effort.
  • At the root of it all … process improvements might just be the ultimate (yet unstated) goal of Gamification.

The Big Question is … Are companies ready for it?

Are companies ready to embrace Gamification?

What do you think?

  • Is Gamification in the ECM industry a viable idea?
  • Is the ECM industry ready to embrace Gamification?
    • Are companies ready?
  • Will employees, managers and management commit to the effort?

Drop me a note or comment here. I do want to know what you think and to start a dialogue. Who knows … maybe we’ll even make a game out of it?

clip_image001Jeff Shuey is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet, K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.

Follow me on Twitter, check my blog, send email or find me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+

Image Credit: Ted and Jen


Karl Schulmeisters said...

Respectfully Jeff, I disagree on your interpretation that "us[ing] game thinking and game mechanics" is primarily about "competition". Or that Sharepoint+Yammer really enables "gamification".

The hallmark of "game mechanics" is an immersive experience - one in which both intellect, senses and emotions are harnessed together, as opposed to a purely intellectual exercise. Its the difference between looking at a Heat Map in the abstract vs. that Heat Map being an input into something you are emotionally connected with.

Similarly "game theory" can be as much about cooperation as competition (consider the well known "prisoners dilemma" as well as the more esoteric "Nash Equlibrium" best explained in the dating/Bar scene of the movie "A Beautiful Mind" ):

Applying "game theory" to the "real world" then is about offering experiential guidance on alternative strategies OTHER THAN standard "enlightened competition" to the addressing of decision making in an environment of incomplete information.

Sure Sharepoint can be a place to instantiate gamified environments, but I really don't see how Yammer+Sharepoint really make that big a difference. When it works, gamification is a powerful tool. But reducing it to simply "more visible competitiveness" I think misses how difficult it is to create an environment that is compelling enough to change the existing forces supporting and driving existing business processes.

Christian Buckley said...

I tend to agree with Karl here. While there are attributes of gamification within SP and Yammer (likes, ratings, leaderboards, ability to personalize for users), they really only scrape the surface of the category. More to the point is that thy offer platforms to employ gamification techniques, with the goal of tracking user behavior on one side, and then offering features to encourage certain behavior and elicit deeper engagement.