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When Developing Gamified Apps for Business, Avoid the Disruption of Processes at All Costs

Could employee productivity and mobile games be a match made in heaven? When done correctly - absolutely. Gamification - the use of game mechanics and psychology to drive a set of specific desired behaviors - is a legitimate motivational technique that will undoubtedly be the future of business productivity

According to Gartner, 70% of Global 2000 businesses will be using a gamified app by 2014. Spotify and LivingSocial for instance, already use a mobile gamification app to replace annual reviews for employees. The app has a 90% adoption rate and reduces a significant amount of resources and personnel required for conducting interviews. With badges for recognition, constant feedback, and goal tracking, the app also contributes to their company culture and productivity.

There are already several companies focusing on the role that games play in driving business efficiency. For instance, SpringShot, a mobile gamification startup, specializes in mobile worker productivity platforms for service companies. Their mobile platform assists service companies in recruiting, training, directing, and motivating frontline service workers via user-friendly mobile applications.

Developing a Seamless Gamification Platform

How can a mobile app make tedious tasks like filing expense reports or undergoing a performance review more engaging than they currently are? In the end, it comes down to developing a seamless experience.

Due to the ubiquity of mobile apps and devices, the average employee is much more technologically literate than previous generations. According to a recent Pew Research report, more than 60% of American adults own smartphones. We are now faced with the reality that a majority of employees have informed and legitimate expectations regarding the usability of apps. If rewards, recognition, and transparency are lackluster and don't effectively track an employees efforts, they're far more likely to view the app as an intrusive means to monitor productivity.

By balancing behavior management with legitimate rewards and acknowledgement, users will flock to the app and incorporate it into their daily workflow. If a factory floor team is monitored for efficiency in terms of number of units produced, reward them for exceeding optimal production with an hour towards paid leave. Or in the instance of a flight crew cleansing a cabin, award the fastest team with an incremental bonus for the hours worked. To optimize the apps impact, developers should incorporate transparent components like leaderboards, social sharing, rankings, and notifications to alert workers about what rewards are on the table.

Pushing the Right Buttons

In a blog post by Lee Perry exploring the importance of feedback in the game development process, Perry sheds crucial insight regarding game development and functionality, "Simply pressing a button has to be an experience people want to repeat. It's what makes a game addictive, intoxicating... it's the recipe for a game that "feels" right."

Usability and user experience (UX) are core principles that guide functionality, interface design, and interactivity for mobile app and web designers. Gamified apps especially must meld directly into a workflow; If it hinders processes rather than optimizes, an entire gamification implementation may fail. A best bet would be to plant developers within the business environment to observe workers.

Consult directly with stakeholders in management as well as those on the ground. Go so far as to forget about technology for a day and focus completely on observing business operations. Once developers understand the nuances of what employees go through each day in that specific business or industry, it can carry over into their design mockups and lead to an app that rarely gets in the way.

Ultimately, gamified apps that resonate with their user base allow management to more precisely measure productivity, performance, and the outputs that are crucial to managing workers. The more users engaged with the app, the wider the dataset and the more accurate the insights.

Strength in Numbers

Fusing certain best practices from gamified consumer facing apps is crucial to the successful development for businesses. Mobile workers already benefit from Waze, a gamified traffic and navigation app which allows drivers to report traffic incidents for a real-time view of road conditions. For road warriors, Waze saves time and contributes to lower fuel costs, less time on the road, and reduced wear-and-tear for vehicles as well as lower stress and road rage.Traffic reporters can only be so effective, similar to how traditional management and employee monitoring has its limits. Waze functions optimally because of mass engagement.

Users interact with the app because they benefit from real-time crowdsourced updates when others do the same. This same mentality carries over to enterprise gamification apps. If employees see that engaging with the app leads to better work experiences and useful rewards, increased adoption and engagement is more likely. Gary Belsky frames the idea of gamification in the workplace as "Six Sigma meets crowdsourcing", and he is right on-point. Crowdsourcing harnesses the actions of the masses to further the effectiveness of an action.

Gamified apps at their best, can contribute to employee moral while boosting mass operational efficiency. And yet the practice is still largely exploratory - the effects of even preliminary trials show the baseline value of such systems. Over time, expect the trend to pervade the business community - especially with the mass proliferation of mobile devices into the hands of employees globally. Armed with tiny devices designed for quickly completing singular tasks, you can be sure that in a few years your bonus will be determined by how many points you received for completing TPS reports.

Devanshi is the COO of  Icreon Tech.

Originally published on Gamastura.