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July 18, 2011

Gamification for Improving Software Adoption Rates

If you are unfamiliar with the term gamification is essentially a way to describe the incentives and rewards used by software vendors and organizations to encourage the use of their enterprise software applications and stimulate innovation. It is a great way for software entrepreneurs and innovators to increase their product’s popularity.

The idea is that gaming works as incentive because it provides a challenge, offers exploration, self improvement and a chance to socialize. Gamification wraps these ideas up in an easy to learn/participate style resulting in more end-users participating. As more end-users use the software, the knowledge base increases and more functionality is learned. Ultimately, this will lead to greater utilization (adoption rates).

How Gamification Works

Gamification works because it makes software engagement and learning easier by capitalizing on basic human behavior needs to be recognized and/or rewarded. It is the same strategy already being used in games such as Farmville (70 million users) or Zynga poker.

In games, accomplishing predetermined tasks brings rewards or recognition (for example: name on a leader board, unlocking new challenges). Gamification uses many of the same ideas but applies them to non-game software applications.

One of the more unique aspects of gamification is that it enables users to participate in discussions, have their thoughts heard and become involved in pursuing innovation without the fear of office politics. It offers a wider platform for employees to show their skills and carve out a future for themselves.

Example of Gamification in Use

Gamification is not just a concept, it has been in development for several years. One example of how gamification is in current use is Stackoverflow. When users ask and answer questions they are awarded points. Once a specified point level is obtained, the user earns a badge that appears on their profile.

The earning of badges is just one reward. As point totals grow, users are given access to other features such as editing. Unlocking new levels is like getting a promotion at work, it brings greater recognition and value to both the end-user as well as the software provider.

stack badge rewards

Stackoverflow offers up to 64 badges that can be earned for a variety of achievements. Each badge recognizes different accomplishments of varying degrees of difficulty (gold, silver, bronze badges). The gamification of the site serves a very valuable purpose. As users gain badges, they earn a level of expertise and respect. Not surprisingly, a fair number of companies hire people based on their stackoverflow profiles.

jeff atwood badge

It is important to note that it is not just the end-users who benefit. Application gamification objectives may include employee feedback, idea generation, knowledge transfer or even social change. User engagement is critical for achieving the organizations goals.

Gamification Components for the End-user


The basic components of gamification include but are not limited to:

  • An online program with specified and clear objectives. All gamification challenges should be achievable within a set timetable.
  • Well defined rules of play. A level playing field for all participants.
  • A series of rewards and incentives for end-users that can be earned such as badges or lunch with the boss.
  • Online recognition of accomplishments. For example, the use of leader boards, rankings within group, points needed to next level and so on.
  • Leveling Up (once a series of awards has been obtained, the end-user levels up (newbie-advanced-expert-master). This opens functionality, tasks, goals as well as moderator and leadership opportunities.

Current Uses for Gamification in Business Application Software?

Gamification can be used for almost any purpose by an organization. Some of the more notable current uses are:

The first ever gamification conference took place in January 2011. The Cynergy, World of Workcraft video below discusses some of the opportunities that are developing to apply gamification to everyday business.

Increasing Adoption Rates

One of the biggest challenges of enterprise software applications is how to get the employees, or customers to make better use of the program and it’s features. The solution may be a combination of integrating handheld devices and the use of gamification.

For example, the purpose of CRM software is designed to pull together sales, client retention techniques and marketing together to squeeze the most revenue out of a client base.

In the past this has been primarily a PC/laptop based application. However, since almost every sales rep or account executive has a mobile handheld device it makes sense that CRM software be adapted to run on their handhelds.

Gamification can be used to encourage end users to record sales information, perform inquiries online or provide clients with the latest sales promotion in real time. Every activity can be included in gamification. Some gamification ideas may include rewards and incentives for completing training, client retention saves or number of clients engaged in new marketing promotions.

Sales reps are inherently competitive and cash driven. Some ideas that can be used once levels of achievement have been met include:

  • An increase in commission rates.
  • A special avatar next to their name on the online leader boards.
  • Unlocking new training modules
  • Trips, cash, event tickets as well as other typical incentive program rewards.

Gamification is a win-win for organizations. Increasing the efficiency of the sales process means that more sales call can be made. Other benefits include:

  • Lower turnover. Having fun at work is important to keeping employees for every organization. Lower turnover = lower training costs.
  • A more professional corporate image. A good image is priceless.
  • Lower administrative costs. Reducing paper flow and automating sales and marketing processes lowers labor as well as document costs.
  • Customer satisfaction. Faster sales time due to quicker online response and approvals means happier customers.

The Future of Gamification

The use of gamification techniques has exploded within the past year and looks to be one of the fastest growing trends in industry over the coming years.

The best part about gamification is that there are no rules for what it can be used for. What is clear, is that gamification represents an opportunity to integrate technology into business, alleviating traditional fears of change by making it easy and fun to use.

In fact, a recent press release by Gartner suggests that by 2015 more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes. If true, it is just a matter of time before gamification has found its way into almost all forms of business.

“By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.”

Source: Gartner Press Release 4/12/2011

Gamification Tangibles and Intangibles

As gamification matures into mainstream business, organizations will have the opportunity to reap both intangible and tangible rewards such as cost savings, a modern corporate image, better product marketability or expanded knowledge base.

One particular area of opportunity is the use of gamification to enhance employee training. With traditional training methods, employees are often overwhelmed at the amount of information thrown at them. This can lead to a slower ramp up time, poor performance and even staff turnover.

When set-up correctly, gamification will enable employees to step their training by unlocking new levels/training modules as they complete the tasks set forth. Each training module (quest) can be designed to be more complicated than the previous. Organizations
benefit from more effective training and employees benefit from a great feeling of accomplishment.

Tell us your thoughts on potential uses of gamification.

3 Comments on “Gamification for Improving Software Adoption Rates

Tom Zbaren
March 2, 2012 at 12:48 am

Stuart, excellent overview.  Thanks.  I’d like to connect and have your take a look at a news ramification series I’ve started to write

Mario Herger
July 22, 2011 at 5:33 am

SAP organized the Gamification Cup, having 12 teams working on demos for gamified business apps. Here is a description of all of them:

Stuart Smith
July 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Check out this video on how gamification is being used. Improving Sales

Comments are closed.