Aligning the Approaches of the System Designers with that of the User’s Needs
- Introduction to the problem & background to the study
Wise use of business resources enable to leverage a firm’s financial health despite the challenges brought about by competition, technology and innovation, and other forces. As innovation and technological shifts demand pragmatic decisions for the enterprise, industry participants reposition their planning strategies and take advantage of the benefits offered by gamified infrastructures in order to create value for the enterprise. Strategic planning drives to a portfolio of approaches that position business decisions at the advantage of stakeholders. In sum, incorporating spending and value creation strategies to planning activities provide a strategic approach that maximizes the efficient allocation of important business resources over the affairs of the enterprise.
Growth sustained by emerging economies has brought unprecedented increase to regional affluences that are equally beneficial for all nations. The rise in the economic standing of countries has symbiotically pushed the trend of globalization of industries amidst normal business setbacks. Enterprises have to stratify coordination by maximizing the use of corporate resources through effective management of skills, mechanics, and strategies that will augment business performance. Global enterprise operations pose challenges to corporate operation due to distance, communication, and regional barriers. Gamified applications used within enterprises to facilitate efficient monitoring, knowledge sharing, collaboration, and engagement between employees results in the reduction of burden to enterprises’ stakeholders, whether financial or otherwise.
The evolution and acceptance of the term gamification, as basically applying to the implementation and use of game mechanics in a non-game context (Deterding et al, 2011; Werbach & Hunter, 2012), has become a cornerstone for gamified business solutions. A common employment of gamification is on the interactive design of systems that position to enhance motivation and engagement of the users to trigger change on behavior processes (Rapp, 2015). The goal of gamification focuses on the modification of interaction that regularly occurs between humans and machines and turns it to project motivating and engaging ones as used in non-game contexts (Marache-Francisco & Brangier, 2015).
Interest on the gamification applications recently brought tremendous acceptance as applied in the business domain. A basic goal of gamification is to provide motivation for people to change, develop their potentials, or drive innovation (Burke, 2014). Satisfying organizational goals instead of individual goals result to key problems that will harm the use of gamified solutions (Burke, 2014). Player’s motivations have to be addressed as a priority and incorporate them to become a primary consideration to design objectives (Burke, 2014, p. 21). Motivational factors used for gamification are based on needs and user desires to translate action and complete organizational tasks (Singh, 2012). As a way to motivate people, practical challenges are offered and encouragements are provided as progression by levels are attained in order to get users emotionally engaged for them to perform at their best (Burke, 2014, p. 16). To Broer & Poeppelbuss (2013), gamification improves the commitment of employees on the use of such systems. Gamification makes an attempt to provide inviting elements to technology by giving encouragement to enterprise users to engage in anticipated behaviors (Kumar, 2013).
To do this, Kumar (2013) proposes that designers should pay attention to user’s goals. Fernandes et al (2012) states that elicitation of requirements of the users is critical of the development cycle of any Information System infrastructure. On the other hand, there is a clear relationship between Information System Development and gamification (Monu & Ralph, 2013, p. 3). To clarify, procedures connect that desired behaviors towards the offering and acceptance of rewards is a clear Information System (IS) concept.
Gamification extends beyond the goals of satisfying the users, teaching them to perform at efficient levels, and effectively managing personal qualities to achieve maximum performance to the point of providing increased user engagement around these goals (Kumar, 2013, p. 529). In so doing, the designer positions the player at the center of the design and infrastructure development process to make the most out of the investment.
The press release by Gartner (2012) predicts that in a span of two years, 80% of the current applications having gamified elements and mechanics will fail due to poor infrastructure design. A close look at this prediction reveals misalignment in users’ needs and the application supplied by designers. This is largely due to the lack of knowledgeable design talents to effectively implement gamification concepts (Gartner, 2012). Liu & Santhanam (2014) argues that when systematic understanding of gamified solutions is reached, project failures are avoided.
As businesses are rapidly becoming virtual, knowledge sharing has become an important element to organizational sustainability (Teece, Pisano, & Shuen, 1997). Continued employee collaboration becomes an organizational strength and effective communication is a key factor for consideration. Team collaboration is faced with the challenge for the coordination of knowledge across business segments considering the nature that knowledge are distributed among members of the team (Faraj and Sproull, 2000). Jung et al (2010) argues that positive results of technology mediated cooperation are dependent upon the quality contributions of each individual member.
Under a player-centered design, Kumar (2013) outlines the basic characteristics of a successful gamified solution. Understanding the players’ needs mean understanding of their mission, human motivation, and the applicable enterprise gamification mechanics. Rauch (2013) argues that needs of users should first be defined in planning gamification initiatives. It is noteworthy to pay consideration to users’ needs to define the path of establishing a need-centered gamified solution especially for global enterprises. Kappen & Nackle (2013) defines an effective gamification model to be those applications that influence behavior through the use of engaging constructs.
The kaleidoscope of effective gamification as introduced by Kappen & Nackle (2013) is conceptualized to be represented by the effective gamification core. The core is central to the activities to be performed and applied by designers. The motivated behavior layer, as the first layer around the core is grounded by intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors that designers should focus on to understand users’ needs. Outside the first layer is the game experience layer which concerns the designers to integrate actions, challenges, and achievements that will be incorporated in the design process of the application (Kappen & Nackle, 2013).
The next layer is the game design process layer which basically includes the interface, mechanics, models, and principles to be applied to ensure user motivation. The last layer is the perceived layer of fun consisting primarily of the element of fun as applied in non-game contexts (Kappen & Nackle, 2013). With all the layers considered in the design of gamification platforms, a full illustration of the interconnectedness in the change of behavior is depicted (Kappen & Nackle, 2013, p 120).
The introduction of game mechanics to an actual job enhances the levels of employee engagement that are seen to drive better organizational results (Herzig & Schill, 2012). By understanding the user’s mission and having a clear grasp of the theories of human motivation, game mechanics can now be chosen specific to user orientation. Penenberg (2013) claims that the use of game mechanics facilitate to afford cheap labor while promoting quality service. In short, understanding user’s mission and surrounding personal motivation prior to the adoption of game mechanics can drive to the attainment of effective gamification.
Merkel et al (2013) argues that in the online experiment they conducted, the employment of game design elements – levels, leaderboards, and points significantly improved the performance of users as opposed to competence, perceived autonomy or intrinsic motivation. In effect, such experiment proves the viability of the promotion of the behavior displayed by specific users in contexts other than games (Mekler, Bruhlmann, Opwis, & Tuch, 2013).
Another consideration to the development of gamified solutions for enterprise challenges is the concept of localization (Rauch, 2013). Considerations for localization involve the effectiveness of the use of specific game mechanics acceptable across cultures and boundaries. A Reward offered in same degrees does not provide appeal to all regions and cultures (Rauch, 2013). Additionally, Rauch (2013) claims that Quests have to be customized to specific country and with consideration to corporate culture to be effective, and lastly, Leaderboards as the most adopted game affordance, are seen as not desirable to all cultures. In short, specific game design elements have to be user-specific and carefully studied to serve the purpose of their use to save important company resources.
Deterding (2011) outlines motivational affordances as those that provide motivation when object features and subjects’ abilities allow a subject to interact and be satisfied with a specific object. Need satisfaction theories explain that humans seek and continue to engage in motivational activities with consideration that needs are seen to be satisfied (Deterding, 2011, p. 2).When considering to gamify IS, transparent point systems have to be used because they form as the foundation of other game mechanics (Thiebes, Lins, & Basten, 2014). Giving of awards surprises users and they might be motivated to explore of the features of the IS software to find other hidden rewards (Thiebes, Lins, & Basten, 2014, p. 7).
In order for employees to achieve higher levels of engagement, gamified applications should be equipped with relevant game mechanics to bring employees towards a state of flow while working (Narayanan, 2014, p. 21). When work is too easy employees cannot maintain productivity and when work is too difficult productivity also suffers due to conflict in goals (Reeves & Reed, 2009). Thornton & Francia III (2014) claims that there is a need to match skill growth with challenge for the user to experience flow. Further, skill level should commensurately grow with skill to ensure flow (Thornton & Francia III, 2014, p. 18)
Narayanan (2014) outlines few game mechanics with their corresponding description and application. Foremost of these mechanics includes:
- Points for value received because of favorable actions done. Points are rewarded for maximum contribution made.
- Levels are rewarded to players who are showing value for cumulating points. Levels are represented by career growth aligned to competencies.
- Achievements are virtual or physical indications displaying an achievement/s. Employees are given “Best performer of the month” award.
- Bonuses are given for successfully completing core functions or sets of challenges.
- Combos represent rewards for the completion of a set of actions. Combos are given when an employee completes a given number of hours in training etc.
- Status refers to the rank of the user. An employee is given the opportunity to be promoted to a higher rank after a series of successful job performances.
- Ownership refers to a stage when players are able to create or control their personal characters. Employees are empowered to hold small groups to unleash the true worth of their potentials.
- Reward Schedules pertains to the delivery and timeframe mechanisms as a medium of the delivery of rewards. Employees are provided with guidelines in the giving of rewards to set as their point of reference in pushing their individual performances.
Similarly, Zichermann & Cunningham (2011) describe commonly used game mechanics that define guidance system design. These include, among others:
- Badges and Trophies is a basic game design element providing for tokens as the user progresses in performance.
- Levels measures the difficulty criterion designed to enhance user engagement all through the process.
- Points Systems measures the progress of the skill as the user transitions to game levels.
- Leaderboards have a bit of similarity with badges as to the provision of ranking system which is designed to motivate the interest users.
- Challenges and Quests can be attributed to an assignment task where users continually pursue to challenge their potentials.
Knowing who the users are and for what purpose a specific gamified application requirement is to be used will funnel the design criteria for the designers thereby saving time, effort, and resources.
- Statement of the Problem
Efforts conducted in favor of this research study position on the understanding of specific motivational affordances for use by designers in developing business gamification platforms to improve employee collaboration, employee motivation, and knowledge sharing within an enterprise (non-sales) operating under a global scale. By placing the user at the center of the design and infrastructure development process, needs and the overall user environment will be thoroughly defined through solicitation and collaboration before game mechanics are chosen for gamification platforms to enhance employee engagement. To do this, a qualitative research approach will be conducted through interviews and observations with a software company who are developing both the game mechanics and also the enterprise gamification platform for use by a global company in a non-sales application. The general purpose of the adoption of a gamification platform is to drive the employees of a global company to enhance employee motivation, employee collaboration, and knowledge sharing to improve overall business performance. This initiative will then be followed by a set of interviews to be conducted with the employees of a global company who will be the direct recipients of the gamification platform designed by the software company. These procedures are intended to test the efficiency of the mix of motivational affordances to specific user needs and characteristics.
The element of being an iterative IS software coupled with the scalability of the application is still present as they normally do in every development cycle and with emphasis on the increments gained in the process.
Derived benefits attributable to this research aim at the provision of knowledge and information to system designers on the Psychology aspect of the infrastructure development project. Put simply, by studying the proper matching of game mechanics to specific user orientations, designers will be in the better position to concentrate on the technical aspect related to the gamification initiative saving resources, time, and effort for the benefit of all the stakeholders.
- Practical purpose of the study
As predicted by Garner (2012), 80% of the design applications currently used in enterprise gamification systems will fail after two years. A basic implication to the statement of Gartner, Inc. is the lack of prior consideration to user’s needs and orientation. Failures in system design processes mean waste of organizational resources and the eventual negative impact threatening the overall health of the national economies. This is due to the foreseen decline in the income of enterprises as a result of the inability of the sectors concerned in addressing the salient requirements of effective enterprise gamification platforms. In effect, wastages in the use of organizational resources pose direct negative impact on the collection of taxes. Reduced income potentialities basically translate to lower tax collections by states.
This study is concerned with the finding of the solution to fill the gap of research on the study on motivational affordances as used by system designers to enterprise gamification platforms particularly for internal organizational usage of global enterprises. By studying different game mechanics, collaboration, employee motivation, and knowledge sharing to overseas counterparts will yield positive benefits equally beneficial to all stakeholders.
- Research purpose of the study
The research purpose of this study is to test known motivational affordances to specific applications. This will include the provision of additional knowledge of the basic functions of individual affordances and how they are to be applied and mixed together by system designers in enterprise gamification platforms for use in the internal organizational requirements of a global enterprise. Narayanan (2012) outlines an illustration of the scenarios where game mechanics can be applied but knowledge was not directly identifiable as to their mixture and application. By guiding designers in choosing appropriate game mechanics to different enterprises having varying needs, use of important company resources are maximized.
It is also the purpose of this study to help spread the message on the importance of collaborative efforts between designers and the users. This will facilitate the efficient transition of ideas that are useful for coming up with an effective design of enterprise gamification platforms. Any assistance provided to system designers particularly on the understanding of the theories of human motivation would help a lot in achieving the desired end.
- Research Questions
Research questions directed in this study are:
- What are the different types of game mechanics developed by software developers for business gamification, and why? For example, are some types of game mechanics better or worse for business gamification and should a software development company take this into consideration when developing a business gamification platform?
- Once these game mechanics have been developed by the software company, how do these types of game mechanics help or hinder employees use their office system in a ‘non-sales environment’? For example, does it make employees more likely or less likely to use their gamified office system and why?
- Finally, what is the impact of these types of game mechanics on how employees interact and collaborate with each other in a global company? For example, when employees from the US work on a project with employees from the same company but with staff based in Australia, do the game mechanics encourage or discourage this collaboration and why in a ‘non-sales environment’?
- Significance of the study
This study is important on the ground that the prediction level as reported by Gartner, Inc. in 2012 is too high to be neglected. Industry stakeholders need to do something to respond to the issue and uplift the standards of Information Systems. A tangible misalignment on user needs over the responses and approaches of designers are faced by the industry and research has to positively fill this end. Aligning the approaches of the system designers with that of the user’s needs will result in the effective design of enterprise gamifcation platforms. It is but logical to claim that when enterprises decide to avail of the benefits gamifiaction platforms for their global collaboration needs, numbers of gamified applications continue to grow at the same degree and position as the ones that failed in the implementation process. To control this limitation, this study provides the significance of making wise use of corporate spending through the provision of knowledge gap on providing a link between the perceived usages of motivational affordances, as they are applied by designers in enterprise gamification platforms particularly within coordinating departments of enterprises operating under a global scale.