"People like to play games. That is the way we humans are wired up," Hugos said.
Game-like elements in an enterprise application can take several forms. Levels, or progress bars, allow players to collect points by completing a series of individual tasks. Users can earn badges for completing tasks. An organization can set up a leaderboard, or even facilitate direct interaction between two users, to engender competition in a game of some sort. Or, an organization could award some form of virtual currency, which could be redeemed for gifts, or even real currency.
"The contest and motivation [are] the key components," said Jason Lander, founder and CEO of Hively, which offers a gamification online service for collecting customer feedback. Hively's services simplify customer feedback with a set of easy-to-click smiley or not-so-smiley faces. The service then collects metrics compiled from the user feedback, which can be used by management to help improve customer service.
Also keep in mind that gamification produces a wealth of data that can be analyzed to strengthen organizational operations. It can pinpoint what the hot topics are, either within an organization or with a customer base. It can also help the organization refine operations. "It is essentially daily feedback that helps us analyze and refine what we offer," Richardson said.
PaaS (platform as a service) provider Engine Yard is one company that is using gamification. "We wanted to increase engagement, which we measure by how long people stay on our website, how often they come back, and how much they do," said Engine Yard vice president of operations Bill Platt.
Engine Yard contracted with Badgeville, a Menlo Park California startup formed in 2010. For Engine Yard, Badgeville keeps track of user visits and behavior as well as the linkage between different actions. "Through that behavior tracking, you begin to understand what locks up the valuables in your content, and also what people wish they found," Platt said.
Engine Yard started to implement a badging system in January, and the system was operational by April. To set up this recognition system, Engine Yard worked with Badgeville to produce a gaming-like environment for using and contributing to Engine yard's set of documentation.
"Setting up the badge system was surprisingly easy," Platt said. They had to decide what kinds of actions for which their users should be awarded. For instance, answering questions could result in a badge, as could filing bugs. The badges "climb up in value based on how much work you put in and how much value the community finds in what you did," Platt said.