By Derrick Pope - October 28th, 2016
In the second of this 4-part series, CSU Global’s Director of Enrollment, Derrick Pope, continues down the road to employee gamification. In his first article, “Internal Gamification: First Steps to Winning Success”, Derrick identified the initial steps necessary to kicking-off your internal gamification solution.
Now in this second installment, Derrick’s giving you 4 things to look out for when choosing a vendor for your gamification solution. Avoid future pit-falls by fully vetting your options against what’s best for your organization’s goals, performance indicators, and users.
Build vs. Buy
If you decide to build your own gamification solution you’ll need a stellar team with a lot of available time to tackle the project. You’ll need designers who can overcome the challenge of enhancing the user experience. They’ll need a deep understanding of the processes you are trying to enhance in order to address how it might be improved with the addition of game elements.
You’ll also need a game developer or two to create mechanics and elements that produce an engaging and thoughtful game. Having multiple will help create a richer, more diverse experience. Finally, you’ll need expertise on the technical systems you are trying to enhance so they can tackle the actual integration.
While it is possible to build your own solution I would venture to say that’s the riskier road to take. Even if you have an amazing dev team and in-house designers at your disposal, this process is more complicated than it might seem.
A successful gamification solution is a finely tuned machine that relies not just on your ability to insert game mechanics into your existing systems, but upon your ability to turn that into a positive user experience. If the users don’t find the solution to be easy, engaging, and rewarding they won’t use it and your goals won’t get accomplished. The time and resources it takes to create this is most likely not realistic for most organizations.
Thankfully, gamification vendors currently offering solutions have spent countless hours and millions of dollars to create and refine systems and strategies that work. Not only have they refined the balance between mechanics and technology, they have proven strategies to boost engagement and increase player satisfaction. Another benefit of choosing a vendor partner is that they can be a resource for maintaining and evolving your solution as time goes on. In short, finding a good vendor solution will help you maintain balance and improve the state of the game.
Building our own solution internally wasn’t the best option at CSU Global. It made more sense for us to work with an outside vendor to get an already-established solution implemented quickly. So for us, it was time to start shopping.
4 Things to Know About a Solution Before You Buy
As with any technology purchase, the initial search was a bit overwhelming. There are so many options available and a lot of information to review. Most vendors have really great resources available on their websites, but you’ll need to dive into the full demo of their solutions to really understand the offering.
Gather as much information as you can before connecting with their sales staff. A gamification vendor’s ability to communicate their solution without their sales team is a strong reflection of their ability to deliver a great product. I whittled my search down by reviewing available resources like white papers, case studies, accolades, and any published reviews I could find. Once I’d found a handful of strong contenders it was time to do the demos.
The primary goal of implementing employee gamification in your organization is to find the solution that best addresses the goals you set up initially. As with any technology solution, you want to find the best fit for your needs. As you are engaging with their sales staff to explore each option I recommend also doing the following:
#1: Explore their innovation and customization.
Each company is going to have a very polished presentation on their solution. As they present their material ask for specific examples of how organizations created new and exciting elements to add to their product. Find out how organizations have been able to customize their solution to meet specific needs. Find out what new things their clients have taught them and what they learned from it.
A company’s ability to think outside the box to meet client needs is critical for you to create an engaging experience for your staff. These examples should provide ammo for questions for competing vendors, as well great ideas for your eventual solution.
#2: Understand the development cycle.
The complexity of your need and your choice of vendor will greatly determine how long it will take to implement and how many people will be involved. I was surprised by how quickly some of the simpler solutions were able to launch. One of the vendors we explored was able to launch in just a few days. Unfortunately, that same vendor was unable to integrate with all the systems we wanted to include in our gamified system. So there are multiple aspects you need to consider when choosing the best solution for your organization.
Aside from exploring the time to build, take note of the staffing needs for implementation. Understand your role in the development and your ability to drive the solution to fit your needs. I would also find out where their development team is located and what kind of access you’ll have during the development process. Having an overseas dev team can create scheduling challenges and slow down your project if you are not prepared for this dynamic.
#3: Plan for evolution.
Looking ahead before you even start your project is critical. Whatever solution you choose needs to be able to grow with your business and your needs. What kind of support does the vendor provide for maintenance and change? How difficult is it to add elements or redesign parts of your system? Understanding these items up front will save you a lot of headache down the road.
This is another good area to ask for specific examples. Have each vendor share their experiences with updating an existing game or overhauling an underperforming one. Ask how they improved a project that wasn’t meeting a customer’s needs. Their answer will provide you with fantastic insight into their customer support team effectiveness.
#4: Broad appeal.
Finally you want to ensure your solution is attractive to multiple audiences. Each department in your organization has very unique traits and needs solutions that cater to their daily activities. Each employee within those departments also has varying play and engagement styles.
For CSU Global we needed to be able to roll something out that would appeal to our admissions team while planning to include our student advising teams in a future update. It needed to engage each department and each employee. The best solution will have a robust mix of tools, activities, game mechanics, and elements.
Exploring those items along with your normal process of vetting tech solutions should help you find an exciting platform for gamification. It definitely helped us. After careful consideration we chose to go with GamEffective.
This vendor was uniquely positioned to meet my need for employee development along with gamifying key performance indicators (KPIs) for our staff. We looked at a lot of solutions and GamEffective was able to deliver dynamic content for increasing employee mastery of their role through exciting e-learning opportunities, while providing a variety of elements for members of all departments and play styles.
After choosing a vendor the real fun begins. In the third post of this series we’ll delve into development and implementation.
Derrick Pope is the Director of Enrollment at CSU-Global. He is a management leader with more than 20 years experience, 13 of those in higher education. Derrick has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Public Relations from Metro State University of Denver and an MBA from Baker College. An advocate of lifelong learning, Derrick continues to explore innovative employee engagement techniques. He’s also an avid volleyball player, passionate family man, and self-proclaimed tech geek.