Digital Transformation propelled by Gamification

 In Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is all about creating new business models and interesting customer journeys while leveraging cutting edge digital technologies with an aim to expedite delivery of products and services to customers. Customer experience is an important tenet of any digital transformation initiative and is also a critical component in getting the implementation formula right.

While moving to a digitally transformed system, the end user’s acceptance of the evolved framework is vital to the success of the program. Ease of use, simplicity, relevance and extreme personalization can promote the adoption by users, but the right gamification can add the ‘X’ factor in ensuring success and making the new system stick.

But….what is ‘Gamification’?

Gamification is the process of integrating game mechanics in typical areas that are not game oriented in order to engage users and address business imperatives. To simplify further, let’s discuss the inherent properties of games. Games by nature, whether physical or digital, are highly addictive and motivate players to stay engaged, often with an ability to draw them back into the game again (and again). Gamification draws on this potency and incorporates the same doctrine in business and non-business areas to captivate users and subtly persuade desired behaviors. This can be applicable to anything from motivating employees to perform better, encouraging sales teams to sell effectively or convincing customers to buy more.

Gamification can involve a paraphernalia of mechanisms, such as:

  • Giving personalized rewards (virtual or real) for expected performance
  • Generating competition by publishing and comparing results across individuals and groups
  • Encouraging intrinsic growth and fostering a sense of achievement by creating milestones and levels
  • Unlocking mystery rewards or
  • Simply involving addictive activity that generates a sense of mystery and intrigue

In the digital world, adding customization and personalization by leveraging social and data analytics can further tune up adhesion to the game.

Use of gamification in the real world

Business use can be derived by embedding various game plays into real-world business activity.

An excellent example of social gamification is the game ‘FoldIt’ developed by the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science. Foldit is a revolutionary crowd sourced online puzzle video game created to allow people to compete in creating protein structures. But why protein structures and how can non-researchers contribute in this complex activity? Well, while proteins are important for our bodies, they are also responsible for a multitude of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s and even Cancer. Understanding proteins and how certain proteins fold is important to help researchers design new proteins to combat the disease-related proteins and cure the diseases. The challenge lies herein: a small protein can consist of 100 amino acids, while some human proteins can be huge (1000 amino acids). The number of different ways a protein can fold is astronomical because of the multiple combinations that are possible. Figuring out which of the countless possible structures is the best, is regarded as one of the hardest problems in biology today and current methods take a lot of money and time, even for computers.

Foldit was an attempt in trying to predict the structure of a protein by taking advantage of humans’ puzzle-solving intuitions and having people play competitively to fold the best proteins. The end result was not just encouraging but truly astounding. For 15 years, many of the top PhD scientists in the world were trying to decipher a crystal structure for one of the AIDS-causing viruses called the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV), but could not solve it. After Foldit launch, 240,000 players registered and competed, which resulted in finding a solution to the structure of the P-MPV in just 10 days!


Another interesting game DSI-DC, also known as Disease Science Investigators: Washington, D.C., developed by Persistent Systems for Virginia Tech, gives students the opportunity to play the role of a public health official deciding how to address a disease outbreak. The framework can be easily extended to work off much more complex situations, and be a useful tool for training public health officials, city administrators and citizens to handle natural disasters and emergencies.

Digital Transformation

The new digital economy has given birth to digital transformation with a variety of flavors across business and industries. There exists a wide range of transformative projects and business models. At one end we have the purely digital disruptive business models like Uber, Airbnb, or UK’s digital-only bank ‘Atom’; while at the other end we have established businesses transforming their operations, customer’s experience or products/services to stay ahead of the curve and compete significantly in this digital ecosystem.

Use of gamification and digital transformation is exemplified by oPower, a company that provides energy efficiency cloud services to utility companies; with the unique USP of delivering a modern digital customer experience to utility service clients. Leveraging social analytics and gamification, oPower is able to scale up engagement with customers by providing personalized reports on energy usage along with insights and tips on energy usage and savings that are specific and unique for that customer. At a collective scale, oPower serves over a 100 utility companies worldwide and has achieved a staggering 11 terawatt-hours of cumulative energy savings since their launch in 2008. Eleven terawatt-hours is enough energy to power more than 1 million homes in the United States for a full year. And it represents over $1.1 billion in bill savings for utility customers all over the world.



The intersection of Gamification and Digital Transformation

While digital transformation is imperative for businesses to survive today, implementing a transformation program can be challenging at best and prone to failure at worst. Two thirds of the digital transformation programs fail due to workforce behavioral issues contributed by prevalent organization culture and its reluctance to change. Steering an organization and its customers to accept change can be as challenging as the program itself. Can gamification help ease some of this pain and make the journey enjoyable? Well yes, gamification can play a key role in a digital transformation program, all the way from enabling the program to rolling it out to its end users.

A large US based insurance company faced similar challenges when they had to streamline some of their inefficient claims processes. Solution they employed was introduction of a gamified social innovation tool to gather ideas from their employees. Spurred on by the chance to collaborate and improve their workflows; drove in a barrage of ideas from participants. The outcome was a simplified process that saved the company $18M a year and a happier workforce.

When a large US based food and beverage company took over a UK-listed chocolate maker, one of the challenges they faced was ensuring that their values were adopted by the new employees seamlessly. Persistent’s ‘eMee’ gamification platform helped with this complex change management challenge by creating a ’Value Café’, a virtual world where employees rewarded and recognized each other for promoting and living the new entity’s corporate values.

Drawing from the above and other examples, I have listed down some of the areas in which gamification can contribute and make a difference during and after implementation of a transformation program:

  • Gamification for innovation and ideation – Ideation, feedback and proactive suggestions are important requisites for a successful transformation program. However, participation in ideation can be disparate, disconnected, uncoordinated and non-voluntary, especially in large organizations. Use of gamified crowd-sourced idea portals and gamified social innovation tools to encourage internal and external stakeholders to contribute, rate and segregate ideas can significantly impact overall involvement and eventual outcomes.
  • Transformation program execution – A digital transformation initiative typically involves significant adjustments across the organization and its various stakeholders. The program could entail changes across a business activity, process, model or even the entire ecosystem and can involve multiple stakeholders from business owners and IT teams to customers and partners. Implementation of such a program requires substantial buy-in, cooperation and execution in tandem across groups, for the program to be successful. Gamification can be used for engaging stakeholders involved in the initiative with a relevant reward and recognition strategy tied to common project goals and outcomes. This will foster employee and stakeholder engagement and reduce the resistance to change
  • ‘WOWing’ users with an incredible customer experience – Positive user perception, wide-spread adoption and active involvement will make the transformation initiative a success. An improved process with an excellent customer experience is vital for ensuring uptake, but gamification will seal the deal by attracting users and creating a ‘sticky’ factor while making the whole experience ‘fun’. Gamification initiatives such as ‘Loyalty’ programs, ‘Points and Badges’, in-app games or surprise rewards will not only encourage users to use the new system but also keep them hooked to come back for more.
  • Surveys to assess user feedback – Transformation typically follows an incremental and iterative development cycle with a continual feedback loop. Capturing the user feedback is as important as the program itself, but getting timely response can be a challenge especially if some of the traditional methods such as interviews, meetings or lengthy forms are employed. Gamified surveys with relevant rewards can be rolled out to users after every release, to encourage involvement and motivate users to participate.
  • Training – Often a new offering may require training to promote understanding and acceptance. Most traditional training programs are lengthy, non-engaging and lack the ability to allow for periodic assessments. Gamified training is a great way to disperse relevant content on demand, while gamified quizzes and assessments at well-defined intervals will ensure knowledge retention and recall.
  • Sales Team motivation – Use of gamified performance dashboards and leaderboards can encourage and motivate the sales team to effectively promote the new products and offerings and create a roadmap for successful sales
  • Analytics and insights – An astute analytical model that operates on data captured in the processes above can provide deep insights into the psyche and behavior of each of the stakeholders involved. For example, aggregated insights from assessments can provide inputs on the organization’s training needs, whereas level of activity on idea and innovation portals can provide insights about the level of involvement by individuals/teams/demographic etc.

Apart from enabling Digital Transformation, a gamification initiative can bring about Digital transformation itself as elaborated in the the examples above. Other applications can include introduction of loyalty and customer membership programs for enhanced customer experience. Similarly transformation initiatives such as introduction of gamified human capital management and resource onboarding system, gamified learning systems or gamified performance systems can lead to significant operational improvements within an organization.

To sum up, gamification can definitely ‘up’ the ante in digital transformation by creating the right level of influence across individuals and groups. The gamification program should be well defined, clearly state the rules of engagement, and provide short team achievable goals relevant to the player while balancing both external and intrinsic motivation. With that, I hope we can leverage gamification effectively while executing digital transformation programs and create execution models that call for ‘Gamified Digital Transformation’ delivering optimal results.

Persistent Systems leads the way in Digital Transformation programs with a well-developed digital platform coupled with a structured agile approach to help organizations achieve results at speed. Our digital platform also includes  the award-winning gamification engine “eMee” to enable transformations and make the digital transformation journey enjoyable and engaging.

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