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Gamification and Its Use in Software Development

February 03, 2016 Written by Andrei Klubnikin, Senior Content Manager
In 2015, 70% of Global 2000 organizations (including General Electric and Apple) were using game-like solutions to increase customer engagement and employees’ performance, and the trend is getting popular with every industry. In less than 3 years, the gamification market will grow up to $ 5.5 billion. How can software development companies benefit from gamification? Read on to find out!

The gamification concept

Gamification is the integration of game elements (badges, points, levels and achievement stats) into websites, enterprise applications and online community platforms. The major goal of the process is to sustain employees’ motivation and increase productivity.

Why games?

  • There are 183 million active gamers in the USA alone (and the number will grow as more mobile and tablet games hit the virtual shelves);
  • Game-like solutions provide real-time feedback which is essential for millennials (the largest workforce in the US market);
  • 78% of US workers whose employer developed a gaming enterprise application claim the system increases engagement and boosts productivity.

How can you make gamification mechanisms and techniques work?

  • Define objectives (including short-term and long-term goals);
  • Set clear rules (people prefer to engage in activities with certain, easy-to-understand principles);
  • Introduce a reward system (an employee should get a treat for every accomplished task);
  • Design scoreboards (for players to track each other’s performance & stay motivated).
  • Provide instant feedback (positive feedback sustains motivation, while negative commentaries enable players to improve their performance);
  • Measure results (the key parameters include game adoption, started vs. completed tasks and performance);
  • Use badges (a great way to acknowledge an employee’s achievements and improve reputation).
Gamification and Its Use in Software Development Stats

5 reasons to use gamification in software development

Software development is fueled by effective teamwork and enthusiasm, that’s why vendors usually abandon traditional project management in favor of an agile methodology. However, it is the human factor that often leads to certain development issues, including poor software quality, prolonged deadlines and failure to meet budget requirements. Companies can successfully tackle these problems by adding gamification to the list of their software development best practices. Game-like solutions impact the development process in 5 ways:
  • Developers adopt and master new techniques. Deloitte, a US-based consulting enterprise, implemented gamified solutions in its Leadership Academy training programs and saw a 37% increase in user retention. The competition and ability to track other players’ results force developing teams to learn more & make learning fun;
  • Improved cooperation and motivation. Employees’ performance is mostly driven by two factors: the common goal they need to achieve and the desire to outperform fellow co-workers. In fact, 69% of US employees are motivated by getting support from their colleagues and doing well (personally);
  • Employees spend less time on a project. By adding game-like elements to its training curriculum, Deloitte reduced the time required for certification by 50%;
  • Decreased number of development-related errors. The use of gamified enterprise applications increases defect fixing rate by 75% and helps developers focus on their core activities;
  • Agile approach towards software development. With the help of game-like solutions, vendors segment IT projects into smaller sections and deliver tasks piece by piece. 84% of the 9th State of Agile survey respondents say that project segmentation and gradual task assignment improve team productivity.

Gamification examples & expert opinion

According to Brian Burke (Gartner), gamification offers the ultimate benefits for every industry including custom software development. By applying game rules to non-gaming domains, enterprises can drive innovation, shape employees’ working patterns and enable their professional growth. Employees’ behavior depends on motivation (which is a dynamic variable). Doctor BJ Fogg (Stanford University) discovered that high performance is triggered by challenging (yet various!) tasks, real-time feedback and a long-term strategy. The Cocoa Trivia gamification solution is one of examples of “how to do it right”. The program is an extension of the Cocoa portfolio management platform. Trivia was crafted as a reward for the Cocoa developing team who were suffering from lack of motivation at the time. The quiz includes true-or-false questions on the company’s corporate culture and software development. Its participants score points for correct answers and can challenge other players. By encouraging competition among developers, the vendor revived the diminishing team spirit and passion for learning. IT companies also employ gamification techniques to discover new talents. At various times, programming contests were held by Google (Code Jam), Facebook (Hacker Cup) and the Topcoder crowdsourcing platform. 51% of US employers who used game-like HR applications rated the programs as “highly effective”.

Gamification challenges

Back in 2012, Gartner said in the near future 80% of gamified application developers would fail to meet their customers’ needs. Despite the growing adoption of gaming enterprise solutions, the number of US employees engaged in their jobs barely surpasses 31%. What’s wrong with the gamification software development and design best practices?
  • Poor game infrastructure. Vendors tend to focus on such application components like leaderboards and badges, while totally neglecting task analysis and game economy;
  • Wrong software choices. There is no one-size-fits-all gamified solution for vendors. Gamification software development requires deep analysis, clear objectives and thorough testing;
  • Lack of a strong (and long-term!) strategy. There is no point in taking the game-like approach to accomplish one project. An application should reflect a brand’s policy and set clear perspectives for further advancement;
  • The gamification industry is lead by start-ups and niche companies. Small vendors often lack funding and expertise in software development, which affects application quality and user experience.
However, the situation is bound to change. Large IT companies begin to incorporate game mechanisms into their products. Gamified applications are employed by retailers, vendors, educational institutions and healthcare organizations. In four years, the gamification market will grow by 68%. 2016 is a turning point for all the entrepreneurs who consider revising their corporate training and project management programs, so…are you game?

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