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Former Member

If you have ever stopped by at the SAP Labs Campus in Palo Alto on Hillview Avenue, you are familiar with the sight of horses neighing and riding along the grassy hills just right outside of the SAP Labs buildings. But if you hear a cacophony of pigs' grunts echoing from the SAP cafeteria, then you know that the SAP Gamification Cup demojam is on.

A few weeks ago, SAP CTO Vishal Sikka and SAP Labs Managing Director Barbara Holzapfel had invited the Palo Alto SAP employees to participate in an internal innovation event. The overarching theme was "gamification". Gamification, which Wikipedia defines as "the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications [..] to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications", is a current industry trend, that influences business software (and makes a lot of sense). Similar to the social media trend 2 years ago, it is going to stay.

For the SAP Gamification Cup, Vishal and Barbara sent us on a "mission". A mission to understand gamification and to apply it to business software and business processes. For that, SAP employees were invited to submit their ideas, form teams, create software prototypes and show a six-minute demo at the demojam on June 14th to a jury consisting of SAP executives and external experts.

During four weeks, we had kicked off the event with a keynote (followed by a one day workshop) from Amy Jo Kim, had secured the support of the gamification platform providers Badgeville and Bunchball, who taught us about their platforms and gave us access to them for the contestants, had listened to Jeff Gillis from Google talk about gamification efforts at his former company (he had just left Google a few days earlier after 8 years of a great ride with them), had learned from SAP's SVP for User Experience Dan Rosenberg about the importance (and common misconceptions) of this topic and gotten tons of user success stories from Mark Yolton, SVP of SAP's largest and most successful gamified system, the SAP Community Network.

Beside the promise of a lot of fun and pushing the edge of innovation, the contestants motivation to participate was of the purest of all: to help SAP make software with excellent user experience. Ha, I got you! You should have seen your face. Of course that fairly competitive bunch of contestants was only interested in winning the iPad 2 and the free tickets to the upcoming SAP TechEd in Las Vegas.

Around 50 colleagues picked up the gauntlet and started the mission. They formed 12 teams, including colleagues from SAP Research Dresden, SAP Labs Nice, SAP Labs Bangalore and SAP in Walldorf. The participants and lurkers followed the event in the SAP internal Gamification @ SAP group, where they shared ideas, reached out for help or simply bragged.

To get the audience and the jury excited and pump up the contestants, the whole event was Angry Birds-themed. Each audience member got a little Angry Bird plush toy and the judges and contestants received the luxury version of it: the 8 inch sized Angry Birds. This explains the pig sounds: the audience had to cheer up the contestants by producing the most atrocious pig sounds you can imagine. And they complied. It was disgusting.

The judges, including Amy Jo Kim, Gabe Zichermann and Aaron Marcus as external experts, and SAP executives Guido Schröder (SVP BI), Dan Rosenberg (SVP UX), Barbara Holzapfel (MD SAP Labs Palo Alto), Mark Yolton (SVP SCN) and Kaj van de Loo (SVP Technology Strategy), and the 150 audience members saw a broad range of demos covering education (2x), mobile apps (2x), BI (1x), gamification server concepts (2x), sustainability (1x) and business applications (4x). Two of the demos used 3D rendered UIs (including one rendered with Unity3D), one actually really was a game, and a mixture of game mechanics and player – pardon – "user" types. Most of these applications are not just fun for users, but in fact can bring significant cost savings. Although not everything was polished and consumer ready, the concepts were inspiring. Let's look at the winners and the other submissions.

First place winner team Shared Services Showdown showed how the seemingly boring invoice transaction can be gamified by adding points and badges (the team integrated Bunchball's Nitro-platform), setup daily/monthly challenges and allow collaboration within teams of accounts payable clerks and competition between teams. By encouraging data completeness quality of data increases, rewarding data entry in a timely manner processes can be completed earlier and sharing the track record for each user, transaction experts are exposed and gain more status. An important step towards mastery and autonomy. The system also encouraged colleagues to help each other out and award points for good help, as well win prizes or donate company dollars  (istead of prizes) to their favorite charity.
A Phun Phact:
One of the team members was the only participant of the Gamification Cup to attend Amy Jo Kims for SAP-only and Gabe Zichermann's public one day workshop. It definitely pays to attend their classes.
Game mechanics used:
points (competitive and social points), badges, leaderboards, levels, notifications, rewards

Second place winner team Arena presented a polished "incentive and performance measurement system" for employees. Having your goals and achievements at one place, together with the status of your "friends" and colleagues that you most often ask to a little challenge, and the status of the overall team, is a powerful incentive to engage users and make their achievements transparent and show them their progress. The dashbaord also had included a "market", where achievement points could be exchanged for goods from a shop.
Game mechanics used: points, badges, loeaderboards, virtual curencies, community, progression, quests, contests...

Third place winner team If I ran the company demonstrated how employees can engage with product strategy and product portfolio by following learning paths and unlocking new levels. Every player (employee) assembles a virtual portfolio based on a  certain budget. The goal is to put together the strongest portfolio of products. The success of each product (and therefore of the whole portfolio) including upcoming products will be determined by their real world success, measured by actual revenue as well as external and internal perception. The team also used Bunchball's Nitro-platform to store the points and badges and power the leveles, leaderboards and notifications.
Game mechanics used: points (experience and multiplier points), levels, badges, leaderboards, social leaderboards…

The other teams where not ranked, but there was too much good stuff in there, that I also wanted to share.

Team Discover SAP used a 3D rendered maze to encourage users to learn about SAP products and how SAP customers are using them. You could only master the different levels in the maze – each level becoming more and more challenging – by answering trivia questions about SAP customers and products. The more questions the player answered correctly, the more clues were given about the maze. Phunny Phact was that the son of one of the developers had acquired the top score in the game and his father couldn't beat him. The 8-year old knew more about SAP customers and products than his father, who is a long time SAP employee. The team also used Bunchball's  Nitro-platform.
Game mechanics used: points, levels, unlocking clues, leaderboard…

Team ERP Gamification took the manufacturing process to a new level by adding a 3D interface. Think CityVille from Zynga transformed to plants, office buildings, roads etc. overlaid with business transactions and dashboards. By navigating the plants, vendors locations and customers in a 3D world with HUDs (heads-up-display) in such a holistic view, many younger players will be way better understand and navigate the manufacturing process.
Game mechanics used: virtual reality, points, avatar, leaderboard, currency…

Team CustomerService++ shone light on customer service. By applying a point system to customer tickets and the process behind solving customer problems, faster and more effective responses were generated. The approach went so far allowing customers to participate in the "game". Think Quora, where you also learn how to ask questions. Sometimes the back and forth is a result on the way questions are asked, but also how polite and precise the answers were (from both sides). Badgeville's Dynamic Game Engine (DGE) helped to make them gamify the app.
Game mechanics used: points, feedback, rating…

Team TwoGo introduced the gamification for commuter car pooling in a corporation. Generally, sustainability seems to be an ideal candidate for gamification, and this example demonstrated that perfectly. By car pooling, using energy efficient vehicles or other alternatives for commutes, users earn points and badges (this team used Badgeville's DGE). The more colleagues share a ride, the more points for everyone. By booking a car, you can also specify or see, if coffee is allowed, people take calls, what music taste the driver has (for a good match) or if people in this car prefer to talk or sit silent. This application is currently been tested at SAP in Walldorf.
Game mechanics used: points, badges, status, feedback…

Team Mobile Enterprise Check In translated the Foursquare and GetGlue approach to a bucket list and integrated that with SAP Streamworks. You can now check in to your tasks and milestones and earn points (in that specific case stored on the Badgeville platform). By completing the tasks you could progress to the next level. An interesting solution for people with time management problems like myself.
Game mechanics used: badges, points, narrative, feedback, communication, levels…

Team Banzai Pipeline took the sales funnel and through simulation optimized the lead to deal process. Sales Reps advance deals through the pipeline by moving chips on a virtual gameboard, and can view their pipeline performance using rich visualization, in a browser or on a mobile device. This demo got a little scrutiny by the judges, as it seemed to be not gamified at all. But surprise: lead dashboards used game mechanics all the time, we just didn’t know that it registers under that name. Generally is there a huge opportunity for BI related applications with gamification. As an old BI person, I am especially excited about that.
Game mechanics used: progress bars, simulation, points…

That explains also my enthusiasm about Team Data Scrubbers: everyone who had to merge master data from multiple sources and cleanse them afterward, knows how painful and boring, and really demanding and time consuming this process is. That's what the this team tackled: they made a game out of it by helping you reach data package cleansing completeness, and have users rate the quality of the master data. If you are a good "data scrubber" and moved up the ranks from novice to master, you got the power to create your own data packages that you could throw out as "missions". If you can't find inventory because it's registered under 5 different names and start restocking, you know that you will have millions in your inventory that you don't know that you have. The potential savings with this app go in the millions. And that's just the inventory. This team used Badgeville's DGE for the gamification approach.
Game mechanics used: continuous feedback, levels of complexity for different user types, leaderboards, feedback, status… 

Team DSD+ (Direct Store Delivery) helps sales reps to visit their customers in a more effective way with this mobile app. Drivers can download the locations for each customers and check in once they reached their destinations. It helps to be in time and increase satisfaction with customers. By earning points through each check in, sales reps will unlock new customers with the potential to make more sales. With this app is new hires can quickly onboard and become productive, while masters are encouraged to be more effective and go the extra-mile, and experts finally can create new tasks and explore new opportunities.
Game mechanics used: points, leaderboard, levels, social…


The probably most complex scenario came from Team Nice (read Nice as in the city on the south of France). The French colleagues suggested an integrated solution, where software used in corporations (Outlook, Jive, ABAP, DevStudio, CRM…) track their users' activities in a central system. From that system you pull the information into leaderboards, display experts like on the SCN etc. A combination with the approach from 2nd place winner Team Arena is a natural.

That scenario also shows the gap in SAP's product portfolio. SAP Community Network has shown the value of recording user achievements and exposing them publicly. Take that experience and create an aggregator, or maybe use HANA?

After three hours of intensive demojam, everybody was exhausted but excited. A lot of inspiration came from this innovation event. While it is clear that the colleagues at SAP are at the beginning with grasping the concept gamification, it was an important step. Feedback from participants and audience members resonated that this was an eye-opener and they now believe in the power of it.

What are the first key takeaways?

  1. Gamification is not an option, it's a must. Productivity increases, higher data quality, timeliness of data availability, raised happiness levels of employees and a new generation of employees raised with videogames is going to expect and demand gamified applications that give them constant and immediate feedback, makes clear how they can become better in their work, help or compete with others etc.
  2. Not all processes and applications can be saved by gamifying them. If they are ******, gamification will make them shittier.
  3. Some processes and application don't make sense to be gamified. They should be automated.
  4. A gamification/achievement/reputation/.. or however-you-want-to-call-it platform is a core piece in the landscape and needs to be added to the technology stack.
  5. We just scratched the surface of gamification. We have a long way to go and understand the subtle details.
  6. Gamified applications need to change over time. Change in goals, number of (experienced) users, new twists and so on may require to add and exchange the approach.
  7. We need game-designers and similar professions in the corporate world.
  8. Gamified systems need to be monitored and moderated like it's done with communities.

What will happen next? The followup has started with the teams pitching their demos to their colleagues, and multiple teams already contacted the contestants to brainstorm with them their concepts on other business applications. This years InnoJam at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas has Gamification as overarching theme, so if you are interested in the topic you definitely should attend. The three first teams will be at the Innojam to present their demos live to the participants and help and consult as experts. There will be a larger program around gamification, but I cannot yet reveil more.

Now we feel good. Not only do we now have a pool of SAP folks convinced and and a first understanding of gamification, but those folks are now also being able to impress their friends, kids and spouses with realistic sounding pig sounds. With that mission we definitely made the world better. OINK!