Monday, April 15, 2013

Facebook Home, Skins, and Future Social Mobility

Facebook home released and is officially available for a variety of Android devices. Like with most Android applications it is unofficially available for any device with a compatible Android OS. Leading up to the announcement there where plenty of rumors about a forthcoming Facebook phone along with speculation that Facebook was moving into hardware. In such a dynamic space I would never rule anything out but it does seem sensible for Facebook to "Play" (pardon the pun) to their strengths.

A couple of things I find interesting:
  • Facebook a serious player in the skin game?
  • Who else will jump on board?
  • What's next with this social stuff?
Facebook is the most popular social networking site in the world used by a very wide audience. If anyone has the reach and software skills to make a skin successful it is Facebook. However the skin game has never had a huge degree of success in the past. Hardware manufacturers and telcos have traditionally provided skins to phone Operating Systems for branding, user information, loyalty, lock-ins, etc. The tech community would always cry foul and try to find a way around the skins and this noise (citing poor performance, lack of flexibility) would often filter down to the general user community.

Similarly in the desktop space the concept of a skin sitting above the Operating System has never had wide success. Unlike iOS most desktop operating systems allow quite a degree of easy access for users to change the look and feel. Many in the tech community would argue that what makes Android great is its flexibility. The Android OS for mobile phones defiantly allows a wide degree of user customization compared say to iOS. However how many users really change more than the background picture and layout of the icons? With more focus on user devices in enterprise the ability to tinker is of course a mixed blessing. Don't get me wrong the quest for better user experience is important and experimenting with skins, overlays, and changes to operating systems are to be commended. After all you could argue that the Windows GUI was a skin on top of DOS.

It's been reported that after Facebook, Linked-In is the next most popular social networking service. In my experience Linked-In tends to have a more business focus. Will Linked-In build a corporate friendly Android skin? If they can bundle features that both corporate and social net-workers want together they could get some real focus. For example they could combine separation of work/personal space, added security layer, and social networking.

Other players that everyone will look to for a similar concept are of course Google+ and companies like Line. One feature that both of these offer is the groups or circles concept that allows controlled sharing of information to specific audiences. While I really like this concept I don't think many enterprises will risk an employee accidentally sharing a proposal or costing with the wrong group. This degree of control needs to be built into the core of social networking.

So in future Social Networking for Enterprise I would like to see secure sharing of information socially with low risk. Allow me to share documents and chat with my colleagues from my work-space/phone/internet device without the ability to accidentally share content with non-approved contacts. A system of this kind would encourage participation by using familiar tools and enable merging the consumer and enterprise social aspects. A secure social framework would be a good launch pad for collaboration ideas such as Gamification.

To enable this vision there probably needs to be a social networking standard or protocol for ubiquitous sharing of contacts/messages/content/likes (and the like). Upon this kind of foundation plugs-ins could then easily merge say Microsoft communicator with Facebook, Google+, and Linked-In. Contacts could be common across different platforms and the user would be empowered to chose a context specific interface depending on their circumstances or needs.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Enterprise Gamification is it a thing?

Let me start by making my feelings clear. I hope Enterprise Gamification is a thing. I mean I work in enterprise mobility and I like games so I couldn't really think of a better combination (accept maybe sushi and beer or tropical island resort and cocktails). Anyway as an experienced exponent of computer game playing, and some beta testing, along with a few flash games I made 10 years ago plus my experience with enterprise systems I feel I'm adequately positioned to briefly explain what this gamification thing could be.

Drilling down let's look at the two key parts and what they do. An enterprise system typically aims to make a business more efficient and effective at achieving its goals and provide shareholder value. These systems enable business process; provide a central knowledge repository, and an audit trail. Games tend to be fun, addictive, reward behaviour, and keep score.

So then Gamification of the Enterprise is leveraging the techniques of gaming in an enterprise setting. So how can games be combined with enterprise systems? Some people would say that working is the opposite of gaming. That is one is fun and the other is not. What if we could make work fun, I think that would be good thing. Some of the key aspects to consider are:
  • Business goals
  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Positive and negative activity
  • Actors and Use Cases
  • Technology platform
  • Scoring and reward mechanism
  • Change management
  • Monitoring Success
With any enterprise systems or mobility project it's good to start with the business goals and align your technology with these directions. Each business, division, or organisational element may have different goals so there is unlikely to be a one solution that fits all.

KPIs have been designed for a reason and they are likely to be the best starting point when considering gamification. Note that the KPI itself (for example DIFOT) maybe a roll-up of individual transactions and activity. Whereas the transactions related to the KPI may be most appropriate for scoring in a gamification sense. Consider carefully that in games negative behaviour is also highlighted and the timeframe for scoring may need to be short enough to enable a "reset". If a staff member has been doing poorly for a time period they may need an opportunity to start fresh.

Different roles within the business will be aligned with particular use cases, business process, and key performance indicators. Gamification perhaps aligns best with repetitive tasks in a short lifecycle. Long term goals are less likely to make good candidates for gamification. If you have a multiple year sales cycle then tracking these sales in a scoreboard will not make for an addictive gaming experience. However tracking requests to provide assistance and assistance provided may result in a better outcome. Just like with many KPIs and many games, scoring can be done on a group level, an individual level, or a combination of both.

What's this all got to do with mobility? Well a mobile platform is the perfect vehicle (pardon the pun) to enable enterprise gamification. Sharing information is instant, scoring is instant, and the success can be tracked at any time. Let's take a hypothetical service scenario for a company that services widgets. The business goal is to fix issues the first time on time. KPIs track monthly how many issues are resolved, the resolution time, and how many times a refix is required. In the as-is business the service technicians receive a plan of work, go on site, and fix the issue. If they are not sure of something they ring up the office.
In the gamification scenario the service technicians have a mobile application where they see and update their job. They can request assistance from other technicians with appropriate skills who are currently free. They instantly get statistics on how many times they have helped others and their other KPIs. The leading technicians each month are rewarded with a voucher for their contribution to the company.

This leads me onto the reward mechanism. In the case of games the score is often the reward in itself. In many games a good score leads onto unlocking additional features, advancement, and general encouragement to keep playing. In business this needs careful consideration. Not everyone can be promoted because they did a good job. Someone who is the best at servicing widgets might not make the best widget servicing manager. However achieving a good score can form a part of an annual review, part of the bonus structure, be a trigger to get additional training, be bragging rights, or even a voucher for the company cafeteria.

Like with any new technology or business process change, the change management aspects can be pivotal to the success of the initiative. Involving and communicating with the user community in a sensible way encourages participation and allows some room when things don't go exactly as planned. As gamification is likely to be new to many organisations it makes sense to pilot it first with careful monitoring. The last thing you want to do is drive the incorrect behaviour. Ensure that the gamification is kept in context and don't get carried away. Some business cultures have more staff turnover and/or competitiveness than others and gamification can be introduced in very different ways. Remember that games are supposed to be fun.

Finally I'll finish with some quick ideas for gamification in the enterprise. Please let me know if you have some other ideas to make this Enterprise Gamification a thing:
  • Encouraging employees to help each other
  • Completing tasks in a successful or timely way
  • Identifying issues/problems
  • Taking a photo to highlight a success or an issue
  • Social communication
  • Active participation in training activities