Interested in increasing SharePoint end user adoption and productivity? Gamification might be for you. 

On a tour of SharePoint User Groups (SPUGs) across Europe in October 2012, I was able to present on the topic of SharePoint productivity at the Finland SPUG held in Helsinki. At the well-attended session, I was joined by Senior SharePoint Consultant and co-founder of Peaches Industries, Jussi Mori (@JussiMori).

While my presentation outlined the new productivity features in SharePoint 2013, Jussi focused his topic on Gamification -- which is the use of game mechanics and social tools to increase end user adoption and participation in collaborative environments.

Examples include the use of ratings and badges, or virtual currency or rankings to highlight the time, effort or quality of participation in the system. Gamification techniques are becoming more and more popular within corporate environments and public-facing sites alike, as companies look for ways to keep users engaged.

Following the event in Helsinki, Jussi and I had a discussion on the growing interest in Gamification as a key method for improving end user productivity and overall system adoption, especially within SharePoint deployments. The following are some of the highlights:

Christian Buckley (CB): How big of a problem is productivity in SharePoint?

Jussi Mori (JM): Well, I currently still see it as a big issue even after many years of having SharePoint in use with high adoption. The users are still not aware of the true power behind SharePoint, and what you can do in order to boost personal, team and organizational productivity.

I believe the root cause for this issue comes from the fact that SharePoint implementations are usually driven from the IT department, and are run as an IT implementation project. However, implementing SharePoint correctly and successfully in an organization is not solely done from the IT perspective.

SharePoint implementations should run as a change project where the business side is committed and IT is involved -- and not the other way round. Also I believe that there is big room for improvement in end user education. Many end users are just overwhelmed of all the possibilities SharePoint brings, and with every new version of the platform, many more possibilities.

Experts can come and talk many hours about how cool SharePoint is, but if we don't condense the most important things (from a business perspective) and teach them in a simplified way, there will be no true end user adoption. So my way of doing this with customers is to focus on the 5 to 7 most important things the customer can do to boost productivity, and to create real life scenarios to help illustrate the power of SharePoint in the most simple and clear way possible.

CB: What is Gamification? What is the science behind it?


JM: In short, Gamification uses game elements and mechanics to drive end user adoption (motivation) in non-game environments. What does this mean in practice?

The purpose is not to create a big 3D virtual game out of your Intranet (or at least not yet). It is about using end user-motivating elements that are used in games and adapt them to a work environment. We are talking here about reward systems, smooth onboarding and hyper-available feedback loops where users always know where they stand and what they need to do.

Additionally, games are fun and they can bring an entertainment component to your everyday work life. Imagine a scenario where you actually would love to fill in your hourly reports! I could go on about Gamification for hours, but you can find more info on the topic on your own online.

CB: How is productivity improved/enhanced by Gamification?

JM: As already mentioned above, Gamification helps to improve end user motivation and it has the power to do that also for tasks which users are typically reluctant to do or lack motivation to do. With End User Productivity, I always speak about three different categories:

  1. Cognitive productivity: Do I know what I do?
  2. Infrastructure productivity: Does everything work how it should?
  3. Emotional productivity: Do I have the right attitude and motivation to do things?