BT

Facilitating the spread of knowledge and innovation in professional software development

Contribute

Topics

Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage Articles Gamification: a Strategy for Enterprises to Enable Digital Product Practices

Gamification: a Strategy for Enterprises to Enable Digital Product Practices

Bookmarks

Key Takeaways

  • Often leaders struggle to embrace gamification in a non-game context & drive business value. Take time to experiment, and to discuss its potential with individuals, teams and influencers.
  • Driving compelling benefits through gamification requires that organizations invest in appropriate tools. 
  • Organizations should pay attention to the mechanics of validation of the games, assessing engagement and incentives.
  • Our games should focus on individual buy-in as well as teams for the adoption of product practices.
  • Lastly, bringing cross functional teams together in a fun way can help organizations innovate at scale. 

We are entering a new decade with a sense of urgency to rebuild the world economic landscape. As we have been living through the pandemic, we collectively realized that the business ecosystem radically shifted and next-generation products are steering us all forward. The next-generation products reflect association with the changing lifestyle and value ecosystem of consumers. To embrace the changing needs of consumers,  organizations are exploring new ways to ideate, collaborate and create products,  some of them being embracing co-creation models, investment in long-term value, and fostering collective wisdom through gamification.

This article is focused on gamification and how it helps to create perspective around product practices which bring us closer to the next-generation products.

Gamification 

Gamification in this context refers to the application of games in a non-game context. Beyond leadership scoreboard, avatars, and game themes, we explore a more modern approach to gamification to solve critical business questions. 

Gamification has large potential but inherently, the application of gamification has been limited to typical trivial elements of game playing like creating scorecards, leaderboards, avatars, and badges. Here we discuss the compelling potential of gamification with modern approaches. Examples of modern approaches to gamification include ideation contests, collective assessment & benchmarking events, and creating collective artifacts like whitepapers and roadmaps. Managed crowdsourcing of feature validation and user testing are also modern approaches to gamification 

As digital products take precedence, the software ecosystem brings new possibilities to products. With the rise of digital products, cross-functional boundaries are blurring. New skills and unlearning old ways are critical.  Gamification can support creating a ladder approach to acquiring and utilizing new skills for continuous software delivery ecosystems, testing and security. However, underpinning collective wisdom through gamification needs a systematic framework where we are able to integrate game ideation, design, validation & incentives with different persona types.

To apply gamification in a systematic manner to solve serious problems, ideate, and come together to create new knowledge in a fun way, is challenging. To successfully apply gamification for upskilling and boosting productivity, it will have to be accompanied by understanding the purposefulness through the following two critical perspectives: 

Benefits of embracing gamification for people – Removing fear, having fun, and making the desirable shift towards new knowledge; creating an environment that is inclusive and can provide a learning ecosystem for all. Allow people to come out of the fear of failure, fear of unlearning, and fear of being left out. Needless to say, gamers who are taking part share the responsibility of being inclusive as well as providing a healthy environment. One recommendation is to measure behavior, not results, to ensure we move in the right direction. Another tip is to keep the games simple and not create complexity before value. I would suggest a simple game like a word-cloud challenge as a useful start.

Benefits of embracing gamification for organizations – Organizations can foster the journey from individual to togetherness, empowering others and building a culture which enables us to collectively bring solutions to difficult problems. Problems that we solve today may not be relevant tomorrow; new security threats will emerge, diverse operational issues and bottlenecks for software will require critical thinking, and organizations will have modern software supply-chain efficiency problems. We will have to continuously come together and collectively ideate, explore and ensure we can collaborate towards solutions for different critical business problems.

There will be significant opportunities for us to succeed through gamification, and we will continue to improve if we measure behaviors instead of results as a first step.

Digital Products and DevOps 

As the digital ecosystem becomes important, not only do we have to consider our products, but also people, and help them transition into the new reality. Individuals, teams and organizations will have to cultivate an experimentation culture. Improving ways people come together and create synergy around assessing value will be critical. A new generation of ideas will have to be nurtured.

The rising movement of DevOps in the software ecosystem has been able to guide many organizations towards defining the strategic area of action to envisage what competencies will be relevant, and how these will be acquired and leveraged for creating digital solutions. New knowledge will have to be created through experiments. The first DevOps way is to ensure flow, and the second way is to enhance feedback. The third DevOps way largely advocates creating experiments to ensure organizations constantly work on developing an incremental innovation pipeline.

Establishing a mindset shift through convergence with gamification

Building experiments will also require that organizations invest in engineering tools and set goals to measure experiments to assess features, products & services. 

Some of the areas where we can apply gamification to address critical business questions include “IT being too slow”, “siloed”, or “fragile”. By engaging with people through games, experiments and simulations, we can create new knowledge and subsequently make choices based on evidence. Practitioners would benefit by creating games to impact the areas that are outlined below:

  • Data-Driven DevOps - Creating scorecards, points boards for measurements and gaining visibility through data.
  • Anti-fragility - Continuously advance with Chaos Engineering and embrace tools to identify and increase the resiliency of products. 
  • SRE and DevOps cross over by improving collaboration through gamification - Start to define error budget and policies, and ensure DevOps & SRE teams are bridging the silos and working on the same business objectives by implementing gamification and simulation for improving quality of interaction.
  • Continuously optimize the pipeline - Tools are not everything, but knowing and using essential tools is necessary for fast and safe delivery through collaboration with business at early stages.
  • Identity through community contributions - Leverage a broad base of knowledge and expertise through gamification. Be part of the global community and take volunteering seriously.

An enterprise-level strategy for gamification

Before advocating for an enterprise-wide big bang approach, it is advisable to experiment with small games. Continuously validating and deploying relevant games also requires systematically keeping it together. We are exploring how we could create a structure for collectively ideating, creating, validating and converging the outcome to measure progress, through a gamification toolbox.

Finding ways to make gamification relevant for every day and consolidating the efforts to scale by supporting it with the right data is critical. Getting the entire organization involved in a fun way to learn, share and experiment via gamification can be powerful.

Key steps when implementing an enterprise-level strategy for gamification include the following:  

  • It is critical to start with the most important asset - our teams. A team needs to contribute to the game design, rather than parachute in a non-aligned game. 
  • Another important component of the framework is to collectively ideate our games.
  • Our games should focus on individual buy-in as well as teams for the adoption of product practices.
  • As we move along to create the systematic framework, we need to investigate the mechanics of validation of the games, assessing engagement and incentives.
  • Incrementally add features (mini-games) to your gamification toolbox.

Gamification toolbox 

Gamification can be applied to various industries and contexts, but here we will discuss creating a toolbox for products which is centered around software delivery. The purpose of the toolbox is to steer meaningful outcomes, better collaboration and faster software delivery. Before advocating for an enterprise-wide approach for the toolbox, the Canadian community of DevOps advocates experimenting with small games.

Here are some examples of games which are good to start with as small experiments:

  • Product design box game (focus on value delivery)
  • Lead time game (focus on cross-functional collaboration)
  • App simulation games (focus on feature prioritization & validation)
  • Elevation of Privilege Threat Modeling Card Deck (and the variant OWASP Cornucopia)
  • Squad health check (and the expanded variant Multi-Team Software Delivery Assessment)
  • Planning poker gameplay (focus on outlier)
  • Code quality games (focus on DevOps practice onboarding)

One of the games validated by Canada, DevOps Community of Practice is App Simulation games: a five-hour challenge to simulate a mobile app. A DevOps coach will guide this gamification challenge with a stepwise methodology.

This game emphasizes three questions: 

  • Is it a good idea?
  • How fast can we deliver?
  • Is it really a good idea?

This game is one of the key games played by community practitioners; it is best suited to product managers and product teams including UX designers, architects, Dev-Ops, engineers, and cross-functional teams. This game includes the integration of product inception, user research techniques and simulation of user stories along with metrics.

A key learning from the game includes reducing alignment gaps between speed versus value. While the participants simulate the app, they tend to come together to build consensus on the outcome, rather than working in silos with different goals around speed, value and return on investment.

While simulating the app on one end, we come across business-centric persona types which give priority to economic growth over other concerns, such as how we reduce and optimize the cost of products. On the other end, a people-centric persona emphasizes the role of exploring people's potential within an organization and gives priority to collaboration over the economics of the outcome. Naturally, only a minority of people identify with either extreme, while the majority lies somewhere in a continuum between the two. The results start coming together once we have influence and learning coming from different persona types, and can craft a common path collectively.

Another game is a lead time game, where participants are challenged to produce doodles, and show how introducing DevOps practices will help us break up silos, focus on value and deliver fast. Separate teams are created to draw a doodle of a house, for example, with two windows and a door. The task is to draw the house, paint it and stage the house. The team comprises of four people - an architect, painter, designer and project lead

  • Round 1 -The team works to create the doodle. The rules state that only one person can work on the site at a time; once that person finishes, only then can the next person start work. It gives a practical and simple reflection on the waterfall method and its pros and cons.
  •  Round 2 - In the second round, the team can take a creative approach to reduce the lead time. Some ideas are to bring people with cross-functional skill sets on, not waiting for the next person to start if the previous person has finished a step. Every team put their ideas in place and completed the doodle.
  •  The last phase - Brainstorm strategies from different teams and collectively consolidate learnings.

Benefits of gamification

Gamification leverages the power of collective thinking and enables a journey from individual to collective solutions.

It may provide the following benefits:

  • Rethinking opportunities collectively  - By challenging people from different skill sets and backgrounds to ideate together, we create new perspectives. In the app simulation game, consumer persona types are provided that let people ideate about the product features, prioritization and market potential. We have experienced disruptive ideas and ways to develop and deliver products through this simulation game at Canada, DevOps Community of Practice.
  • Removing the fear of unlearning & exploring new ways - It is critical to create an adequate balance between knowledge, skill and competence. Scenario-based gamification approaches can help generate engagement and create new knowledge. When accompanied by an investment in skill and competence, development can remove the fear of unlearning. 
  • Enhancing capacity to innovate - Bringing cross-functional teams together will help organizations to innovate at scale. Simple games like the product design box can help create consensus and bring new ideas forward.

Learn more about gamification for DevOps

To learn more about gamification, it is best to join local communities to explore ideas.

There are more focused communities like DevOps and Canada Community of Practice which offer gamification and experiential learning opportunities. 

I also recommend exploring simple approaches within your own team. Some examples include:

  1. Encouraging the team to “bring their own product feature” and vote within the team 
  2. Starting with building a word-cloud on a topic, like DevSecOps, to enhance the perspective of security of digital products 
  3. Crowd-Chats or Jamming is another simple yet powerful way to engage 

References

Books 

  • Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things ( Biran Burke)
  • Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards (Yu-kai Chou)
  • Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps (Gabe Zichermann)

About the Author

Garima Bajpai is the founder of Canada, DevOps Community of Practice, She holds the chief ambassador position at Continuous Delivery Foundation. She is also an ambassador with DevOps Institute and an executive advisor for Capital Carbon Consulting. Bajpai is passionate about technology and has spoken in various leading conferences including DevOpsCon Berlin 2021.

Rate this Article

Adoption
Style

Hello stranger!

You need to Register an InfoQ account or or login to post comments. But there's so much more behind being registered.

Get the most out of the InfoQ experience.

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Community comments

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

BT