By Gretchen Opferkew, Director of Education, PowerObjects

In recent years, an interesting trend has emerged in the implementation of business applications-the focus on driving user adoption by building in game-like mechanisms to make business systems, well, more fun.

Gamification provides a strategy for measuring, rewarding, and encouraging user engagement.  With gamification, users of the business application accumulate points, badges, levels, or other rewards for taking certain actions in the system.

For those leading an implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, measurement of user engagement has always been an extremely valuable factor in identifying areas where users may need assistance or training to successfully adopt the new system. Successful gamification strategies may drive more consistent data input to managers, helping them make business decisions as they roll out a new system or feature. 

Gamification can also help users understand where they stand in relationship to their peers, making transparency a tool for onboarding new employees and introducing competition to keep teams motivated. When new employees see how others are performing, such as number of interactions with the customer per day, week or month, it helps them set their own short-term goals for getting up to speed.

Solutions providing the gamification experience for Microsoft Dynamics CRM include CRM Gamified, by UruIT; The Game, developed by Gap Consulting and available on Codeplex; and a solution developed by Wave AccessCRM Gamified is the most costly solution but also the most refined and enterprise-ready, especially with the custom dashboard that integrates leaderboards and social.  Both The Game and Wave Access are currently free and are easy to configure for an organization's unique needs.

With at least three different gamification solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM on the market, users are contemplating the value gamification can bring to their unique organizations.  Some critics are concerned that fun waters down the CRM strategy and that employees should be motivated to use CRM because it's best for customers.  Still others see gamification as merely a tool to help new users get over the learning curve of a new system; they find gamification loses its sizzle over the long-term.  Results-focused advocates see gamification as a learning tool, as well as a strategy to hold teams accountable for their customer-focused initiatives.    

Speaking of strategy, understand that simply plugging a gamification solution into Microsoft Dynamics CRM will likely fail to yield the desired results.  Solution owners need to consider the behavior they are trying to drive, how that behavior can be measured, and how it can be meaningfully rewarded. Since some job roles may more easily adopt a competitive mindset than others, organizations should also consider how to best match up teams in a competition.  Imbalance in fairness or in the effort to achieve goals can trivialize the reward system, causing failure.

Some believe gamification will be the wave of the future. Gartner predicts 40% percent of global 1,000 companies will employ gamification by 2015.  Others see gamification as mostly hype, with an expected drop off in usage due to more failed implementations.  It could be that organizations that already have a strong plan and strategy for how they will implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM will apply that same diligence to their gamification strategies.   And those who plan to "install and go" will be at higher risk of failing at gamification as well. 

Certainly there is room for gamification technology to grow and provide a deeper and more analytical solution for how to measure engagement of users.  For example, you may get points for recording a phone call.  Do you record the notes after you make a phone call while the memory is fresh? Or do you record the notes later in the week? How do you measure quality of engagement over quantity of touches?

While end user motivation and adoption may continue to elevate the use of gamification with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, ultimately better analytics and outcomes will demonstrate its value.  As long as organizations continue to make decisions based on analysis of CRM data, we can expect that they will leverage every possible end-user motivation to achieve the desired results-that is, good information.

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