Tuesday Nov 15, 2011

Games at Work Part 2: Gamification and Enterprise Applications

Gamification and Enterprise Applications

In part 1 of this article, we explored why people are motivated to play games so much. Now, let's think about what that means for Oracle applications user experience.

(Even the coffee is gamified. Acknowledgement @noelruane. Check out the Guardian article Dublin's Frothing with Tech Fever. Game development is big business in Ireland too.)

Applying game dynamics (gamification) effectively in the enterprise applications space to reflect business objectives is now a hot user experience topic. Consider, for example, how such dynamics could solve applications users’ problems such as:

  • Becoming familiar or expert with an application or process
  • Building loyalty, customer satisfaction, and branding relationships
  • Collaborating effectively and populating content in the community
  • Completing tasks or solving problems on time
  • Encouraging teamwork to achieve goals
  • Improving data accuracy and completeness of entry
  • Locating and managing the correct resources or information
  • Managing changes and exceptions
  • Setting and reaching targets, quotas, or objectives

Games’ Incentives, Motivation, and Behavior

I asked Julian Orr, Senior Usability Engineer, in the Oracle Fusion Applications CRM User Experience (UX) team for his thoughts on what potential gamification might offer Oracle Fusion Applications. Julian pointed to the powerful incentives offered by games as the starting place: “The biggest potential for gamification in enterprise apps is as an intrinsic motivator. Mechanisms include fun, social interaction, teamwork, primal wiring, adrenaline, financial, closed-loop feedback, locus of control, flow state, and so on. But we need to know what works best for a given work situation.”

For example, in CRM service applications, we might look at the motivations of typical service applications users (see figure 1) and then determine how we can 'gamify' these motivations with techniques to optimize the desired work behavior for the role (see figure 2).

Typical motivators, description follows

Description of Figure 1

Desired behavior of role, description follows
Description of Figure 2

Involving Our Users
Online game players are skilled collaborators as well as problem solvers. Erika Webb (@erikanollwebb), Oracle Fusion Applications UX Manager, has run gamification events for Oracle, including one on collaboration and gamification in Oracle online communities that involved Oracle customers and partners. Read more...

However, let’s be clear: gamifying a user interface that’s poorly designed is merely putting the lipstick of gamification on the pig of work. Gamification cannot replace good design and killer content based on understanding how applications users really work and what motivates them.

So, Let the Games Begin!

Gamification has tremendous potential for the enterprise application user experience. The Oracle Fusion Applications UX team is innovating fast and hard in this area, researching with our users how gamification can make work more satisfying and enterprises more productive.

If you’re interested in knowing more about our gamification research, sign up for more information or check out how your company can get involved through the Oracle Usability Advisory Board. Your thoughts? Find those comments.

Games at Work Part 1: Introduction to Gamification and Applications

Games Are Everywhere

How many of you (will admit to) remember playing Pong? OK then, do you play Angry Birds on your phone during work hours? Thought about why we keep playing online, video, and mobile games and what this "gamification" business we're hearing about means for the enterprise applications user experience?

Pong, image available as WikiMedia Commons

In Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Jane McGonigal says that playing computer and online games now provides more rewards for people than their real lives do. Games offer intrinsic rewards and happiness to the players as they pursue more satisfying work and the success, social connection, and meaning that goes with it.

Yep, Gran Turismo, Dungeons & Dragons, Guitar Hero, Mario Kart, Wii Boxing, and the rest are all forms of work it seems. Games are, in fact, work taken so seriously that governments now move to limit the impact of virtual gaming currencies on the real financial system.

Anyone who spends hours harvesting crops on FarmVille realizes it’s hard work too. Yet games evoke a positive emotion in players who voluntarily stay engaged with games for hours, day after day. Some 183 million active gamers in the United States play on average 13 hours per week. Weekly, 5 million of those gamers play for longer than a working week (45 hours). So why not harness the work put into games to solve real-world problems? Or, in the case of our applications users, real-world work problems?

What’s a Game?

Jane explains that all games have four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation. We need to look at what motivational ideas behind the dynamics of the game—what we call gamification—are appropriate for our users. Typically, these motivators are achievement, altruism, competition, reward, self-expression, and status). Common game techniques for leveraging these motivations include:

  • Badging and avatars
  • Points and awards
  • Leader boards
  • Progress charts
  • Virtual currencies or goods
  • Gifting and giving
  • Challenges and quests

Some technology commentators argue for a game layer on top of everything, but this layer is already part of our daily lives in many instances.

OTN Discussion Forums: E-Business Suite leader board

We see gamification working around us already: the badging and kudos offered on My Oracle Support or other Oracle community forums, becoming a Dragon Slayer implementor of Atlassian applications, being made duke of your favorite coffee shop on Yelp, sharing your workout details with Nike+, or donating to Japanese earthquake relief through FarmVille, for example.

And what does all this mean for the applications that you use in your work? Read on in part two...

Tuesday Nov 08, 2011

Fusion Applications UX at Danish Oracle User Group

3 November 2011: Danish Oracle User Group (DOUG) event at Oracle Danmark's Ballerup offices. Explained the Applications User Experience (UX) team’s user research, design and testing that have brought to life a new standard in enterprise apps user experience. Used the Fusion User Experience Advocates (FXA) demo, and talked through the action shown.

Oracle Fusion Applications user interface

Very positive reaction from an engaged audience, perceptive questions asked, and enthusiastic feedback about the Fusion Apps killer decision-making ease, streamlined navigation, collaboration capability, embedded intelligence, state of the art visualizations, extensibility capability and deployment options. Great anticipation by the DOUG folks to see more of the product, too.

Ultan O'Broin talking at DOUG about the New Standard in User Experience: Fusion Applications

Picture: Rikke Christiansen

DOUG and other Nordic events are on our radar now, so looking for more opportunities to show and tell the Fusion Apps UX story and get more user feedback and participation going in EMEA and other regions.

First time in Denmark. Loved the place and moved around with ease, again with Google Maps on the iPhone. Public transport and connectivity to die for, multilingual society, ECCO, LEGO, Jakob Nielsen, an eye for cutting edge design (so Fusion Apps fits in well there), SAS SMS and QR code checkin for flights; it's all happening there. I'll be back.

Google Maps route to Ballerup

Thank you DOUG and Oracle Danmark.

Don't forget to check out the great set of white papers about the Oracle Fusion Applications UX, now available.

Monday Jun 27, 2011

Walmart and Fusion Apps

Walmart, Long Beach

Photograph: Misha Vaughan

I attended Fusion Apps (yes, I know I am supposed to say "Oracle Fusion Applications", but stuffy old style guides are a turn-off in interwebs conversations) User Experience Advocate (FXA) training in Long Beach, California last week; a suitable location as ODTUG KSCOPE 11 was kicking off and key players were in the area. As a member of Oracle's Apps-UX team I know the Fusion Apps messaging, natch, and done some other Fusion Apps go-to-market content work too. For the messaging details themselves, see Lonneke Dikmans (@lonnekedikmans) great blog, by the way. However, I wanted some 'formal' training combined with the opportunity to meet and learn from people already out there delivering those messages.

The idea in me reaching out to Misha Vaughan, Apps-UX FXA maven, to get me onto this training was that in addition to my UX knowledge, I could leverage my location in EMEA and hit up customer events more quickly and easily. Those local user groups do like to hear the voice of locals too you know (so I need to work on that mid-Atlantic accent). I'm looking forward to such opportunities.

The training was all smashing stuff, just the right level of detail, delivered professionally and with great style and humor. I was especially honored to be paired off for my er, coaching with Debra Lilley (@debralilley), who shared with everyone all kinds of tips and insights from her experiences of delivering the message and demo. For me, that was the real power of the FXA event--the communal, conversational aspect--the meeting up with people who had done all this for real, the sharing in their experiences, while learning along with other newbies. Sorry, but that all-important social aspect doesn't work so well with remote meetings.

Katie Candland (Apps-UX) gave us a great tour of the Fusion Apps demo and included some useful presentational tips too (any excuse to buy that iPad). It's clear to me that the Fusion Apps messaging and demos really come alive with real-world examples that local application users will recognize, and I picked up some "yes, that's my job made easier" scene-stealers from Debra and Karen Brownfield too, to add to the great ones already provided.

This power of examples shouldn't surprise anyone, they've long been a mainstay of applications user assistance, popular with users. We'll offer customers different types of example topics in the Fusion Apps online help too (stay tuned), and we know from research how important those 3S's (stories, scenarios, and simulations) are to users when they consume and apply information. Well, we've got the simulation, now it's time for more stories and scenarios.

If you get a chance to participate in an FXA event (whether you are an Oracle employee or otherwise), I'd encourage it. It's committing your time and energy for sure, but I got real bang for the buck from it for my everyday job too. Listening to the room's feedback on the application demo really brought our internal design work to life, and I picked up on some things that I need to follow up on (like how you alphabetically sort stuff in other languages). User experience is after all, about users.

What will I be doing next, and what would I like to see happen?

  • Obviously, I need to develop my story-telling links with the people I met in Long Beach and do some practicing with the materials, and then get out there and deliver them at a suitable location. The demo is what it is right now, and that's a super-rich demo that I know everyone will want to see and ask questions about.

  • Then, as mentioned by attendees at the FXA event, follow up on those translated and localized messages for EMEA (and APAC), that deal with different statutory or reporting requirements of the target markets. Given my background I would say that, wouldn't I? However, language is part of the UX, and international revenue is greater than US-only revenue for Oracle, so yes dear, we all need to get over the fact that enterprise apps users don't all speak, or want to speak, American-English.

  • Most importantly perhaps, the continued development of a strong messaging community between Oracle and partners and customers where we can swap and share those FXA messaging stories and scenarios about Fusion Apps in a conversational way. The more the better, a combination of online and face-to-face meetings.

I must also mention the great dinner after the event at Parker's Lighthouse, and the fun myself and Andrew Gilmour (Apps-UX) had at our end of the table talking about just about everything except Fusion Apps with Ronald Van Luttikhuizen and Ben Prusinski (who now understands the difference between Cork and Dublin people. I hope).

People's Republic of Cork image courtesy of the peoplesrepublicofcork.com

Thanks to all the Apps-UXers who helped bring the FXA training to town, and to Debra and all the others that I am too jetlagged to mention right who were instrumental in making it happen for me. Here's to the next one.

And the Walmart angle?

That was me doing my Robert Scoble (ScO'bilizer?)-style guerilla smart phone research in Walmart in Long Beach, before the FXA event. It's all about stories for me. You can read more about it on the appslab blog (see the comments).


Oracle Apps Cloud UX assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps dev community, helping them to design and deliver usable apps using PaaS4SaaS.


Ultan Ó Broin. Senior Director, Oracle Applications User Experience, Oracle EMEA. Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog on product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), PaaS, SaaS, design patterns, tailoring, Cloud, dev productivity, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW, and a lot more.


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