The Next Big Enterprise Software Play Eats Zombies -- Look at RedCritter

Sitting in your office? Look around. Notice anything weird? That guy chewing on brains? A whole host of new gamification companies are trying to zap zombies at the office, so that project managers can focus more on productivity and less on brainsssss.

This blog post was written by Brian Gorbett, Developer Evangelist at Microsoft.

According to a recent study from the American Society for Training and Development, most of your co-workers are zombies.

You know these employees. These are the employees that are considered “Actively Disengaged.” Last year they cost businesses an estimated $328 billion in lost productivity. A bunch of new startups are jumping on this opportunity, trying to harness lost chances at work by building badges and tokens and unlock features into the enterprise in ways that tug at the emotions and feed the eagerness of the ego.

The enterprise is showing more and more of a consumer side. Gartner Group is recommending that every CIO investigate the use of gamification. They also say that over 70% of Global 2000 organizations will deploy at least one gamified business application within the next two years. Major brands like Delta, Nike, American Express and thousands are already using gamification as the key to unlocking the secrets of employee engagement.

Gamification is the application of game mechanics into non-gaming software. Specifically, this is software that uses a combination of virtual points, leaderboards, badges, and rewards that are tied to productivity-producing or otherwise desirable behaviors in employees. For employers who see hours of work productivity drained by people playing Farmville on work computers, this makes a lot of sense.

The people building this software – and some consulting companies – are calling this Business Gamification, to differentiate it from plain old gamification. And they think it can transform corporate culture by increasing worker productivity, engagement and retention simply by adding an emotional layer to our day-to-day business software.

We’re not talking about playing Angry Birds at work. We’re talking about creating or enhancing existing business systems with a social gaming layer. When done properly this fosters teamwork by encouraging brief frequent updates, worker transparency and acknowledging accomplishments. But be careful. It’s not about flipping a switch and adding badges where there used to be the tough slog of the performance review.

“There is a lot that can go wrong, but when a company gets it right there is a tangible change in the culture and a perceptible buzz in the office.” – said Mike Beaty, CEO of RedCritter. The company – also a Microsoft partner – has seen over 35,000 downloads of its gamified enterprise software in six months.

“It’s important that companies start with proven, ready-to-deploy gamification packages initially before committing to long term consulting and custom code for gamification deployments. One-offs with untested game mechanics can open a Pandora’s box of unexpected results,” says Beaty.

RedCritter is one of the earliest pioneers in the business gamification space and its RedCritter Tracker cloud service has demonstrated the power of game mechanics in business. While those who haven’t tried gamified software in the workplace sometimes dismiss concepts such as virtual badges as frivolous, RedCritter has revealed these types of game mechanics to deliver business benefits on many levels.

RedCritter Tracker - Agile Gamification from Mike Beaty on Vimeo.

For example, it’s proven that earning badges for completing difficult tasks is an effective way to acknowledge accomplishments. Those employees using RedCritter proudly display their badges on their social or inter-office profiles as a status symbol. In addition, HR and Project Managers are discovering that properly implemented badges actually paint a “visual map” of each employee’s work-style, preferences, skills and behavior.

They visually capture intangible qualities of a person. In the past, this type of incredibly valuable information has been hard to identify or utilize. But with RedCritter Tracker, managers use these visual maps when choosing cohesive team members for a project or for broader ascension planning. Without this management often can’t see the nuances that make a great team.

RedCritter is slated to deliver pre-built cloud-based gamification solutions for every area of business. Their goal is no less than to increase every employee’s productivity, engagement and to actually make work fun. We’ll be watching for the transformation as the entire business software industry sits on the verge of a revolution in productivity.