What most of us know of today as a game of snakes and ladders – was once a sixteen century Indian game of Vaikuntapaali- played to teach morality and spirituality to it participants. In today’s times, organizations are using gamification to digitally engage and motivate employees in the workplace.
At Ashok Leyland, Venkatesh Natarajan, special director-IT wanted to take it a step further. Being the CIO at one of India’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, he wanted to find the best possible way to market IT solutions better to business.
So after a recent meeting with one lines of business head, it stuck him that IT needs to find a more intuitive method to collect requirements from the business. Natarajan was looking for that little wave of innovation that would help him build better products for business.
“In any organization, business users are like field troops, and IT provides air support. Therefore, we are always in a quest to find a way to arm these users with IT tools such that they can do their work better,” explains Natarajan.
However, collecting requirements from business to build these tools isn’t easy. It results in situation where ‘what IT builds is not what business wants.’ To bridge this disconnect, the company decided to ‘gamify’ the entire process.
The term gamification was coined by Nick Pelling, a computer programmer and inventor in 2002. But even before that, it was Chuck Conradt, known as the father of gamification, wrote the book – The Game of Work- in 1973, and asked – “Why would people pay for the privilege of working harder at their chosen sport or recreational pursuit than they would work at a job where they were being paid?”
In a two-day workshop organized by a four-member IT team at Ashok Leyland’s regional office in Kolkata, a total of 25 field executives from various sub functions under sales and marketing, services, were handpicked to actively engage in a gamification concept known as Speed Boat.
Each player was given a paper boat that represented the final IT solution and its anchors were represented by four main categories namely information, process, empowerment, and technology–used to classify the different issues raised by them.
For instance, if IT were to build an app for the company’s field force, they must list down the issues they face and the kind of functionalities in the app that could improve their productivity or efficiency. The IT team grouped them into six different teams and got a mixed bag of issues.
On the second day, the teams were regrouped again and they were asked to refine their list of issues (without redundancies) per category. A total of 150 issues (including duplicates between groups) were collected by the IT team whose job was to choose and prioritize from the list based on IT’s availability of resources.
To make this fun and interesting, each of the teams had to bid from a final list of requirements. Each commodity was valued at 300 rupees and an amount of 4500 rupees worth of fake currency were given to each team. “We restricted the total number of requirements they could bid for to 15,” said Natarajan. At the end of two days, IT cultivated a polished list of 75 business requirements.
“With the help of gamification, we brought in a cost culture within the organization and sensitized business users about the different costs involved in building an IT solution,” said Natarajan.
Going forward, Natarajan will continue using the gamification concept on a selective basis. “Gamification has made the requirements-gathering process interactive, collaborating, and engaging for the user and it has helped both business and IT prioritize requirements and projects,” said Natarajan.
Gamification has made the requirements-gathering process interactive for the user and it has helped IT get on the same page with business.