Is ERP Gamification For Everyone?

At a recent Collaborate Conference organized by Oracle, Mike Mihaichuk, the manager of ERP and finance applications at the Canadian airline company, WestJet, took to the stage and revealed something extremely interesting – his company had recently completed a successful testing of gamification on their ERP system. WestJet, an Oracle ERP customer, partnered with the popular gamification company Badgeville to implement a system that incentivized its employees with badges for completing various tasks on the expenses reporting system of their ERP application.

At the outset, a gamification system for ERP applications seem out of place. Gamification, which has been popularized by services like FourSquare and Facebook check-ins is popular among consumer-facing products and services. The idea is to provide small virtual incentives like points and badges to nudge the customer into consuming more of the service, thereby making higher revenues. For ERP, an application that is primarily B2B and that is completely utilitarian, gamification does not look like a feature that would add much value.

Apparently not. The WestJet experiment found that intelligent gamification could in fact be used to nudge the application users to be more timely and efficient. For the pilot study, Mike's team implemented a badges system for their ERP's expense reporting module. The idea was to incentivize users for timely submission of expenses, the timely approval of them, existence of receipts and for the prioritized use of a corporate card. The WestJet team found that despite the availability of an ERP system to track expenses, the employees were not prompt in their submission and approvals. By offering badges to users for prompt submissions, WestJet ensured that tasks that were otherwise relegated till the end of the month or quarter, often got performed in a timely manner.

With the successful completion of the pilot project, ERP gamification is now likely to be taken up seriously by a number of enterprises struggling for active employee participation in their ERP projects. A poll conducted by Gallup found that nearly 70% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged at workplaces – this figure is likely to be up for more 'boring' enterprise aspects like the ERP. By introducing gamification, enterprises can bring about a radical improvement in employee engagement.

Unlike earlier times, the deployment of such custom features on a company's ERP system is not likely to cost a lot. With cloud-based ERP system partners like NetSuite and Ramco offering hosted or SaaS based enterprise resource planning tools to their customers, implementing gamification features should become as easy as installing a plugin from your ERP dashboard.

Having said that, the more important question is if such gamification features are for everyone. An important point to consider is that a lot of ERP modules are targeted at specific teams within enterprises. For instance, the Finance module, procurement module, HR module are all targeted at specific teams. On an average, these teams have between 100-500 employees each even in the biggest of companies; the actual ERP users among them being much smaller. With such a small pool of users to 'compete' with, gamification may not always bring about a radical improvement in user engagement for most of the critical ERP modules. But as the WestJet experiment shows, it could still work for those modules that are used company-wide – like expenses reporting or leave application modules.

 

What do you think? Will gamification work with your company's ERP system? Tell us in the comments. 


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