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August 2 2011 Posted by: Mark Fidelman in: Enterprise 2.0

REVEALED: The Secret To Accenture’s Social Business Adoption Success (Hint: It’s Gamification)

There are a few sensations in life that manage to thrust us into action, or provoke us to work without a motive. Sensations so powerful that we fall victim to a form of altruistic amnesia. We’re driven by its hidden motivational forces and we forget the benefits are for someone else. In short, neither lack of advantage nor lack of compensation deter us.

What sensation propels people to write a ten paragraph review on Amazon?  What force is acting on people to take an unnecessary December flight in order to maintain their airline status? Why do the Boy and Girl Scouts work long hours and weekends without payment to earn merit badges to display on their uniforms?

Accenture’s Chris Crawford seems to know, and he is using these notions to affect the social alchemy at Accenture. Better, he is willing to share it with us. But before you read to the end, can anyone tell me the real reason why casinos offer their ‘Whales’ the use of private jets, private suites and limousines?

Accenture’s Social Business Background

“SharePoint forms the heart of our social networking capabilities within Accenture,” says Crawford, “We use it as a content management system, a publishing platform and for internal communications.”

Corporate Demographics

Social Demographics

230,000 employees

SharePoint 2010 platform with NewsGator add in for Social

Located in 120 countries

Yammer for microblogging

$25  billion in annual revenues

115,000 employees have filled out profiles

Headquarters in Ireland

5000 profile updates a month

CEO: Pierre Nanterme

1000 blog posts a month

 List of Executives

12,000 video items posted to Accenture Media Exchange

 

4200+ monthly microblog updates

 

Accenture’s social business initiative also includes a broad based video strategy. Starting with Cisco’s Telepresence at the high-end and desktop video at the low end.

MediaExchange

Why Gaming Mechanics? 

Crawford and his team quickly realized that the key to higher adoption of SharePoint starts with user profiles. They found a direct correlation between the number of customized user profiles, and the amount of internal collaboration. Crawford says, “Those profile pages are a key reason for the success of our collaboration efforts.”

PeopleProfile

So Crawford began to organize ‘complete your profile’ contests and publishing stats on the percentage of the company that actually did. Soon however, Crawford realized that the profile page can only tell a small fraction of an employee’s story. The rest of the story lies in learning the details of an employee’s expertise and knowledge.

To surface that, Crawford and team again returned to gaming principles.  “We started an internal recognition program to encourage our employees to contribute to SharePoint,” Crawford said, “We look and we measure how people are contributing, how they are connecting, and how they are communicating, and score them on their activities.”

But wait! Crawford discovered that in order to have a thriving social business solution, the solution must still provide meaningful value in isolation with or without a gaming dynamic.

Does this actually work within large organizations? 

To draw an analogy, casinos excel at game mechanics. They understand that people love to play games, but their customers may become bored if rewards or recognition are missing. So casinos have mastered the art of increasing contributions (or cash deposits) by providing a controlled gaming environment designed to extract more money from their customers.

Admittedly, the cash acquisition goal of a casino is different from Accenture’s content contribution goals. And yet, there are some intriguing similarities. For example, casino employees are encouraged to identify and interact with their patrons to extend the gaming activity while keeping them in the building. And casino loyalty points are strategically used to reward customers for continued game play.

But what’s most striking is the conditions in which their customers tolerate. Smoke filled rooms, drunk patrons, hysterical yelling, so for most of us, we’d never go again.  And yet they do. The results as we all know are nothing but astonishing. Have you heard of a casino that has failed?

By the same token, if one asked corporate employees, most do not want to take the time to visit the corporate intranet. Like the casino, there is some initial value in visiting it; but the novelty fades away if the user experience is unpleasant, no one is using it, or the employee can not find the information they are seeking.

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Flush in the understanding of this inherent dilemma, Crawford believes the gaming principles they are using give the house an edge. His team deals badges to Accenture’s employees for accomplishing various tasks or to specify how long they’ve worked at Accenture. “That’s proven popular because a lot of people enjoying see it (on their profiles),” explains Crawford.

Crawford and team also award points by measuring an employee’s contributions, rating content, adding keywords, for blogging or microblogging, or commenting on someone else’s blog.  They also publicly recognize and reward the top 100 bloggers on a leaderboard. “We have a number of different things we measure and we pull that data out of the SharePoint logs,” Crawford says, “Moving forward, we’re working with Newsgator to help incorporate these gaming strategies into our base product.”

For Accenture, gaming dynamics are proving to be successful in augmenting their internal social business objectives. 

Should you sit down at the gaming mechanics table?

Mark Twain once observed, “What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn’t have done it.”

 

image

And so the Amazon reviewer writes a 10 paragraph review of a book because he is socially recognized as a leader in the Amazon reviewer community.   The mileage runner takes the unnecessary December flight in order to maintain her airline elite level and earn extra rewards. The Boy Scout takes pride in the visible  recognition he receives in the form of uniform merit badges.  They do it because it has been socially designed to be rewarding. 

Lithium’s Michael Wu, does a masterful job of explaining how gamification can influence behavior. There are three primary principles, he submits, in order to maximize gamification effectiveness: sufficient motivation, the ability to carry out the activity, and a well timed trigger. He continues by suggesting the most crucial aspect of these three factors is that they must all converge at the same time. Anything less, and the gamification impact is degraded.

Accenture’s results suggest that instead of extracting dollars, Crawford and his team are extracting content from their employees by leveraging these principles.  They’ve created an environment where points and badges are the social currency that rewards and compels employees to contribute to SharePoint. 

Final thoughts 

As introduced earlier, the ‘Whale’ or ‘high roller’ in our casino analogy is given free access to expensive resources precisely because the casinos recognize the impact Whales have on their profits and the positive residual effect they have on other casino patrons.

So in order to stack the deck, and along with gamification principles, target the content Whales in your organization. You will recognize them from the amount of quality content they produce. Then roll out the red carpet and give them everything they need to continue to create rich content for your site. Soon others may follow suit.

But however you start, and as Crawford advises, the architects of the site should know their users’ goals.  Then build an environment where each user is greeted with suggestions on where to contribute information to the site (which earns badges and points). But always in the context of how the content can help both the user and her peers.

So If your social business solution is experiencing low adoption, I’ll wager you have not created the right environment with the right incentives. Correct the situation and odds are you will receive an enormous payout.

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