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Gamification platform Work&Play recently launched an interesting gamification design for the largets Russian social media site Odnoklassniki. Over five days developers and testers got involved in Bugathlon, an internal competition on fixing software bugs and learning skills.

Fixing bugs is a boring task, especially when it comes to bugs with low-priority. Those often were not corrected in time because of their perceived insignificance. But, first things first!

How did it start?

It all started a few months before when we, Work&Play, and Odnoklassniki ideated what game design elements to use and how the competition should be. The idea was to package all accumulated low-priority bugs in groups and do a five day Bugathlon to fix them all. For each bug a gamification master set the skills value that the developer need to fix the bug. The contest was scheduled to take place once every few months. And the winner is not the one who fixed the most bugs, but the one who improved the most in his or her skills. With that the whole game was integrated with the Ticket bugtracker in Jira. The original idea looked fun and we created a plugin for Jira. Odnoklassniki collected bugs for the first Bugathlon, and affixed to them a value of skills improved.

What did we get?

The result was this screen:

Bugathlon

In the middle is the playing field, it displays the available bugs. Odnoklassniki added stories and pictures of users to them. The idea was to give the error a human face and turn it away from being soulless support tickets. The original idea by Odnoklassniki was even to add significance and drama to each ticket. Odnoklassniki came up with stories such as this: "This girl accidentallyuploaded a wrong picture in her profile, but she cannot remove it. If she cannot change the picture in the next ten minutes, her boyfriend will be upset. Their relationship is in danger!" Because of the high effort to add such stories to each bug, this idea was not implemented.

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HPIn today's IT Management software, processing IT incidents or events can be a repetitive task. It is  also highly optimized, which makes it a boring task for operators. Repetitive and unexciting means these tasks can lead to demotivated staff and a high fluctuation of operators.

On the other side, administrators who have to optimize IT management often struggle with the overwhelming complexity of the IT environment and with inadequate management tools. The downside of a powerful, but huge, feature set of some toolsets is that they often require significant effort to master their features too. It is even possible that advanced features which could improve or simplify the management of the IT environment are not used, because administrators are not aware of them.

This is in conflict with some of the goals of a CTO or Director of Operations. They usually have these goals:

  1. Increase productivity
  2. Reduce total cost of ownership
  3. Maximize return on investment

How can an Operations team achieve these goals while keeping staff motivated? How can they increase the knowledge of the staff?

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TrueOfficeYou can't be timelier than this: today I last minute finished two mandatory corporate compliance training sessions that I had dreaded and postponed and moved back for weeks. One was about Corporate Security, the other on my understanding of the Business Code of Conduct. Thankfully, I don't have to go through another Sexual Harassment training (BTW: shouldn't it be called "Anti-Sexual Harassment training"?) anymore.

But here is the point: all these things are necessary and make sense, and my brain says: "Mario: it is important to know about this and comply." Right! But my gut says: "How boring! Isn't there anything more fun that I can do right now?"

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A few days ago I discussed how users can be empowered to acquire the proper authorizations in a business application through gamification. Instead of an official submission process with a system administrator following a number of steps and finally granting (or not granting) authorizations, I explored a multitude of ideas, like having players gain experience in their daily use of  a business solution and leveling up after certain milestones reached in their achievements.  

This approach is fine for processes that are not regulated through a company-internal policy or through legal requirements that aim at risk mitigation. Policies might state that purchases above a certain amount require the approval of a manager, or business trips need to be approved by the board.

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A rather boring and time consuming exercise in an enterprise is the administrators' tasks to assign authorizations to a system user. Regardless of the system, a new user gets assigned a profile with transactions that this user is allowed to access and use. You may for example create a new account and edit it, but not delete it. Or you may edit only your own records, but not the ones of co-workers, even if they are in the same team. Or you may not override certain limits in placing an order, but you would need the OK from your VP to do so. The same VP, who's actually never really working with the system and therefore is not familiar with it, which leads to the anachronistic situation that the system user may know the VP-user and password and logs in with this user's account by himself, just for practicability purposes.

Over time, of course, you need additional authorizations, as you become more familiar with the system and will more likely encounter on a regular base exceptions which require your supervisor's approval. That's when you submit a request for getting more authorizations assigned for your user. A system administrator, who - as is the case in a large corporation - may not even know you, has to decide, if your request should be granted. The decision is rarely based on whether you are actually qualified to use the transaction, but more if you are a VP or if the comment-field in your request contains a compelling case. And that case was written by you, and is not based on verifiable data.

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