Originally published as a guest blog for Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce
Software is a tool. The programs you run on your business computers are your toolkit. They are the tools you give yourself and your employees, enabling you to do your work.
Software is designed and built by people like us at JFDI. You may use application package software like Microsoft Office for general tasks. You might also use a CRM, accounting software, sales order processing, HR systems, an Intranet, or a custom developed system.
It occurred to us around 25 years ago that the majority of software was incredibly unengaging. Of course, it occurred to other people too. The old term for how to tackle this was “user-friendliness“. Make the software more “friendly” and users will have a better time using it. Initially this led to better user interface design. Many software companies failed to turn their successful DOS software into successful Windows versions because they didn’t understand what made good user interfaces. Some software companies even tried animated personalities to give users the idea that the computer was there to help them. Such efforts ultimately failed. Many users were left frustrated with programs which got in their way and prevented them getting into a flow of work. For example, demanding constant change from mouse to keyboard and back again greatly slows work and increases user fatigue.
Meanwhile, over in another branch of software development, things looked rather more rosy. Good games keep you playing for level after level. There are examples of great game design going back twenty years or more. More recently, psychologists looked deeper into what makes games so engaging. They then looked at how elements of game design could be used in the design of business software. This is called Gamification. Don’t confuse this with turning everything into a game, because that’s not what it’s about at all.
For example, take the business processes and procedures that make up your work. Your work invariably involves driving some sort of process. Someone makes an enquiry which leads to pre-sales tasks. They place an order, which leads to order confirmation, order fulfilment, invoicing, waiting for payment, statement generation and so on. The process may not intrinsically be that interesting or engaging. It may comprise some really boring, tedious steps. There may be milestones which the software trivialises or doesn’t acknowledge at all.
JFDI’s strategies to Automate Everything and Motivate Everyone aim to counteract these situations. By automating the boring, tedious tasks, we free up more of your time for more engaging, satisfying tasks. By employing gamification techniques, we keep you and your staff engaged with the business process. We turn processes into stories, and find ways to appeal to your natural competitive nature to encourage productivity.
Many companies are trying to do some or all of what we do. We’re so lucky. We have a leading Gamification consultant, Pete Jenkins of Gamification+, among our closest friends, and he even works in our building. He’s worked with us on our gamified in-place training product, Motivate Everyone Onboarding.
The first step is to identify your business processes. Then identify how they can be improved. This will lead to a picture of your software needs. Talk to JFDI for help with this process. We’ll make sure everything stays within your budget, and delivers measurable improvements.
Jon is JFDI’s Director of Research & Development. He’s been a consultant for over 30 years, making computers do clever things for 40 years, playing with electronics for even longer, and fixing problems with bits of technology for as long as he can remember. He’s also been a freelance writer since 1988, including as Contributing Editor of PC Pro Magazine.