Measuring employee performance

Gamification of Software Development

An old English saying goes “Where there is a will, there is a way”.

In the software industry, the employees who are determined and motivated to solve the toughest of the problems, do solve the toughest of the problems. 

Software projects are run by a team of software professionals performing different roles. The challenge for project managers is to keep them all motivated to achieve the collective target of quality, on-time delivery, reduced defects and most importantly customer satisfaction.

Gamification is the application of design elements and principles of games in non-game contexts. It has been applied in the fields of education and marketing for quite some time now. Interestingly, gamification can also be applied for the field of software development, to engage the employees, recognize their contributions, and reward them.

Studies have shown that factors like sense of belonging to the organisation, rewards, recognitions, incentives and feedback improve an employee’s levels of motivation. 

Gamification wins here because employees don’t have to wait until the appraisal season(that usually happens once in a year) to hear good things about themselves. Rewards and recognitions are received throughout the course of their project work.

Framework of gamification

The most commonly used gaming principles to incentivize developers in software development teams are:

  • Points
  • Levels
  • Badges
  • Rewards
  • Leaderboards/Scoreboards

This works well because the young engineers grew up playing computer and video games regularly and it is more like a part of their lives. As they resonate with the gaming principles, naturally they get more focused and excited about the work they need to do to achieve different milestones.

More on gamification

There are two types of gamification:

Internal gamification

This keeps the employees satisfied and encourages them to excel at their work

External gamification

This is focused on keeping the customer base happy and make them return to the organisation to get more work done, thus achieving business goals

Execution

The first step in the gamification process is to identify a problem area. 

Answers to the following questions can help narrow down on areas of concern

  • Which phase of software development is most overlooked by my team?
  • What kind of bugs are mostly reported by the client?
  • Where is the maximum resource consumed?

Once the problem area is identified, the next step is to set goals to solve the identified problem. The management team needs to set goals and communicate them to the members of the project. Goals need to be clear, well defined, and relatable to the employees. 

The third step is to set rules for the game. To spell out what a player(employee) is not allowed to do. To also set the points table and allocate points for each kind of accomplishment. 

With these steps, the game is set rolling. 

As and when the employees complete the task allocated to them on time, they ought to be duly rewarded. The Reward is the most critical step of gamification. When employees are rewarded in larger forums, they are likely to get more motivated and aim at even higher recognitions. Badges can also be given to deserving employees in recognition of their unique contributions. This gives an identity to the employees.

Leaderboards are also a good way to motivate the players. Employees like to assess how well they fare as compared to their peers. Sense of progress is a strong motivating factor.

Metrics for assigning ranks in the leaderboard should be defined while setting the rules of the game. Also, the leaderboards must be updated in regular intervals (at the end of every sprint, for instance)

Timely feedback is also crucial for achieving goals. Positive feedback stimulates the employees’ spirit whereas negative feedback encourages them to approach the problem differently.

The defined metrics might have to be changed in the course of gamification. The rules of the game should be flexible enough to accommodate such changes. After all, the game is to achieve the client’s requirements in the best possible way.

Benefits for the organisation

Gamification benefits the organization in the following aspects

  1. Upskilled employees who bring in innovation
  2. Higher employee retention due to their active involvement
  3. Improved tracking of employee progress
  4. Increased productivity
  5. Client satisfaction
  6. Healthy competition amongst employees

Conclusion

Demotivated teams are prone to induce bugs in the software, delivering substandard codebase that may overutilize the resources or delay the completion of projects. 

Long term goals need more focus. Small wins are essential for fulfilling the long term goals.

Whatever gets measured, improves. For example, in a sales team where every datum counts towards success, collecting and analyzing sales data can efficiently transform sales processes.

As we have seen, gamification is not for the entertainment of the employees. Rather, it is to achieve business goals by the virtue of employee motivation and a sense of belongingness to the project.

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