Gamification, Dashboards, Search and Enterprise Failure

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Post by: Sigurd Rinde

Ooh, I love a good disagreement, and when my friend JP Rangaswami who’s views I respect highly, writes a post that I heartily disagrees with I’m tickled pink!

It was his views on Gamification and Dashboards in the enterprise that made me hit the keyboard, because:

I see gamification, dashboards and search as signs of enterprise failure!

There I said it, humbly.

They all signify a lack of process frameworks that can run the processes. And just to clarify, industrial processes are not the only processes, all we do is a process as in “steps of activities with a goal”, and that should cover all that we do in organisations, in business, in enterprises. And for a process to happen, for flows to flow, one needs a framework, structured, flexible or manual. Just like water requires a riverbed or a pipeline. But if the framework is manual (bucket passing anyone? Monday morning meetings, budgets and reporting anyone?) then the creative value-creation work will suffer.

[Note: I do absolutely agree with JP that knowledge work and it’s BRPs (Barely Repeatable Processes) are way more important than the industrial ERPs (Easily Repeatable processes), twice the importance I’d argue. But still most process software is built for the ERPs and not the BRPs – and that has to change!]


Don’t misread me, I’m all for games, it’s a core human activity and all positive – but it has two kind of rewards: Extrinsic and intrinsic, and…

Intrinsic works, extrinsic does not work (except for the first instance or two, or for simple menial labour) – and all I read about gamification is about extrinsic rewards, badges and whatnot.

The classic intrinsic rewards are “mastery, purpose and autonomy”. Basic, always worked, hugely powerful. But these three intrinsic rewards requires a flow- or process framework that can run the processes in the background, otherwise most of the effort will go into making the flow flow, non-value creation, and that kills all three with a vengeance.

And therein lies the issue, if there is no “automatic” process framework – and there is only manual frameworks for knowledge work today; meetings, hierarchies, budgets, reports – then the intrinsic rewards are hard to attain if at all.

Hence the claim that the need for extrinsic rewards as per most “gamification” efforts being a clear sign of no proper process framework, and hence of enterprise failure.

(Image from Wikipedia)


If a process is manually framed you will need access to all available activities all the time as the system does not know “where you are” and “what you need” just now. A dashboard is simply the practical solution to this “allness at all times” so you have a spitting chance to find your way. I dare you to count number of clickable links in a typical enterprise system dashboard! 

So again, a dashboard only shows that it’s all manual and time and effort is wasted on making the flow flow. A proper process based system would have one button for the task at hand, and perhaps a few for reports/views and no need for a sorting desk, aka dashboard. A clear sign of lack of process framework and hence enterprise failure.


Until 1913 cars were manufactured in workshops and the workers had to go find tools and rummage for parts. Today’s office worker does the same, but now it’s about searching for documents and information. Task context has to be created manually!

A proper process based system, or process framework would know what your task is and thus know what information to deliver you at the same time so search would be superfluous (not all the time of course, but mostly).

So when I see search then I see a lack of proper process framework again.

Interesting thing that assembly line, within a year value-creation per worker (i.e. putting a car together) increased 7.8 times – and that without automating or changing any of the actual car assembly activities (same parts, same tools, same movements), only by frameworking and automating the work spent on making the flow move forward.

Yes it was a highly linear, utterly predictable process – an Easily Repeatable Process (ERP), and no you cannot use that same process engine for the unpredictable, Barely Repeatable Process (BRP) most of us live in – for that new and different solutions are required.

With that we would see less search, a prepared environment for intrinsic rewards and no dashboards at all.

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