Unfortunately, Even The Most Fun Business Software Doesn't Sound Very Fun

from the not-yet-anyway dept

The usability of most business software is notoriously poor, and because of this, it often goes unused within companies that have invested in it. The New York Times has an interesting article about attempts made by some software makers to introduce design elements from videogames in the hopes of making software more engaging, and thus more likely to actually get used. However, while the ambition is interesting, it sounds like things are still at an inchoate state. One maker of CRM software is making it so that salespeople can build profiles for potential customers, as if they were updating a character profile in a game, which doesn't sound like a terribly exciting feature. The software will also make it easier for the salespeople to see how they rank in comparison to their peers, though people in sales aren't typically lacking in competitive zeal. The article also mentions a company we've discussed before that's hoping to solve the problem of email overload by giving employees an artificial currency that they use up every time they send an email. If an email is deemed by the recipient to be important then the sender doesn't lose as much of their currency. But it would seem that any timed saved by reducing email overload would be lost by employees monitoring their currency reserves and trying to figure out how much they should spend to deliver an email. Furthermore, it doesn't sound particularly videogame-like or even fun. So while software designers may yet figure out how to make day-to-day tasks more like playing a game, it seems like they have a long way to go.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Marsupial, May 21st, 2007 @ 8:36pm

    Hmmmmm......

    Well, in general business isn't fun. That's why they pay people to do their jobs. Because they probably wouldn't do it just for the fun of it.

    Personally in corporate America, I would hate to "monitor my email currency." It would just be another task. Just give me my core job to do and get out of my way. As for biz software.... If

    a) they have tools available to help *me* do *my* job,
    b) they haven't screwed up the network to the point where I can't use them,
    c) they're usable and not just confusing and "make-more-work"
    d) they're stable (all big if's!!)

    I'll try them.
    If they automate some mind numbing task I'll love them. Unfortunately the biz software that I've come across usually doesn't do that, because the mind numbing aspect is the downside effect of merging two incompatible systems or having six different passwords on six different networks.
    You need a homegrown solution for that, and your IT dept. usually doesn't understand people's workflow well enough or care enough to provide one. I'll steadfastly refuse to use any biz software that, after giving it a fair try, just makes more work for me.

     

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  2.  
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    rEdEyEz, May 21st, 2007 @ 9:08pm

    come back to reality

    "artificial currency?"

    In the business world, the only thing that matters is REAL currency.

    Yet one more example of executive idiocy...

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2007 @ 9:19pm

    I think Congress should get a certain portion of the annual projected budget in Monopoly money and they should have to spend that on bills instead of votes - if you want a billion dollar bridge to nowhere for the people back home, better mortgage Park Place.

     

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  4.  
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    Adam Geffner, May 21st, 2007 @ 9:30pm

    E-mail Currency

    I can't believe this has resurfaced. Why can't they let a bad idea stay dead? The notion of funny-money for e-mail currency was big (that is big amoung some companies and organizations) back in the early 90's when early adopters and promoters of e-mail (such as Universities) were afraid that bandwidth and resourced demans would greatly outpace their ability to keep up and support the networks if things weren't kept in check. How to limit computing resources? In the "real world" companies like AOL charged a fee per hour to stay online (I'm sure more AOL freebie CDs ended up getting trashed or turned into coasters than ended up getting used). Univerities ended up trialing funny money accounts for limiting e-mail and other online activities. The result? It was stupid and useless. My own University (University of Delaware) attempted this. What happens when you run out of moeny? You simply apply for and receive more moeny. No real limitations. The only real benefit was to prevent people from staying logged on all day and night. This concept is silly now by comparison. This approach failed to gain popularity even to fight spammers, it'll never fly, or about as likely to work as DRM. Adam

     

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  5.  
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    g, May 21st, 2007 @ 9:33pm

    Re: come back to reality

    Corporations often use in-company money, which is not real money, but tracks the efficiency of departments that dont take in real money.

    Obviously all departments spend money, so using a fake money transferred between departments based on SLAs and services provided gives a sense of the departments worth to other departments in the company (some of whom will take in real money).

     

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  6.  
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    g, May 21st, 2007 @ 9:35pm

    Re: Hmmmmm......

    If you dont use business software that others are using, you are creating a disparity of information in your company, which means youre not doing your job.

    True sucky software sucks, and its pretty much all sucky, but you have to deal with it in business.

    Some of us are working on solutions to this, so it's not a lost cause yet. :)

     

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  7.  
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    rEdEyEz, May 21st, 2007 @ 10:17pm

    Re: Re: come back to reality

    Oh, yes!

    My company's IT dept. is doing that, as well...

    The end result: at the end of every month, whoever "earned" a "threshold" amount of "currency points" is eligible for a "free" drawing for a "free" iPod!!!! ("incentives" to USE the system; i.e. Help desk requests, Internet Service Requests - language translation may be necessary)

    Funny, they "seemingly" violate their own security policies by providing employees with a "tool" capable of "stealing" "secure data" from their own enterprise network.

    ...again, simplistic idiocy: - "grow the "F*** up," kids, it's a BUSINESS, not a church bingo/raffle."

    Bottom line: some corporations do not (trust) know how to budget service departments appropriately, i.e. how to differentiate between direct/indirect costs, nor more importantly, how to VALUATE the contributions of service departments...

     

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  8.  
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    Zorak #9, May 22nd, 2007 @ 12:11am

    What e-mail really needs

    It would be good to have a plain rating system tracking the usability of messages. It could just be a little rating graph that appears on their Outlook somewhere.

    We get bombed with crap sent to email lists just because one person out of 227 on the list needed the info.

    If the other 226 could rate the email as "My gods! You SUCK! GO AWAY!!", the clueless jerks that love to sound hyper-important might clue in that they're talking to a hostile crowd.

     

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  9.  
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    Cixelsid, May 22nd, 2007 @ 5:18am

    Vote who gets the Axe!

    I propose a game where work colleagues have to engage in meaningless tests to prove their worth and coffee privileges. Once a week have they have to come together to vote someone out the office until there is only one employee left. He then wins the chance to go home and kill himself.

     

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