SharePoint Smooth Onboarding and User Adoption with Gamification

When it comes to SharePoint, the challenges are usually the same in almost every user organization. Companies pay tens of thousands of good cash on SharePoint implementations and customizations to tweak the usability and “look and feel” towards their own processes and also sometimes towards the usability from End User perspective. Still End Users find it hard to start using and then fully adopt the use of SharePoint. And as we all know, Microsoft doesn’t recommend customizations because it adds complexity to the system and might affect upgradability and performance. So what is happening out there? We still customize and everyone complains. Is this really the most efficient way to boost user adoption?

What if there would be another solution to this problem. What if we would use game mechanics and concepts to smoothly ramp up the End Users in the smart and efficient way of using SharePoint?

First of all some thoughts about achieving higher adoption and optimal use of SharePoint.

1) To achieve best possible business benefits from SharePoint, investments require user adoption in those parts relevant to business to create added value. People should be connected to business processes and all the relevant information in the right context and not only to each other.

2) To achieve a maximum adoption rate, put your efforts to methods that boost learning and connect people to those business processes that can really produce business results to your organization. In other words, ensure that people learn first how they can use SharePoint in those processes that will produce the best return on investment. Like this their basic understanding and knowledge of SharePoint capabilities will grow in a meaningful way.

3) Switch focus from costly custom development to End User empowerment, engagement and training.

4) To get the grip on SharePoint, make sure that most of the training is continuous and progress is ensured all the time.

5) The best way to do that is to combine gamified eLearning (training videos, tutorials, etc.) and gamified SharePoint supported business process tasks.

Now let’s focus a bit more on the Gamification part. Every time you start a new game nowadays there are certain and usually click-through tutorials the player needs to pass in order to get “unleashed” towards the game. In business we really seldom find this kind of a scenario. What usually happens is that IT ramps up the environment. It get’s “launched” to the End Users with only limited amount of information in how to use the system correctly. So people start to improvise and learn it by themselves and try to match old working behavior with the new working environment. The result is usually something very chaotic and old behaviors are even harder to unlearn!

So why not use onboarding tutorials also in SharePoint?

Yu-Kai Chou, grandmaster of Gamification speaks about 4 experience phases of Gamification.


The four experience phases of gamification by Yu-Kai Chou.

1) The discovery phase: Learning and trying out the product. Finding its value.

2) The onboarding phase: Getting more familiar with the products structure and mechanics. Get deeper knowledge of the features and explore boundaries.

3) The Scaffolding phase: Use the product to its nearly full extent, getting the routine of doing things. This phase creates player motivation and engagement.

4) The endgame phase (Original article not yet available): Achieving mastery of the use of a product. In this phase users create the most value in the product.

Usually users are stuck in phase one or two. So to get the most out of your SharePoint environment and the users using it, you need to guide them through all FOUR phases. Each and every phase needs to be addressed differently and even looked at to be four different product usage cycles.

So how could we use Gamification to boost and guide users through these four phases of “the game”?

I would say the context is the key; context and content are King. Use the right Gamification mechanics at the right phase of the user cycle within the right context.

Let’s look at some possible examples.

Phase 1: The Discovery Phase

We live in a fast-paced world, where people are very busy and the time for learning new things is almost non-existent, since we need to deliver highest quality in the shortest amount of time all the time. Therefore there is almost no time to visit a full-blown training program in order to jump right to the scaffolding phase.

How could we design a system, which guides us through the first steps when using SharePoint?

Here are some examples how this could be done:

  • Use context-based callouts, giving tips (E.g. Did you know that….) where users need to navigate and learn what the purpose of these elements on the site is.
  • Use your real working environment and build a training meta layer on top of the current sites.
  • Users click through the most important user stories and can gather points while doing so.
  • Clicking through all those mini tutorials will give access to more extensive training content but always right within the context. So the user never leaves the environment where she or he currently is working.
  • Show the progress of the user in real time. How many tutorials have been done, and how many I still need to finalize in order to get to the next phase.

This system would very smoothly show the user the right path in using the system right and that would immediately create the right associations in the brain of the user. Plus the user can do something productive right away and gets an immediate reward for that.

Phase 2: The Onboarding Phase

In this phase the learning examples get more complex and could be designed as exploration missions for the user:

  • Mission examples: Get rid of all your folders :), Fill in all metadata fields of your documents within your site, etc.
  • The missions would be designed as such, that they would step by step add value to the sites by explaining the users with short texts and videos how certain things are done.
  • The users gathers points when looking at the learning content, but gets even more points when executing the exercise and take it into use.
  • After mastering all the missions the user gets into the next level.

Phase 3: The Scaffolding Phase

This is all about getting routine for the system. So basically all activities get tracked and the user can receive Experience points when doing so. Going through phase one and two gave the user all the tools to use the system correctly. So now it’s about using it and achieving mastery.

Here the reward system can be designed as such that whenever the user creates engagement with other colleagues, more points are gathered. Users would be rewarded for referrals and creating quality content which creates any engagement of some sort. This phase can also be “spiced up” with team or solo challenges like: “who can gather the most likes for the next blog post”.

The scaffolding phase should lead to mastery of the product in the certain context and role of the user. So a communications person from the intranet team would have a different focus than a collaboration site owner. However, learning things outside of your own role might give you extra points.

Phase 4: Endgame Phase

This phase would be rewarding the masters of SharePoint with the power to teach, coach and give them more responsibility in the context of owned information and the Intranets further development.

SharePoint Internal MVPs would become community managers by default and they would do social enterprise moderation and also would get access to more higher education in SharePoint.

So “Endgamers” would create value in becoming ambassadors and agents in the field, helping others to become masters of their own class. Endgame users would only receive points when they get endorsed from other “lower level” players in the system.

Throughout all the phases, every player should receive different rewards of different sorts. It can be something tangible, a group cheer, but last but not least the user should always be recognized for the efforts they do, to become better in the use of the system to create more value at the end of the day.

Also for this system to work, the transparency on user’s own progress is essential but not necessarily against others. This only works in very competitive fields like sales for example. This system is helping to overcome the biggest obstacle, meaning oneself.

Jussi Mori is partner and principal consultant at Peaches Industries. He’s a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for SharePoint in Finland and expert for information-worker productivity and Gamification. Within the scope of modern collaboration and communication systems, he specialises in the SharePoint solutions of Microsoft and the SharePoint Cloud services within the Office 365 product series.