Playing games

Most insightful post I’ve read today day: Go Big Always – Productivity software should learn from game design.

What if our current productivity software was a game.

It would suck. We’d be asked to save the princess but not be able to see a map, where the other players are, or how to escape the room we’re in. Our entire inventory would consist of a slow carrier pigeon that could deliver craploads of messages back and forth. We wouldn’t even know the score. That’s pretty much the productivity “game” we’ve been playing.

I think this is right on, specifically for ‘enterprise’ productivity apps.  There is just no innovation is the way that we interact with our business applications has not fundamentally changed in almost 20 years.  We went from green screens to windows (first on Unix and then on PCs) and then it seemed that everything stopped (in cases like SAP R/3 some would argue it never really got off the green screen paradigm).
No some vendors in the PLM market have latched on to this meme before, but I think they took it too literally.  The point is not to make games out of PLM apps.  The point is to think about the user when apps are developed.  The post really nails it with the three points at the conclusion:

  • help me make decisions
  • keep my interested
  • make it pleasurable.

I think there are small glimpses of this in the PLM software in use today, but there could be a lot more.  I think PLM is the farthest along in decision support.  There are all sorts of ways that CAD and PDM apps let you set goals and simulate what will happen if various choices are made.  However, this could be easier, and it could also be made more of a competitive sport.  What about CAD systems that posted results from a day’s or a week’s work to a site that showed which teams or individuals was getting closest to all the targets?
The other two areas represent opportunities for great improvement.  There isn’t much beyond some sexy geometry and the traditional (and easily copied and therefore bland) eye candy of the windows UI to keep people interested.  And if you asked most users what they thought of their CAD or PDM system I doubt that the word ‘pleasure’ would ever cross their lips.  What about a UI that morphs and changes based on what I am trying to do, not only to provide access to the functions I am likely to need, but to actually support the mood I might be in when I am trying to accomplish that task: free flowing an open during brainstorming, structured and precise when doing detailed reviews.
What else can be done to make PLM (or any enterprise app) a person’s favorite ‘person’ to work with?






One response to “Playing games”

  1. Scott Avatar

    One app that seems to have made some progress here is While it may have many of the similarities in other apps (pull down menu’s, nav etc) there is something about it that just is “easy” and while not fun, is not a huge pain to use.
    I think what we’re doing with SL might be a view to the future.

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