Why platforms will tell you, you don’t need a consultant

In the gamification world, an ever growing amount of platforms exist that can provide game elements to existing applications. A lot of them will tell you that a consultant on top of the fee of their platform is not required. When this is suggested, my question would be “who in your organisation understands the motivation of the end-users you are targeting, so you can configure the platform to motivate them accordingly?” and “does the platform provide this expertise?”. The add-on question for a platform if they do bring in that expertise, is “how much will their features drive the design instead of your outcome requirements?”

In the majority of cases, they will just install everything so you have a working platform but then it is over to you to apply the game elements as you see fit or they will just sell you the default settings with a little bit of tailoring to suit your business. I can tell you from experience, that if this is the case… then about 6 months from the installation you will either decide to turn the platform off or hire the consultant retrospectively to fix the fact that nobody is responding to the game elements and finds them annoying as opposed to motivating. Oh, and that is if you have budget left by then.

From the platforms’ perspective, they will tell you they have just as much expertise in-house as any consultant. I would suggest that unless they ask you serious questions regarding your business objectives, work through clarifying how you would measure success in your objectives, you are potentially left with a high risk of the project not delivering on any of it.

I am a big believer in understanding the target audience and I feel this is where most platform providers avoid going altogether. My question to you as a buyer is, how will you know what motivates your people and what game elements will work well? If the platform doesn’t facilitate this discussion or research, then you again increase the risk of becoming a failure statistic in the 80% that Gartner predicted to fail due to bad design. Motivation is closely linked to the culture of an organisation and the working styles within, a one size fits all approach which an out of the box standard solution will give you may not be the most useful for your company.

The biggest reason why they want you to drop the consultant is so they can start charging you sooner and potentially keep more for themselves because obviously having consultants work on a project where they promote research into objectives, success measures and target audience profiling will slow down their implementation. Often the salesperson is on a commission to close a deal in a specific quarter and bring in the revenue, and it wouldn’t be the first time it has lead to unscrupulous tactics to close the deal. They will promise you anything to just close and then when you need support for when it isn’t working, their phone is no longer working for you.

In my view, and yes I have a vested interest in saying so, my recommendation would be to bring a person that is independent of the platform and that will ask the questions to enable you a great outcome. We often work platform agnostic, unless a platform requests us to be their partner in the process in which case we look for the best design based on the platform capabilities and the company requirements. For us, the company requirements come first, because we know that is how to obtain the best results. Depending on the results required we may advise buying one platform over another.

We also will advise our client whether gamification is the right solution or not. Sometimes a process improvement is enough or a people change. For example for one multinational client, having an advanced search ability was more important than gamification and it required a better data architecture and structured meta tagging for it to work more optimally. Gamification could help with the tagging, but the architecture was still the necessary first step.

If you don’t have the in-house expertise around gamification design, my advice is to bring in an external consultant independent from your platform to help you achieve the outcomes you are after. At the end of the day, the platform just wants to install it and charge a license fee and where possible do very little else. Your outcome is not always a priority, so you need to drive that agenda and make sure you have outcome delivery into your agreement and support iterations if it isn’t working the first time.

Of course, there are platforms on the market that will bring in consultants and have great practices around identifying your needs and understanding the people within your target audience. But if you don’t receive any questions regarding outcomes and user profiling, I urge you to beware of buying with your eyes wide open or you could make a very costly investment without the results you hoped for.