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The Role of Gamification and Enabling Technologies in the Future of Commerce in an Omni World


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IORMA’s recent strategic agreement with IBM reminded me of the important role that IBM played in shaping the future direction of my career and my involvement in the technologies and strategies I anticipate will shortly have a very disruptive impact on business and commerce in an OMNI world.

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The Role of Gamification and Enabling Technologies in the Future of Commerce in an Omni World

  1. 1. The Role of Gamification and Enabling Technologies in the Future of Commerce in an OMNI World IORMA’s recent strategic agreement with IBM reminded me of the important role that IBM played in shaping the future direction of my career and my involvement in the technologies and strategies I anticipate will shortly have a very disruptive impact on business and commerce in an OMNI world. In 1983 I was working as a Sales and Marketing Executive for IBM General Systems Division in Nottingham. My role was known as a NIU (Non-IBM User) sales specialist trying to persuade users of ICL, Burroughs and NCR mainframe computers to replace them with IBM kit. I was fortunate that IBM had launched the System/38 (now the AS/400), a revolutionary new technology architecture IBM had built from scratch, incorporating a relational database embedded into its system. IBM System/38 – (AS/400) circa 1984 One of my customers was Courtaulds and I worked with them on supplier chain management solutions that provided a more direct and responsive connection between retail sales and the manufacturing process. Later in my career, during my time as Director of the Serious Games Institute, I was to witness the quantum leap in retail-manufacturing links at the Dell manufacturing facility in Northern Ireland. Here I saw individual laptops and PCs being built to the exact specification of an individual customer order placed over the internet with a sophisticated logistical operation that ensured minimal levels of stocked components. The business model that shaped my future during this time was an IBM case study of the pharmaceutical distributor Unichem who built substantial market share amongst High Street chemists through the use of hand held bar code scanners that could be placed in a modem cradle to transmit orders directly to Unichem for next day delivery. Each chemist would pay around £5000 to join the network and would be supplied with the portable scanner and equipment that connected to their telephone line. It provided very easy access to ordering and automated billing and was risk-free in the sense that the chemist could be refunded the £5000 if they decided to leave the network and return the equipment. This e-commerce solution impressed me enormously because I could see the shift away from the tradition cost justifications of IT solutions based on greater efficiency towards solutions based on technology for competitive advantage.
  2. 2. It was the Unichem solution that led me to start up my consultancy Mass Mitec in Leicester in 1984. Our initial focus was to provide consultancy services for corporate seeking competitive advantage and, as part of my business development strategy, I used my company as a demonstrator by equipping myself with technology tools that provided me with competitive advantage. The first of these tools was a floppy disk IBM PC with 64k memoryand a hardware/software package called the Braid Telex Manager which, combined with the revolutionary (for its day) Multimate word process software, allowed me to do electronic mailshots to client telex machines (before fax machines existed). This solution cost my business over £6,000 but enabled to reach corporate clients and prospects with marketing communications and regularly brought in up to 100 attendees for my technology seminars Enabling Technologies circa 1984 I also invested in a Polaroid Palette 35mm slide maker that I used in conjunction with Execuvision software to design and produce my own and customer business presentations on a PC with an early colour monitor that afforded a maximum of 4 colours and a resolution on 320 x 240 pixels. This was later to open up many opportunities within corporate clients who not only commissioned us to design presentations but also often purchased the same equipment and training from us. Early Electronic Imaging Technologies I soon discovered that corporate clients were more interested in Mass Mitec as a provider of PC based business communication solutions than as a consultancy so we quickly became one of the UK’s presentation graphics specialists and a supplier to many blue chip companies like Courtaulds,
  3. 3. IBM, BT, Thorntons, JWT, Seagram and Girobank. We were using the old 3 lens data projectors in 1985 and in 1990 we led the field by being an early adopter of electronic imaging with the Canon Ion camera which although it stored pictures in analogue format was the forerunner of the digital cameras we see today. It was later in 1992 that we were to emulate the Unichem example through an enabling technology called Diskfax. PC technology had moved on by this time and Harvard Graphics had become the de- factor standard for presentation graphics software. The PC digital communications devices were dominated by the Hayes Smart modems that operated at a maximum speed of 9600 bits per second and required some expertise to get working reliably. The Diskfax enabling technology that transformed my business consisted of a black box with a 3.5” and 5.25” floppy disk drive, a 10MB hard disk and an in-built 9600 modem. These revolutionary devices did not require a computer and would guarantee 100% data integrity for IBM, MAC and Unix disks over a telephone line to a remote Diskfax unit. Diskfax essentially provided an instant, easy to install and use disk copying service between remote sites. It was this enabling technology that enabled me to seek out a suitable High Street Retail partner to offer a UK wide service for professional quality 35mm slides from software like Harvard Graphics, Powerpoint and Lotus Freelance. The National Presentation Network partnership with Prontaprint, SPC, BT, Softsel, Microsoft etc I chose the Prontaprint retail print/copy chain as my preferred partner because they had the largest retail network that gave me access to customers all over the UK and Eire. I offered each Prontaprint franchise a package for £1500 which include the Diskfax, Harvard Graphics, sample slides and Overhead Transparencies, installation and a half day presentation masterclass launch event they could invite customers and prospects to. At the Prontaprint annual conference when the service was first announced, I sold 70 of these packages to franchisees and within 3 months we were handing around £10,000 slide business per month. It was this combination of an enabling technology and a win-win ecosystem of partners (Prontaprint, SPC, Diskfax, Lotus, Mass Mitec, BT, Softsel and Microsoft) that brought competitive advantage and a sustainable business model in which all partners stood to gain and consequently every partner invested in marketing and developing the system. This business relationship ran successfully until data projectors became common amongst business users and Mass Mitec then shifted focus onto web and desktop video conferencing.
  4. 4. Gamification Elements – see glossary Today, I believe we are the threshold over some very important enabling technologies that are likely to create new opportunities to establish the kind of innovative win-win commercial relationships that could transform commerce. To understand the connection between “Gamification”, enabling technologies and commerce, I offer a couple of example business models based around win-win relationships and Gamification concepts. The first example is Simon Cowell’s X-Factor which is a win- win ecosystem of relationships between Simon Cowell’s Talent Management company, wannabe stars, viewers, TV networks and Telecom providers. Simon Cowell’s business challenge is to sign up the best talent and invest in promoting them in order to gain commission on their success. Without enabling technologies, his company would have to invest in acquiring and promoting the talent with all the risk and competition that involves. His use of a “Win-win” Gamification strategy means that instead of having to invest his money, he is paid to have the best talent brought to his door and promoted for him. All of the stakeholders in this ecosystem benefit from the arrangement and have incentives to sustain the model for its commercial returns on their investment.
  5. 5. The Ingenie Insurance proposition is based on Gamification and Enabling Technologies The other example is the car insurance provider Ingenie which specialises in insuring young drivers. Their Gamification strategy provides incentives for young drivers to continuously improve their driving skills and behaviours by linking the policies to the installation of a “black box” telematics device in the driver’s car. This device monitors and provides feedback to the driver and Ingenie and offers monthly discounts to drivers who drive well and therefore represent a lower risk to the company. This arrangement would not be possible without the enabling monitoring and feedback technology involved. Gamification Influencers leverage the power of Enabling Technologies used in my Case Studies See
  6. 6. All of the examples I have given of enabling technologies that delivered dramatic and rapid results within my business and those of my win-win stakeholder partners leveraged what I call Gamification Influencers to engage, attract and manage new customers on a significant scale in short timescales. The Braid Telex manager and Multimate “e-mailshots” focused on Awareness, Accessibility, Affordability, Attractiveness, Affectedness, Ambition, Appearance and Authority to establish Mass Mitec as a thought leader, pioneer and trusted provider of advanced business communication solutions. My White paper on Gamification and Enabling Technologies at provides a fuller understanding of the principles involved. Today, the Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics, Cloud computing and low cost mobile devices are all maturing rapidly and opening up a myriad of innovative solutions based around such “win-win” ecosystems of stakeholders made possible by “Measurement and Feedback” technologies that will offer the kinds of rewards and incentives that can attract and retain customers in exciting and entrepreneurial ways. IORMA’s consultancy services provide thought leadership in this sector to support the cost effective development of future commerce solutions which we can barely even yet imagine. The revolution has begun!!!!! David Wortley May 2014