A new game for BI

BI might be best made into a game. Tableau Software, for example, doesn’t call its tool a game, of course. You don’t sell business software that way. But to many of its users, it might as well be a game. Tableau looks like more fun than any other computer game I know of.

We’ve seen other examples of game-like behavior. Prius owners, for example, compete to see who can get the best gas mileage. And Frank Buytendijk found his game in his running shoe-implanted Nike chip. The chip lets him compete against himself.

The potential for BI occurred to me on the flight home from TDWI Chicago as I watched game researcher Jane McGonigal’s “Saving the World Through Game Design” from last year’s New Yorker Conference. Then I read her short article in last year’s Harvard Business Review article on breakthrough ideas of 2008.

“Alternate reality games,” writes McGonigal, may become business’s “new operating system.” These “massively multi-player experiences” let players immerse themselves to play out scenarios lasting days, weeks, or months. They’re guided by “puppet masters,” who feed story pieces, missions, and puzzles. Players collaborate to analyze, strategize, predict and build a narrative. She said in the New Yorker video, “It’s like Wikipedia, but super-charged.”

McGonigal’s “World Without Oil,” in 2007, was one such game — in which 1700 players in 12 countries managed a simulated global oil shortage. For 32 days, players checked a daily dashboard with fuel prices, a local misery index and other indicators, and they imagined their lives through that filter. “What was fun about it,” she said, “is that you were in this community where people were riled up, were passionate … ” Architects figured out building techniques, people wrote about dating, and NASCAR fans got scared but innovated anyway. See the results here.

From her Harvard Business Review article:

Eventually, games will become the go-to tools for launching internal initiatives, or they will rally global teams of outside “expert players” to engage in business forecasting. Ultimately, ARGs will involve customers in inventing new products and services or in testing companies’ market assumptions.

What is business intelligence but an alternate reality game? This is the BI the gods intended.

One comment

  1. Timo Elliott says:


    Here’s one: it’s maybe not quite a game but I was surprised to find myself enjoying it. You have to answer a series of multiple-choice questions using a Microfinance database.

    In order to find the answers, you are given access to a in-the-cloud version of just-announced SAP BusinessObjects Explorer product.

    I work for SAP, but I am a fully-certified BI geek (see BI questions blog at http://www.timoelliott.com), and I was honestly impressed with the challenge — I’ve proposed that we ship this demo with the product: so much better than a typical “training video”.

    AND it’s for a good cause, a great charity called “Opportunity International” (http://www.opportunity.org).

    Link to the game: http://microfinance.sap.com (sorry, have to register)


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