I’m sure that many of our followers have heard us blog and talk about how we are using Innovation Games® in our SharePoint projects. So I thought it was time to pull together some thoughts and experiences so that you can see more clearly how it applies to your SharePoint projects and the value it can deliver.
For the purpose of this blog post I’m going to focus on Serious Games (Innovation Games® & Gamestorming to be specific), the Microsoft SharePoint platform and how 21apps apply these game-changing techniques to innovate and add significant value to the SharePoint projects we are involved with via our 21shift model. Based on on our experiences of running these ‘serious games’ at:
- a major UK Central Government department developing a SharePoint Centre of Excellence
- SharePoint Saturday UK workshop
- internally at 21apps
- during formal Innovation Games® training
- at a global Financial Services organisation planning a SharePoint intranet upgrade.
Applying Serious Games to SharePoint Projects
Firstly let’s have a brief review of the 21shift model for context. It’s basically run as a continuous improvement / Lean Start-up activity and focusses on 6 stages, summarised below:
- Identity -Where are you?
- Vision -What is your goal?
- Outcomes -Defining measurable outcomes (business requirements)
- Solution -Defining the SharePoint solution
- Delivery -Delivering the solution (technical and change management)
- Realisation -Assessing progress to your goals (Innovation Accounting)
The following tables give a flavour of just some of the ‘serious games’ that can be applied to each of the SharePoint project stages defined above, there’s lots of others that could also be applied, but these are some of the key ones to start you off that we know work effectively. As you can see there’s a wide array of serious games that can be applied to all stages of your SharePoint projects:
You can find out more about each of the games listed above by either speaking to us at 21apps or by searching on the relevant websites.
Our experiences so far with using ‘serious games’ and specifically focussed on using Innovation Games® has been very positive. You may be aware, that at 21apps we are very focussed on facilitating measurable business outcomes within our requirements gathering activities and hate to see requirements based on completely on technology features! These techniques, we have found, are really effective at preventing the common ‘tech feature focus’, it just doesn’t seem to feature in the conversations; which, to me, makes these techniques a considerable breakthrough in moving our clients (and yours) away from the bland, IT led requirements workshops that invariably flow like this:
IT – “What are you’re requirements for the new SharePoint intranet?
User – “Don’t know what can this SharePoint thing do?”
IT – “Well you can have cool MySites, Document libraries, Activity feeds…blah blah blah”
User – “They sound cool, can I have those please?”
Hopefully you can see that conversation is the path to #SharePoint #FAIL?
With ‘serious games’ and activities like ‘Product Box’, ‘SharePoint Project Canvas’, ‘Prune the Product Tree’ and ‘Buy a Feature’, the conversations are very much more focussed on business outcomes, values, alignment with strategy and all that good stuff that we are all striving for.
Our Experiences So Far…
We’ve had considerable successes using these techniques and have definitely not looked back to the old ‘analytic’ methods. One particular experience I would like to highlight was with a large (70k+ users) global financial services organisation. We were engaged as part of an intranet migration and consolidation programme and I was leading the requirements gathering workshops. As is the case in a lot of programmes like this, the initial business driver was to consolidate technology and move off an old platform, not particularly business aligned, but as we had key business stakeholders lined up for the sessions, our role was to facilitate business aligned requirements and value. With 23 workshops and an average of 9 attendees per workshop, we had a great opportunity to really engage and capture some great business outcomes.
With quite limited time and resources at my disposal to facilitate these sessions, I opted to use the following Innovation Games® techniques:
- Sail-boat – to capture what people didn’t like about their current intranets and also what features they couldn’t do without on the new platform
- Remember the Future – to get the attendees to think about what the future intranet may look like, the value it is delivering and the features (not tech) they would be using.
The exciting challenge I had in running these workshops was that I had a global audience and varied facilities (face-to-face, video, audio only) and this gave me the opportunity to compare and contrast the techniques in different settings with the key observations being as follows:
Compared to open ended, analytical and non structured sessions, the clear structure of ‘serious games’ delivers significant benefits in time management, engagement and purpose.
Effectiveness / Engagement:
This was very interesting, we found distinct differences between sessions run face-to-face, via video conferencing, audio-only and using the on-line platform; although it was clear that because of the structure and the way the sessions are run, there was significantly more value from them all than running a traditional workshop.
Most effective unsurprisingly was face-to-face workshops, they generated a real buzz, equally, the video conference sessions using high-quality equipment, large dual screens etc were surprisingly effective. Next was the on-line platform, although in this scenario there was a drop in quantity of requirements gathered (this isn’t usual as the on-line platform in our past experience has consistently delivered enhanced detail and context), the engagement and quality was still very high. Lastly audio conference, this I found significantly less effective, the removal of the ‘physical’ activity of placing or moving post-it notes and a lack of any visual stimulus or engagement (whiteboard, drawing, shared displays etc.) severely limited the engagement from the attendees and although the structure, language and activities did derive value, it was definitely reduced.
Throughout all the workshops we uncovered both a significant level of consistency of business outcomes facilitated across all the workshops as well as some unique breakthrough insights.
This is key, we weren’t talking about or documenting technical features we were discussing and recording outcomes, value, proper measurable and aligned requirements.
Although maybe not the 1st thing you think about or are even concerned about with requirements gathering ‘enjoyment’ and even ‘fun’ are key factors in facilitating quality results from your workshops. We have consistently found using serious games techniques face-to-face, on-line or via video conference that participants are well engaged and enjoy the process with regular workshops generating feedback from participants about the value and enjoyment they had… you don’t see that often in meetings and workshops do you!?
I’d like to share a final example of why just asking people what they want doesn’t work through another real-world example of the power of serious games. Recently, while working with a partner organisation, I was asked to help facilitate a number of activities on a SharePoint requirements alignment and prioritisation workshop with a number of key IT, Marketing and Communications stakeholders (yes I know that’s not the right audience for that session, it was out of my control!).
The first few activities went well (including speedboat), after lunch someone from the partner org led the session for prioritisation, I had suggested that with the audience we should use an activity like ‘product tree’ to develop a roadmap of the requirements… when I got back from the lunch break, the whiteboards were all set-up for a MoSCoW session with each requirement being introduced by the ‘facilitator’ and the audience saying whether it was a ‘Must have’, ‘Should have’ etc…
As you can imaging the session was fairly un-engaging and unsurprisingly: 80% of requirements were ‘Must have’ and the rest were ‘Should have’ and a couple of ‘Could have’… not a productive session and no insights or actionable results.
Finally let me share with you and highlight the key learning points of using serious games techniques like Innovation Games® to gather SharePoint requirements. To have a productive and engaging requirements session you need to:
- have a clear structure that participants can ‘see’
- make sure that the session’s ‘Why?’ is clearly understood
- forget about analysing and making assumptions, that doesn’t work
- remember that face-to-face, high-quality large scale video conferencing or online collaborative tools deliver substantially more engaged and fun sessions which deliver results
- to keep attendees engaged you need to include physical activities (post-it notes, drawing, voting with your feet, making things etc) rather than passive conversations
- you need visuals and shared display (visual facilitation, visual notetaking, dialogue mapping etc.)
- the experience needs to deliver value to all participants.
I hope that helps you understand a little more about where Serious Games might fit in your organisation, how they can be applied and the clear rationale for adopting this way of working in all your engagements, be them SharePoint or not!
For more information have a look at the following:
Software Requirements are where we define value – Tom Grantt (Forrester)
What we do – 21apps
Or get in touch with Andrew or myself.