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Why using a Company Exploration session is key when starting a new project

A series in Design & Game-Based Learning Tools And Toolkits.

When you decide to do a new project for your organisation or a client, be it a gamification initiative or something else, then the absolute first step that you should take is doing a Company Exploration session with the relevant team members and stakeholders. Doing this session will help you discover and decide what the business objectives for the project are and how the company can achieve these.

Within the company exploration session, the initiator, usually you, will explore what the level of interest is in creating a gamification solution. Whether this is the correct answer to the problem and what the level of support there is to sell the idea to upper management, or the client.

For this piece on exploring your company, we will be looking specifically at the organisation and its background. Asking questions like what the organisation was created for? What problems it is trying to solve and for whom? What interest is there in creating a gamified experience? Who are the main stakeholders for such a project? And so on.

Several tools link to the exploration session and we will be looking into them in subsequent articles. For a quick reference of these tools and many more, you can go to the Game-Based Learning Toolkit at aestranger.com. These tools can be used for your own company or for that of a client project that you are developing a gamification solution for.

For those who want a TL;DR, when we do a Company Exploration session we will be generally looking at:

  • The organisational background,
  • The products and services offered by your company,
  • The team structures present in your company,
  • And the company’s position.

Organisational background

If you able to, in terms of time and budget, then you can take on a fully holistic approach to the exploring the background of your company, by going back to when it was founded and reading through the initial versions of the mission statement and visions. As you move forward you will be able to see the changes that were made along the way and how the company adapted to its surroundings and its customer base. In essence seeing how the decisions that were made along the way and how the company was shaped by them.

Doing such a deep dive into a company is time-consuming and is only relevant if the experience you are to develop has to do with a subject such as organisational change. If the gamification solution is more geared towards external targets, such as your customers, then you need only really concern yourself with the current and recent company message, mission and vision.

Researching the message, mission, vision and aims of the organisation and the background from which these stem will offer you a set of directed questions that will guide you to create a more bespoke gamified experience. As the answers and subsequent questions that spawn from these will only refine your understanding of the company and its customers.

As an example, the primary questions that may come up will look something like this:

  • What are the organisation’s capabilities?
  • And what are its immediate aims and objectives?

Knowing these questions is important because you need to be in line with the overall goals of the business and with what the stakeholders want and expect from the gamified solution that you are trying to develop. As there would be no point in developing it further if the solution is not supported by anyone in the organisation, or no one desires one.

Products and services

Doing research and analysis on the products and services of the business is an essential part of exploring a company, and we will look into this aspect more extensively in a subsequent article, but it is worth mentioning it now briefly.

When looking at the products and services, the question(s) you should ask are what pain points do the services and products address for your customers? In other words, what problems are they solving?

Depending on how these are answered, then you will need to enquire about how these are perceived internally and externally, and whether they are perceived in a positive or negative light?

Once you start asking these questions you will be able to move through to developing a plan where you can consider what needs to change and/or be enhanced within your service and product offerings. As well as how a gamified experience can support expanding and improving these changes.

By the end of the analysis, you should have a good overview of how all the products and services fit into the overall company portfolio. If you are struggling with exploring and researching these questions and points, then you can make use of the Boston Consulting Group’s Growth-Share matrix. This will give you a framework of laying out and seeing what it all is.

Team structures

As with the previous sub-topic, this one will also receive it’s own full article, as it is a large subject and there is a lot to cover within it when dealing with structures and resources in a company.

But as an initial prompt to get you thinking when exploring the organisation, you should consider these question points:

  • Is there a budget for a gamified experience?
  • Are the necessary skills available internally? i.e. designers, programmers, testers, project managers, etc.
  • Do you or others have experience with gamification?
  • What is the general attitude to gamification? Is it supportive or hostile?
  • What are the expectations with gamification and its possible outcomes?

Finding the answers to these questions will help you down the line and will tell you whether you’ve made the right choice or whether you can alter what you want to develop to make it more effective and attractive.

Your company position

 

As you move through the Company Exploration session and discover more about the organisational background, determining the products, services and team structures in the company, you will have a better understanding of the company’s positions and where you and/or it fits.

To further improve this understanding, you will need to find the company’s position in the industry as a whole and against its competitors in the industry. In our experience the top tools to do this are some of the best known and effective ones around:

Porter Five Forces

Porter’s five force is used when trying to understand the balance of power in an industry. Seeing how your power is positioned with those of the buyer, the supplier and your competitors. This analysis is useful for gamification initiatives as you will be able to more easily see where you can improve, copy, substitute or discard ideas.

SWOT analysis

Doing a SWOT analysis is always useful, be it for yourself, for a project or a company. It gives you a good visual overview and understanding of what the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are. With it, you can identify where a gamification project can have the most positive impact and effect.

PESTLE analysis

The PESTLE analysis is more geared towards a competitor analysis, but it is useful to use and have a look at during the company exploration. It will give you an indicator of all the external factors that impact the industry and the company. And it will highlight some of the risks and issues that affect the viability of a gamification solution/proposal.

Final Thoughts

The Company Exploration session naturally isn’t a stand-alone tool. As mentioned there are others that link in with it that you will need to consider, especially as you will need to determine what the internal and external brand perceptions are of the company.

Knowing how the company is perceived in both instances will help you in aligning the goals of both the stakeholders/business and the customers. Gaining the knowledge of both sides of the coin as it were will aid you in developing a more authentic and transparent gamification project. As nothing alienates people quicker than when a company acts one way, for example altruistically, but is only concerned with money and profits.

I’ll leave you with two questions that you should always ask with a company exploration session:

  • What are our present objectives?
  • And do they align with what we have said before?

Being able to answer these will help you determine how you work and how you are perceived. If they are both positive then you will likely be successful in any project you decide to undertake.

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Do check out the other posts on æStranger.com, and do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

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