It’s All In The Game4 min read

What kind of BI gamer are you?

Qlik VYW 221014

By James Richardson, Qlik

Gamification has reached the #BI developer. The question is: which kind are you?

For most people ‘gamification’ in the workplace is simply about rankings. Who can score the most likes on their company’s internal social network for example. That’s taking an interesting idea and making it dull. Scoring is not playing. People love to play games.  They are motivated by them and using that enjoyment to nudge behavior and drive ongoing engagement is really what gamification should be about.

We play video games because we enjoy overcoming obstacles to achieve goals or solve puzzles.  They give us a chance to achieve tasks in a fun and engaging way, so much so that we’re willing to repeat the experience until we level up. You can see why organizations are interested in how this behavior could be transferred into a data-driven context, where game-like experiences can help BI technology adoption and sustained attention.


BI developers have looked to games for inspiration for many years. As I blogged back in 2013, Qlik Sense capabilities such as progressive disclosure, showing more functions as the user gains more skills, and data orientation panes (or ishiness) echo techniques found in gaming software.  Why is this needed?  When people actively want to use BI (instead of spreadsheets) it helps them get value from their data. People need to be challenged and entertained so that playing with data becomes embedded into their daily work life.

Gamers vary and fall into identifiable groups, some are hardcore and some are casual. It’s the same for BI players too. To showcase the different types of BI adoption behavior, I’ve pulled together a list of gaming personas you may have noticed in your organization – obviously, a person may display more than one persona type or a mixture:

1: The casual BI gamer

The casual BI gamer is someone that uses a guided app in short bursts for daily reporting and quick analysis so they can find patterns and spot gaps. Pattern recognition games like Candy Crush (from King – a Qlik customer) draw on some of the same visual skills that BI technology now utilizes for data analysis.

2: The strategy-based BI gamer

This type of BI gamer concentrates for an extended period of time on complex issues. If you’ve played strategy games like Command & Conquer or Age of Empires you’ll know that it’s thoughtful game play. Players need to be able to deal with multiple moving elements which are interlinked and dependent. A market analyst, for example, will spend time analyzing different strands of data to work out permutations and arrive at considered recommendations.

3: The role-playing BI gamer

This is the BI user who, like fans of role playing games The Legend of Zelda or Pokémon, enjoys discovering and playing out stories from within the data. These users like to develop a narrative around their persona, and will accumulate more skills to help them continue in their hero’s quest to answer ongoing questions they encounter.

4: The constructor gamer

Games like Minecraft and The Sims allow users to flex their creative muscles and create their own virtual worlds. Similarly, the BI constructor makes extensive use of self-service to create and evolve their own world of visual apps.  To an extent they live their work life within these data environments, which they enrich over time, even adding external data to connect to other ‘worlds’.

5: The online BI gamer

Finally, the online gamer creates content and shares it online with others for fun. Similar to how Microsoft’s Xbox Live revolutionized how gamers around the world play and interact with each other; BI is also currently going through an online shift towards using the cloud.

AlphaGo’s recent win over a human Go master means that we may soon have to add AI co-players to the mix too – similar to games like Call of Duty.

What do you think?  Have gaming styles and personas infiltrated data-driven companies? Will the arrival of the millennials in organizations inevitably mean more of this approach? Whether it’s really a game or not, it makes sense to think about how people interact and play games with data so they can ‘blow away’ the competition with better decisions.  w00t!

Best Regard

About Arne Rosness