You probably have over the years heard various business-focused collaboration and knowledge-sharing software solutions like Yammer or Jive described as 'Facebook for the Enterprise.' The comparison was almost always more about the way that many of these business tools resembled Facebook in that they had a similar news or activity feed, had concepts like 'friending' or following, and possessed other features similar to Facebook like groups and in-app messaging. Over time these comparisons, and even that descriptive 'Facebook for the Enterprise' phrase seems to have fallen out of fashion.
There are at lease two reasons I think for that, one being that the market for these enterprise collaboration tools has matured to the point where most corporate prospects understand the basics of what they do without having to invoke Facebook as a point of comparison or reference. The other reason, and this is totally my opinion, is that most of us have realized that almost nothing truly productive (in the classic organizational collaboration context) ever gets done on Facebook. By continuing to compare their much more serious minded tools to Facebook, the providers of these tools are basically saying 'Take a look at our software solution that will remind you of the single biggest distraction and time suck that has ever existed.' And that probably is not good for business in the long term.
So since 'Facebook for the Enterprise' is seemingly drifting out to sea, I'd like to offer up an almost equally interesting and unexpected replacement - how about 'Minecraft for the Enterprise?'
You probably are familiar with Minecraft from its massive popularity, and if you have children between the ages of about 8 and 18, it’s almost certain that they have at least experimented with the game. If you are not familiar, the simplest way is to think of the fame as a kind of virtual Lego, an open-ended world where the player can build, create their own worlds, engage in battle, and even farm. Minecraft is a true worldwide phenomenon, and part of its appeal to more serious players is the ability to modify (‘mod’) the game, adding new materials, monsters, and other elements to the basic game.
These player developed (and shared) mods extend and enhance the game in many ways, and perhaps one of the most unusual, (and the one that could intrigue folks that design and develop enterprise systems), is the mod described in this post on the Salesforce developerForce blog titled Visualizing Salesforce Data... In Minecraft?
In the piece the author and developer of a mod that essentially connects the classic Salesforce CRM system to a new Minecraft world, describes just how (and seemingly how simple), it was to not only visualize sales, accounts, contacts, and other classic CRM data inside the familiar to just about every 11 year old world of Minecraft.
Check the video below, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through) to see how your sales and sales funnel data looks rendered in Minecraft, and I will have a couple of comments afterwards.
Pretty cool right?
Re-set a sales status in Salesforce and boom - the corresponding lever in the Minecraft world that represents that status flips from up to down. Make the same type of change in Minecraft and the CRM is updated as well. Lose the sale and suddenly in Minecraft it gets dark and starts to rain.
You get the idea. And while it is a pretty basic kind of interface at least at first glance, I think what it suggests about the potential future of enterprise systems, gamification, and the eventual personalization of user experience is what is really interesting.
Take the average Minecraft enthusiast and plop him or her in front of a Salesforce CRM screen and I am sure their eyes will begin to glaze over in about 30 seconds. In addition to the fact that it (and most other enterprise tools) just don't look very appealing to anyone, much less the generation that is growing up playing (and modding) Minecraft, the enterprise systems tend to be one size fits all. Beyond some simple personalizations like moving or renaming fields, significant modding is just not possible. And lastly like most mass appeal video games, playing Minecraft is simply fun. You can create, win rewards, defeat the bad guys, etc. Is 'playing' Salesforce ever fun?
I love the idea of one day having the abiltiy to welcome a new user of an Enterprise system to the organization and giving them the option to engage with and interact with the system in the way that they feel most comfortable, productuive, and even fun.
And I bet, most Salesforce admins would say they would be for anything that would encourage their users to keep their account information more up to date.
If updating the customer account status was as fun as playing Minecraft, I bet more of them would.
And last thing, if you think the concept of 'Minecraft for the Enterprise' is silly, well, all I will say is that 'Facebook for the Enterprise' also seemed silly initially. Now, being social and collaborating on Facebook-like platforms is pretty mainstream. And we don't like that phrase any longer.
Perhaps playing Minecraft as a proxy for interacting with HR, CRM, or Finance systems will be too be pretty mainstream one day.
Have a great week!