Badgeville, which has helped define the gamification of software, now believes the term should be put aside. “Many people in senior positions still think it means competition or games,” Kris Duggan, founder and chief strategy officer at Badgeville, told me in a recent conversation. “They can’t even say it; they call it gamification,” he said, pronouncing the first syllable like “lamb.”

Duggan is perhaps the industry’s leading authority on gamification and social business. The point, he said, is for organizations to guide people through a process and show them how to be successful—how, in other words, to win—with rewards and other inducements along the way. Duggan said organizations need to understand “What are the engagement strategies to motivate behavior, and how do we represent those things in a digital environment?”

The term “gamification” arose when companies such as Badgeville took things from games, such as badges and other rewards given as players advance through a game, and applied to them things that are not games. “It’s actually behavior management—but I’m not sure how catchy that is—or engagement technology for customers and employees,” Duggan said.

As an example, he pointed out that 1% of visitors who go to Facebook brand pages ever return. “Marketers have to find new ways to create loyalty,” he said. “And ‘gamification’ doesn’t fully capture the real potential.”

It’s not enough to “like” a brand page and wait for a coupon. A food company, for example, could offer free samples to entice visitors to their brand pages to check out the entire product line, or to “find the missing ingredient” as they learn more about the company.

Duggan went on to say that gamification misses some context. “Say you’re the expert on Yelp for Chinese restaurants in your area. You’ve tried all the meals, spent hours hunting down out-of-the-way restaurants, that’s a badge,” he said. “But if you demonstrated high-quality behavior and are being recognized with the label of ‘expert,’ it’s not just ‘oh, here’s a sticker.’ ”

As for gamification software itself, companies are using it to get new employees on-boarded faster, Duggan said. Employees are driven through the software with prizes, and the ultimate reward is certification at the end. Or, sales teams use it to drive individuals to achieve bigger results than their peers, and the company resets it every quarter to offer the possibility of multiple winners.

SharePoint is an area in which companies lament licensing it and setting it up, only to have a large portion of its workforce ignore it. Part of the reason is that adoption of new software involves a cultural shift in which everyone in the organization has to get on board, or its value won’t be fully realized. And, if half of my colleagues still want e-mail attachments while others want SharePoint document sharing or drop-box sharing, the solution won’t work. Those who prefer document sharing will have one procedure, but others on the team might want an e-mail attachment, creating versioning and ownership issues. Yet forcing everyone onto the solution is not the best way to build user satisfaction; you’ll end up with grumbling workers.

Office collaboration and customer loyalty programs tend to get a huge spike of activity when they’re launched, but if they aren’t updated, usage will plateau and eventually fall off, said Duggan. “You need to introduce new things,” he explained. “There are a whole host of different ways to reward people to keep them engaged.”

Think it’s all fun and games? Badgeville, which is at the fore of behavior-management software, has raised US$40 million in funding in a little more than three years. That’s not a game; it’s business.

David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.