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5 Commonly Misunderstood Recognition Technology Terms

I answer a lot of RFPs. As a result I’m pretty familiar with the common questions and buzzwords people ask about. Once we get in a conversation or demo with an organization many times we find out that these terms are misunderstood, even by the people who have created the RFP. Here is a quick rundown of some common recognition technology terms:

SaaS: SaaS means Software-as-a-Service. It refers to a platform that is entirely web-based. It needs no installation; users simply access it from their internet browser with a username and password. Multi-tenant SaaS software (think or NetSuite) runs every client site on a single engine. Single-tenant SaaS software operates each client site as a discrete instance, copying code and functionality, but not using the same central engine. SaaS programs are preferable because they are more easily updated and require little IT intervention to implement than on-premise solutions.

Points: It’s not that people misunderstand what points are, but there is a misconception that a rewards program cannot exist without them. Any basic recognition platform can disburse points to participants these days. Points programs were created for two reasons:

  1. Rewards companies make the majority of their money on marked up merchandise, and they needed a way to hide the fact that the recipient was being charged $100 in reward dollars for a $70 item.
  2. Rewards companies encouraged their customers to disburse some type of reward with EVERY recognition, which meant that some awards had to be worth very few dollars in order to stay within the budget. Rather than giving out a $3 award, the company felt better giving out a few hundred points.

Today, any user can easily check Google and Amazon to see how much an item costs, so the practice of disguising $70 as 5,000 points is pretty outdated. To keep your budget in check, non-monetary recognition should make up the bulk of your program. If you do use points, keep them on a 1-to-1 ratio.

Mobile App vs. Responsive Design: Most of us today use apps on our phones. They are usually scaled back versions of full websites, or tools that allow us to do awesome things like order delivery at 2am.

Responsive design means that your full website looks and functions perfectly on any mobile device, tablet or phone. (This should be a given with any modern web design.) If a native mobile app is an extra cost to develop, you will want to look at your site’s Google Analytics before committing to it. How many users are actually getting to the site via mobile? If it’s a small percentage, responsive design should suit you just fine. If you go the app route, make sure that you tailor it to the needs of those who will be using it most and that it is actually easier than accessing the full site.

Gamification: Gamification is the practice of using gaming concepts, such as competition, scoring points, badging, attaining levels, and winning prizes to get people to perform certain actions. Competition like this can be an inexpensive way to provide an incentive to do something that might not otherwise be appealing, like reading about a new safety procedure and answering questions about it. It doesn’t mean your site has to have its own version of Candy Crush, and it’s not that hard to implement within a robust, configurable web interface. Rather than worrying about gamification as a buzzword, think about what you want to achieve with your program and how you can do so using fun and competition-based methods.

Integration: Integration in the context of most recognition and incentive programs means an exchange of data between two platforms that does not require manual intervention. For example, your payroll system “talks” to your recognition program to obtain an updated employee list without your HR coordinator having to send an Excel file to your provider every other week. This integration can be done in a few different ways, but today it is most commonly done through API (Application Programming Interface) capability.

In layman’s terms, a software platform with API capability has provided a description of what functionality is available, how it must be used, and what formats it will accept as input or return as output. So your payroll software has said, “You need to do A-B-C to access files D-E-F.” If your recognition provider’s software can be configured to do A-B-C, then the two can integrate and files D-E-F can be imported seamlessly.

API capability is important if you have a lot of employees and will be depending on data from other systems to maintain the recognition program. If your recognition system will be an island unto itself and will be perfectly happy with Excel uploads and downloads for user updates, payroll, tax info, etc., API is an unnecessary step.


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