In recent years, the metaverse has gained increasing attention and investment, with many companies, startups and entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on its potential. Yet, confusion about what the metaverse is and how it can be used for practical business applications still exists. Some of that confusion can be attributed to the lack of a consensus over the precise definition of “the metaverse.”
From our perspective, we see the metaverse as an immersive, collaborative virtual “world” that exists as physical and virtual objects converge. This is not a new concept: Key ideas behind the metaverse have been in computer science for over 60 years, which has led some business leaders, particularly at the board level, to remain skeptical about the horizon of realizing its promise.
What the metaverse means for business
Peering through an enterprise lens, the metaverse offers a variety of benefits and opportunities.
New methods of customer engagement
There is potential for highly immersive and interactive experiences that can engage customers in a way that more traditional media cannot. Mass and luxury brands are creating environments and events that connect consumers with their products and ethos.
Training and upskilling
Leveraging the metaverse as a training and problem-solving tool helps talent stay up-to-date with the latest technologies, tools and processes. This both helps onboard new employees into a brand family and lets training happen in the context of the working environment.
Manufacturers are using the metaverse to find opportunities to increase efficiencies and reduce costs by improving operations through “digital twin” production lines. A virtual twin allows for planning, testing and optimizing production, working out kinks before a physical production cycle begins.
AR/VR can naturally extend the e-commerce concept of “endless aisles,” but when combined with decentralized finance (DeFi), the metaverse opens new opportunities for consumers to transact and own goods. Brands are building storefronts to engage directly with their end users by facilitating sales or generating NFTs, which can be collectibles, loyalty indicators, exclusive club membership-type experiences and more.
Why now is the time to consider leveraging the metaverse
The need for agility has businesses seeking ways to impact the bottom line while improving resiliency and adaptability. The metaverse expands the realm of possibility for interactive experiences, enabling them more immersive and contextual than the typical flat planes of two-dimensional web and mobile applications. Adopters can increase agility with the added capability of manipulating objects, data and interactions, which the metaverse promises to deliver.
Emergent technologies are driving the future of the internet, where concepts such as Web3 have the potential to disrupt and change how users interact and how information is stored and protected. Web3 introduces concepts of decentralized accountability and self-sovereign identity, which creates a digital world that centers the control of data around its use. That, in turn, empowers individuals to have increased control and ownership of privacy and security while interacting in digital realms.
Skepticism of the business value of the metaverse still permeates the C-suite, much of which can be attributed to a lack of understanding and uncertainty about the potential return on investment. However, that skepticism will likely diminish as more and more businesses stake their virtual claim in the metaverse.
How to prepare for the metaverse
The metaverse is a big, rambling set of technologies and concepts that can only be managed by establishing a clear vision that represents pragmatic solutions relevant to one or more parts of the business. Here are a few ways to ensure that your company is prepared.
Share your vision
Sharing that vision with key stakeholders is one of the first steps to obtaining buy-in to leverage the metaverse. However, it is critical that stakeholders raise concerns and help adapt the vision to create a path forward. Factors to consider include anticipated ROI as well as the challenges of establishing a pilot project and moving beyond a speculative phase to ensure that the vision is achieved.
Business leaders should create a portfolio of opportunities that aligns costs with expected outcomes while also accounting for risks. That portfolio can be generated by developing a broad perspective on the use cases that can apply to many different areas of the business.
Measure the process
A move into the metaverse requires a learning curve where new paradigms may be defined and built upon the changes in technology and the experience required to execute initiatives. It is critical to measure the process and evaluate the signals generated by users during the development and execution of a pilot project. Discovering what works, what doesn’t, what’s easy, what’s hard and why will become valuable data points moving forward.
Build a team
Start small with a pilot project to provide the smoothest path forward. Bring together a pilot project team of experts to execute a business vision for the metaverse. This will require recruiting members with specific skills. Unlike typical development and IT teams, a metaverse team should operate as a self-contained, autonomous unit that is flexible and embraces an iterative approach.
It also is important to keep key stakeholders informed, which in turn will maintain support for the metaverse team and its initiatives.
Share sponsorship of the initiative
With emerging or disruptive technologies, it is critical to have multiple parts of the organization advocating for their adoption, especially when that technology will force the deployment team to move into new and potentially uncomfortable spaces for the organization. Balancing sponsorship across the front office and operations will help drive shared alignment and identification of concerns and hazards in a more collaborative way.
Although fear, uncertainty and doubt still permeate the potential of the metaverse, the technology is quickly evolving and becoming more accessible. It has the potential to fuel a wave of change that will impact how the internet is used.
Businesses need to decide if they want to drown under that wave or surf it to new opportunities. As with most emerging technologies, getting an early start helps to prepare an organization to deal with an uncertain future.
Protiviti is taking a deep dive into the metaverse, looking 10 years ahead. Read more on VISION by Protiviti.”
Read the results of our new Global IT Executive Survey: The Innovation vs. Technical Debt Tug-of-War.
This post originally appeared on forbes.com. To learn more about our technology consulting solutions, contact us.