Best practices for a VR business solution launch

A successful VR rollout involves a solid first use case, a strong technology partner, and more.

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You’ve donned the virtual reality (VR) headset and immersed yourself in a training, collaboration, or other workplace scenario. Now you’re committed to investing in the technology.

However, for VR to gain traction, you’ll need technical resources and critical support from key stakeholders. Here are six important steps that will lead you down a path to success.

  1. Kick off the project. An important first step is to establish a launch team with a handful of key stakeholders, including an executive sponsor, project manager, IT lead, business champion, and an independent software vendor (ISV) to develop custom content.

The project manager plays a key role during this kick-off phase, as with any technology initiative. They will establish an implementation timeline, secure the budget, and oversee the hardware purchase process.

  1. Develop a first use case and KPIs. The business champion will take the lead here in defining the best place to start from a business standpoint. The first use case should have practical ramifications and measurable KPIs to generate business value — such as reduced training costs, increased productivity through improved collaboration, or accelerating product design.

Daniel Eckert, Managing Director of PwC’s Emerging Technology group, suggests starting small. “Pick a unique challenge for your enterprise, such as being able to economically conduct training in multiple languages,” Eckert said during a panel discussion at the 2019 Oculus Connect conference. “In this way, VR will be viewed as a problem solver.”

Now’s the time to also find the right developer partner. This is a foundational decision, according to Blaire Bhojwani, Senior Director of Learning Innovation for Hilton Hotels, whose organization has deployed VR in a variety of ways. Bhojwani sought a development partner with whom she could ideate and take risks, while guiding her through obstacles.

“A good partner will be rigorous with you,” Bhojwani said during the Oculus Connect panel discussion. “They will help solve challenges and will be ready to create and deploy with you.”

  1. Engage executive support. You’ll need executive sponsorship and funding, as well as buy-in from line-of-business stakeholders. To do this, consider demonstrating the technology to them so they can see its capabilities firsthand. A demo of emerging technologies such as VR is the best way to engage audiences, build grassroots excitement, and find people who will evangelize the solution.

“This is about show, not tell,” Eckert said. “Put a headset on their head. One executive, after spending a few minutes with VR told me: ‘This is the future of learning and training.’”

  1. Develop your first VR application. Begin with a small pilot project that builds buzz and delivers an initial win, Bhojwani advises. Hilton started a pilot around hotel immersion — giving team managers views of hotel operations and physical operational tasks to perform. Based on that experience and feedback, Bhojwani and her team plotted a deployment plan for a launch in six offices worldwide.

This included one more big test: “Every year,  we have a leadership meeting for our leadership group of about 300 VPs and above,” she said. “We staged the VR at this meeting and it generated a lot of interest. These leaders went back to their respective offices and talked about VR. By the time we were ready for deployment, we had people asking how they could be a part of it.”

Bhojwani offered one other piece of advice for the pilot: “Be patient.” She was thankful for her technology partner, who thoroughly explained the production process and set expectations, including the need to be ready for failures. Hilton launched its pilot in February and deployed the solution in September.

  1. Set up hardware and software. Your IT lead will play the primary role here, with responsibilities that include activating headsets, setting up devices and authenticating accounts, and establishing processes for ongoing device management. This may be more challenging than it appears, given the unique functionality of VR technologies and how users interact with the hardware.

Eckert cited the need to take into account processes such as: sanitation of devices that employees will share, including what kind of cleaning agents to use; establishing secure user credentials across hundreds or even thousands of headsets; and providing seamless experiences for individuals in all different age groups. 

“VR implementation is hard to do in enterprises,” he said. “Be sure to ask your technology partner about the potential problems you’ll face.”

  1. Launch the solution. Once deployed, it’s critical to measure outcomes against KPIs and make adjustments as needed. Analyzing performance data will help determine ROI.

Meanwhile, start thinking about additional use cases and other ways to scale the technology across the organization. For example, Hilton began with hotel immersion training and has expanded to empathy training to help hotel staff better understand guest needs. “We could show guest-facing scenarios in minutes in VR, compared with hours in traditional training settings,” Bhojwani said. “It has been a real differentiator for us.”

Learn more about how VR eliminates physical barriers and provides new ways for companies to connect, collaborate, and learn.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.