For the past forty years CIOs have labored to retrofit, rearchitect, and ultimately replace underfunded and underappreciated legacy infrastructures in hopes of delivering the full benefits associated with periodically occurring waves of transformative emerging technologies.\n\nDebate now rages in IT and digital communities regarding what will be the seismic technological shift of the 2020s. Some argue the metaverse will be the next dominant computing platform. Despite lukewarm user demand for metaverse capabilities to date, the time is right for enterprises to be conducting experiments and prototypes in this potentially disruptive space.\n\nRight now, the metaverse is essentially an undefined amalgam of technologies and concepts including but not limited to augmented reality (AR), avatars, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, extended reality (ER), mixed reality (MR), NFTs (non-fungible tokens), virtual reality (VR), and Web3.\n\nTo help CIOs figure out what they should be doing with the metaverse, I queried a select group of CXOs at large enterprises about their metaverse plans and immersed myself for several weeks digesting and synthesizing as much information as possible on the topic, including a series of exercises I posed on various social media platforms.\n\nI asked executives to complete the sentence: \u201cThe metaverse is ______.\u201d The responses covered the full spectrum ranging from total skepticism and hostility \u2014 e.g., \u201ca bunch of really interesting ideas on a whiteboard, that probably won\u2019t actually happen\u201d \u2014 through mild interest to evangelical belief. Some believe the metaverse is \u201ca thing, not necessarily the thing\u201d; \u201cevolutionary, not revolutionary\u201d; and should be viewed \u201cmerely an extension and rebranding of virtual reality.\u201d One breathless proponent insisted the metaverse is a \u201cparallel virtual plane of existence,\u201d while another claimed it was \u201ca moral imperative.\u201d\n\nObservationally, most agree that the metaverse could be \u201ca place,\u201d that is, an environment where people spend time, and \u201ca platform.\u201d Most executives also believe the metaverse is definitely \u201ca phenomenon\u201d and might be \u201can opportunity.\u201d At the least, it should be viewed as \u201cthe latest step in the overall digitalization of social activities,\u201d most believe.\n\nFollow the money\n\nResearch indicates that supply-side organizations are spending big on the metaverse. Meta Platforms, parent to Facebook, is spending approximately US$10 billion per year on metaverse initiatives and plans to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.\n\nGoldman Sachs sees potential for the metaverse to grow into a US$8 trillion market by 2025. Morgan Stanley and Bank of America are also bullish on the metaverse\u2019s prospects.\n\nStill, when asked what images, thoughts, and impressions come to mind when they think about the metaverse, most executives told me they say the metaverse being no different from the early 2000s conception of wearing a VR headset and haptic suit while driving a flying car to your perfect pretend mansion in a soothingly sanitized alternate reality.\n\nIf that\u2019s the conception, it\u2019s little wonder few CIOs have spent serious time thinking of the possibilities for their enterprises.\n\nIt\u2019s helpful, at times, to think of any new technology using a train metaphor: Someone must invent the train (i.e., the new technology); someone must lay the tracks; and someone must ride the train for the invention\u2019s potential to be fully realized. This last group represents those who buy and deploy the technology \u2014 a seat set squarely for the CIO.\n\nI asked executives to place themselves on a spectrum of:\n\nMost executives placed themselves somewhere beyond \u201cthere is no train\u201d and closer to \u201cthere is a train and I should probably be on it.\u201d\n\nA heavily networked CIO at a major energy company explained, \u201cNone of the corporates are playing with it and it\u2019s still pretty fringe outside of the Facebooks of the world.\u201d The former managing director of a major venture capital firm admitted, \u201cMetaverse, I am not even a tourist in that world.\u201d And a Texas tech magnate insisted, \u201cI know lots of smart people and none of them can even spell metaverse.\u201d\n\nSo, if the potential is something that can be realized, perhaps IT leaders will soon find themselves in the third group, having been left behind, if they don\u2019t start investigating soon.\n\nGet on the train\n\nAs with any emerging technology it is never a bad idea to ask, \u201cWhat problem might this new technology solve?\u201d\n\nMike Conley, CIO and senior vice president of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, is doing exactly the right thing regarding the metaverse.\n\nHe is experimenting and prototyping in the metaverse space seeking to engage the 99% of fans who will never actually attend a game. The Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team as a brand has more than 30 million followers globally. Historically, the primary focus for sports organizaitons has been on the 1% of fans that physically come inside the arena.\n\nThe metaverse has the potential to change that.