Migrate to the cloud, strengthen security, protect privacy, increase agility, advance automation, improve sustainability, optimise the budget … “explore the metaverse” is certainly on the to-do list for most CIOs, along with many, many other competing priorities. With the metaverse still in its infancy and an abundance of ambiguities making planning challenging and investment risky, it’s tempting to push it further down your list. However, delay too long, and you also risk giving yourself an insurmountable technological handicap if uptake in your industry suddenly accelerates. So, how should you handle this conundrum? I’d suggest a combination of design thinking, Agile practice, and lunch with your CMO, CCO and CHRO.
By applying design thinking methodology to the core metaverse capabilities (that is, thoroughly assessing their desirability, feasibility, and viability in relation to your business), you will quickly be able to identify potential use cases for both the short and long term. Feasibility is perhaps the simplest of these three lenses, as it’s fairly consistent across business types and sizes. Currently, equipment costs are high while comfort is low (even the most hardened gamers need a break after an hour or so fully kitted up), and accessible computing power is nowhere near where it will need to be. This will all be fixed, probably a lot faster than most of us expect. More competition and more manufacturers will lead to economies of scale and innovation – the rapid evolution of mobile phones and laptop computers gives us a potential trajectory. However, mobiles and laptops are also highly desirable and viable – are the various metaverse functionalities in the same league?
Some are well on their way. It’s easy to see how the use of personal digital twins in retail could revolutionize shopping or how building digital twins of large-scale manufacturing and logistics operations and infrastructure projects could save businesses – and taxpayers – significant time and money through real-time and AI-enhanced remote monitoring and projection capabilities. However, I’m still not convinced of the desirability and viability of the purely digital metaverse offerings.
Will the average member of Generation Alpha really pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to dress their avatar in digital clothing and accessories? Will they be cajoling their parents to act as guarantors so they can buy their first digital home? While one of the precursors to the metaverse, SecondLife, proved in the short-term that such items could certainly be desirable (from 2003 to 2013 $3.2 billion in transactions for virtual goods were apparently exchanged between residents), long-term prospects are yet to be proven. Indeed, the one thing the SecondLife case study proves is that people are fickle. This is why a human-centered design-thinking approach to the metaverse is essential and, accordingly, why it’s prudent for you to work with the people who best know people.
Close collaboration with your CMO, CCO, and CHRO will give you the best chance at starting your metaverse journey in the right direction. As many of the strongest, simplest, and most cost-effective metaverse use cases relate directly to employee and customer experience, a strategic shared investment between these portfolios should yield benefits for all involved.
For example, we all know attracting and retaining top tech talent is currently a major challenge for many organizations. If you supported your CHRO to launch a staff training program within the metaverse, the chances are good your CMO could use this to help brand your organization as an innovative technology leader in the market. What kind of employees would such a brand attract? I think you can see the cycle.
Finally, let’s not forget the importance of an Agile approach throughout all of this. The benefits of the experimentation and iterative progression Agile enables are never more apparent than when we’re exploring uncertain and dynamic environments. Agile and people-focused, your fellowship will be able to take advantage of emerging opportunities while minimising risk and ultimately generate value from the metaverse for your employees, customers, and organisation, even in these early chapters.