VISION by Protiviti, Protiviti’s future-focused content initiative, has spent months exploring the metaverse future. Part of that exploration is a global survey we publish with the University of Oxford. I took a deep dive into the results and found some of what business leaders said in the Executive Outlook on the Metaverse, 2033 and Beyond spot on; while other results were quite surprising.
I’ll start with the surprising: 43% of executives say they already have a metaverse strategy in place. Meanwhile, one in five say they’ll have one in place in one to two years, and one in three say it’ll be three to five years. Only 4% say it’ll take six to 10 years.
I’m genuinely impressed that so many executives already have a plan in this space. When I talk with business leaders, I often hear metaverse as a marketing focus or an innovation one; usually, it’s not comprehensive and strategically integrated with the business. These timelines do not necessarily align with what I see, as most industries are likely not capable of executing a metaverse strategy in the short term. To paraphrase William Gibson, it’s as if the metaverse is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.
Executives still ‘in’ on the metaverse
Here’s something that didn’t surprise me: Global business executives remain bullish on the metaverse. Two-thirds say the metaverse will have a significant impact on global business over the next decade, and roughly the same number (65%) predict it will be important to their overall business success. Executives get it! It is the business press that has largely been responsible for the boom-and-bust narrative about the metaverse. Many businesses are continuing to hone the use cases that make sense for their organizations; and, importantly, business leaders are expanding outside of marketing and PR events to find them.
As we have seen, even companies that are supposed to be leaders in their fields miss where the future is going. IBM missed the PC revolution when it started, Kodak didn’t see the potential of digital cameras, all three major card networks ignored peer-to-peer payments, and what has happened to all that Blockbuster real estate? Immersive technologies will continue to grow as hardware becomes less clunky, reducing inconvenience, and software becomes more user-friendly and approachable.
It’s all about the customer
The metaverse will allow companies to become more interactive and personal with their customers, providing a more meaningful experience to drive stronger relationships and loyalty. Indeed, executives agree with 70% saying customer experience and customer loyalty would be important over the next decade. With that said, metaverse implementation must be done right, with the experience being thoughtfully executed and privacy and security considerations at the forefront. I think of it by way of analogy: Not every business needs to have a social media strategy, but businesses that have customers who use social media need to know how to be present, or they lose an opportunity to be relevant.
That’s the direct customer experience. What I think is equally interesting is the indirect customer experience. I look at all the people and processes that are involved in maintaining a customer experience—the employee trainings, the customer service interactions, the logistics analyses—all of them are likely to be improved by the interactions and visualization the metaverse can support.
What about the game-changing technologies?
I think the verdict is still out on what the big game-changing technologies are going to be. Generative AI has the attention of people now and will receive significant, immediate investment driving innovation. Digital is in the midst of an epochal change—these enabling technologies of AR/VR, AI/ML, and blockchain start to point to a digital environment that’s more aware, more personal, more invisible, and more controllable.
Watch for great augmented, virtual, and extended reality experiences that help us collaborate in meetings and consume entertainment in new ways. Look for large, massively multiplayer gaming experiences with huge adoption. Look for “VR-chat-esque” social platforms—or the adoption onto existing social platforms—with user communities of notable size. Experiences should be universal across industries whereas other technologies, like blockchain, will be critical to select companies that focus more on the mechanics of the industry. How they come together is part of what we and our clients will have to build, but the change is exciting.
Finally, there are a few pieces of strategic advice I would share with any executive embarking on a metaverse journey. Here are six things to consider:
• Work with the business to identify the most practical use cases that will yield ROI.
• Start small and seed a small cross-functional team and give them autonomy to tackle the roadblocks outlined above.
• Talk to your team members and listen to what your organization is using/leveraging at home and outside of work—you will learn a lot!
• Keep cyber and resilience as standing board topics, even when not at elevated risks, to create muscle memory and potential energy for when action is required.
• Ensure your risk infrastructure is calibrated to the technologies, processes, and integrations you really anticipate using.
• Recognize that there will be roadblocks and plan for them. Fail fast, iterate, and learn—the risk of doing nothing is greater than the risk of doing the wrong thing.
Protiviti is taking a deep dive into the metaverse via VISION by Protiviti. Learn more.
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Protiviti Managing Director Kim Bozzella is the Global Leader of Technology Consulting.