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How seriously do CIOs need to be taking metaverse?

Is it all hype, or is it finally time to seriously consider the metaverse?
Ginny Holden
Contributing Writer

To get a job at Accenture, regardless of your expertise level, you have to be able to demonstrate the willingness and ability to learn. The company screens for this by asking a simple question: “What have you learned in the last six months?,” Accenture CEO Julie Sweet shared in a keynote interview at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo in Orlando.

When Sweet was asked a few moments later what she personally has set out to learn recently, she swiftly replied: “All about the metaverse, the underlying technologies and really where it’s going.” 

In that same lightning round of questions, the CEO of the 721,000-people professional services firm was asked which of these would be the most disruptive technology over the next five years: AI, blockchain, 5G, or metaverse. 

Her response: “Well, the metaverse is really all of those technologies. So I will go metaverse.”

That may not be surprising to hear from the CEO of a company that’s becoming known as a leader in the corporate application of the metaverse – Accenture onboarded 150,000 people through its metaverse experience last year. But her observation lends credence to metaverse’s rising popularity. 

Is now the time to experiment with metaverse? 

Metaverse made Gartner’s list of 10 top strategic technology trends that organizations need to explore in 2023, buoyed by these two stats:

  • “By 2027, Gartner predicts that over 40% of large organizations worldwide will use a combination of Web3, AR cloud and digital twins in metaverse-based projects aimed at increasing revenue.”
  • “Through 2027, fully virtual workspaces will account for 30% of the investment growth by enterprises in metaverse technologies and will “reimagine” the office experience.”

But does that mean the average CIO really needs to start exploring metaverse applications now? It depends.

Gartner VP Analyst Marty Resnik set out to explain “what metaverse really is” to a standing-room-only audience of CIOs and IT executives who packed into a large ballroom only three hours after Sweet called out metaverse’s potential in her opening keynote. 

If that doesn’t tell you how hot the topic is for CIOs, then listen to what Resnik – whose focus areas include innovation, Design Thinking, and emerging tech trendspotting – told the crowd at the start of his presentation. 

“Ninety percent of my inquiry this year has been: ‘What is the metaverse? I don’t know what it is; I’m making all of these assumptions, so what is it and what does it mean to my business? What does it mean to my customers? Why should I care about it – or should I?’”

If you have any of these same questions, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. 

Let’s get a few things straight

While Resnik said he does talk to people who are excited about metaverse, he more often hears from skeptics who refer to it in one of these three ways:

  • “Second Life: ‘We tried that nine years ago, why is it going to work today?’”
  • “‘VR: ‘Are you serious? I’ll just get nauseous, and I’ll never put on that thing.’”
  • “Am I really going to trust Facebook even though they changed their name?” 

If you fall into one of those camps, again, you can take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. 

For starters, Resnik clarified that metaverse is more than just a virtual world, and it’s not about virtual reality. 

“If you’re thinking about the metaverse with those two things – virtual world and virtual reality – you’re not thinking about this new world we’re creating,” Resnik said. 

It’s not about a specific device, specific world, specific experience – it’s about interaction and collaboration in the virtual and physical worlds.

Gartner VP Analyst Marty Resnik

Next, Resnik noted you’ll rarely hear him use the term “the metaverse,” because there’s not a single metaverse. Metaverse isn’t a single place, and it likely won’t be for many years to come – if ever. Instead, Gartner uses the term “metaverse” or “a metaverse” because there are multiple emerging metaverses.

Finally, Resnik shared Gartner’s definition of the term noting that: “Metaverse, unfortunately, doesn’t have a single definition.” For those looking for one, Gartner defines a metaverse as “a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality. A Metaverse is persistent, providing enhanced immersive experiences.” 

If that’s too dense, Resnik broke it down further, calling out metaverse as a “collective shared space” that’s all about “interaction and collaboration” happening (importantly) in a virtual world and/or a physical one. 

“It’s not about a specific device, specific world, specific experience – it’s about interaction and collaboration in the virtual and physical worlds,” he said. 

Getting tactical and deciding whether to explore a Metaverse

While there are real use cases for metaverse today, Resnik noted that Gartner calls out six technology trends in particular where CIOs can start getting tactical:

  • Digital humans
  • Gaming
  • Virtual spaces
  • Shared experiences
  • Spatial computing
  • Tokenized assets

Using Resnik’s revised definition above, he offered the audience a way to explain metaverse in more plain terms (something that could come in handy for conversations with your executive peers or board). 

“If someone says: ‘What is metaverse?’ You can say: ‘It’s that next level of interaction between virtual and physical,’” he said, explaining that you can then layer in one of the tech trends listed above and continue with: “‘We’re going to use digital humans in a metaverse context to do X.’”

So, do CIOs need to start exploring metaverse? Resnik said if any of the following areas (and the trends listed above) interest you, then it’s worth looking at the opportunities a metaverse can offer:

  • Customer service
  • Brand influence
  • Training
  • Games
  • Events
  • Meetings
  • Sales
  • Retail
  • Trading

“If you care about these things, and these technology trends interest you, then that’s when metaverse comes to a head. Yes, [you] should be thinking about it,” he said. “If these are not areas that you’re focused on and you can’t come up with obstacles, outcomes, and opportunities … then maybe it’s something you put on your emerging tech radar and you just watch.” 

Though he cautioned: “It’s too early for a metaverse strategy, it’s really about getting tactical.” 

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