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Are enterprises ready for the next wave of digital change?

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By Mahesh Zurale, Senior Managing Director and Lead – Advanced Technology Centres in India, Accenture

1. How does Accenture define metaverse?
Today, there are various definitions of the metaverse, and a lot of early efforts are being built with the focus on how to get “it” right — each with different platforms, partners, and technologies at the core. Accenture has a distinct view: the metaverse is a continuum that will entirely transform the way we live and work in the future. Today, we increasingly see the convergence of multiple technologies (ranging from gaming engines to digital twins and extended reality) to address real-world problems in new ways and create transformational business value across the enterprise. That is why we define the metaverse as a continuum, as it’s evolving and expanding across multiple dimensions and transforming every aspect
of business.

2. What are the building blocks of Metaverse?
We believe the metaverse will impact every part of every business, and organizations have a unique opportunity to act boldly and compete in tomorrow’s market. In our latest Technology Vision 2022 report, we have highlighted the four building blocks of the Metaverse Continuum that will be foundational to organizations as they set the stage for the future. The first one is WebMe, which looks at the metaverse as the next evolution of the internet where users can not only browse digitally but also participate in a shared experience spanning across both the physical and virtual worlds.

The second trend is called Programmable World, which refers to the infusion of technology into our physical environments. It focuses on how 5G, cloud, and immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR), extended reality (XR), and virtual reality (VR) are enabling better control, automation, and personalization.

The third trend – The Unreal – gives an overview of how AI-generated synthetic data and images are blurring the difference between the real and the unreal. While synthetic content will enable more seamless experiences, prioritizing authenticity will be key to preventing deep fakes and malicious attacks. The fourth trend – Computing the Impossible – is about exploring the outer limit of what is computationally possible and how it is being disrupted as the next generation of machines emerge. These machines – quantum, HPC, and biology-inspired – will help businesses solve challenges that were deemed impossible earlier.

3. How are AI, quantum computing, Web3, and the metaverse shaping the world of business?
AI, quantum computing, Web3, and the metaverse will fundamentally change business processes, including customer interactions, day-to-day operations, working style, and products and services. In fact, 42% of executives surveyed in our Technology Vision 2022 report have cited the metaverse as transformational, whereas 71% believe it will have a positive impact on their organization. Major companies will shift part of their operations to the metaverse to engage with their employees in exciting new ways. At Accenture, we have built what we believe is the largest enterprise metaverse on the planet – the Nth Floor— to offer new joiners an immersive onboarding experience and employees new ways to learn and collaborate.

Businesses across sectors — including retail, consumer products, financial, health, industrial, and manufacturing — will use metaverse-related technologies to reimagine and elevate customer experiences. For example, in 2021 Gucci created ‘The Gucci Garden Experience’ to sell virtual products and sold a virtual-only digital twin of a Gucci purse at a higher price than its real-world counterpart.

4. How can enterprises drive maximum value from the Metaverse?
Organizations need to start prioritizing their technology investments to build a foundation in the metaverse. It is important to first identify and close the existing gaps in their digital transformation, whether it is delayed cloud adoption or the lack of a robust security infrastructure. Another area that organizations need to consider is building skills in AI, blockchain, gaming, security, VR, and XR to prepare for the metaverse. The other in-demand skills will include distributed ledger experts and token economists who understand the economics of creating tokenized products. Additionally, strategic partnerships with technology experts will be crucial to support enterprises in their journey towards the
metaverse.

5. What are the security measures that companies should incorporate to operate in the Metaverse?
As metaverse gains momentum globally, it not only presents new opportunities for businesses to explore, innovate and create new products/services but also brings forth concerns around data, privacy, and safety. Establishing a “responsible metaverse” from the start is essential to fostering trust in the underlying technology and experiences to drive adoption and user acceptance.

For example, organizations engaging in the metaverse require a comprehensive approach to security. If not, the absence of a standard framework will allow threat actors to take advantage of potential vulnerabilities and gain access to critical user data, which could result in security breaches, ransomware attacks, and identity theft. Organizations need to address the cybersecurity gaps early and proactively map user journeys across the metaverse.

Deploying advanced security solutions that can not only assess the potential risks but also spot and identify threats and breaches will be key to making the new system of place digitally secure. As with any technology, a strategic approach must be taken while deploying solutions in the metaverse to gain the maximum benefit without compromising on security.

6. How Metaverse will change the dynamics of business in the future?
Technologies like 5G and cloud that lay the foundation of the metaverse have already proven to deliver improved efficiency, boost operations maturity, and drive business innovation. For instance, Shell, through its AR Remote Assist, enables its workers in the field to get assistance from experienced technicians across the world, allowing real-time, collaborative discussions amongst its teams. This is just one example of how the metaverse will enable the adoption of people-centric technologies to offer new ways of working and collaboration.

With the use of digital twins, companies can create virtual replicas of their physical offices and provide employees the flexibility to work from anywhere. Similarly,
extended reality has the potential to make employee learning experiences more immersive, resulting in better retention and improved performance. While the metaverse is still at a nascent stage, it presents immense business potential. Companies need to reimagine their business now to capitalize on the possibilities the future will bring.

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