From Virtual Work to Virtual Reality: Leveraging Innovation in Your Global Business

As new technologies continually emerge to help businesses navigate life in the pandemic, others are shaping a “metaverse” of the future. Solutions in both areas present potentially transformative opportunities for improving operations, growing market share, and adapting one’s business offerings. Read on for some of the many innovations shaping the global business landscape.

Technologies that make today’s world more connected and efficient

Over the past year, new COVID-19 variants and persisting surges worldwide turned the anticipated “great return” to the office into “the great wait”—or rather the “great wait-and-see.” Employees who could work from home did, and the millions of those who couldn’t left the workforce out of fear, health concerns, or caregiving responsibilities. All this, plus absences due to the illness itself, left businesses across industries understaffed, understocked, and at a loss.

Meanwhile, in the global supply chain, interconnected pressures and chain reactions persisted. Radically altered shopping habits—along with a scarcity of key supplies and workers—contributed to more volatile commodity prices, higher transport costs, shipping delays and big changes in the level of demand for certain products. It seemed the great toilet paper and computer chip shortages of the early pandemic were just a harbinger of things to come.

In today’s continually evolving operating environment, innovative technologies can help global businesses adapt, improve, grow and survive—no matter what the world looks like. Consider exploring solutions that:

Increase supply chain efficiency: When a customer clicks to purchase an item online, it’s merely the first step to a successful transaction and loyal relationship, as the millions who’ve encountered delayed or canceled shipments can attest. Given factors like disruption and inflation, “it is clear that supply chains must evolve in efficiency, capacity, and agility,” said Ilan Reingold, CEO of BionicHIVE, a startup turning warehouses into robotic logistics hubs.

In 2022 and beyond, investigate solutions that help move goods where they need to go, such as BionicHIVE, international online freight marketplace Freightos, and Trellis, which uses AI and cognitive learning to optimize the food, beverage and agriculture supply chain.

Increase supply chain visibility: You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Controlling cost centers, tracking performance and addressing procedural gaps—all of these and more require data, from internal and external sources and in as real time as possible. Explore solutions that deliver this data. Key features to look for include integrated dashboards, forecasting applications, spend management tools, optimized logistical networks and beyond.

Automate tasks, processes and more: With its power to supercharge productivity, accuracy, speed to market and capacity during the pandemic, automation was a lifeline for businesses from contact centers to financial services institutions. In a Deloitte survey of 441 executives from 29 countries, three in four (73%) said their organizations use automation technologies such as robotics, machine learning, and natural language processing, up from 58% in 2019. Meanwhile, the number of organizations deploying automation at scale has tripled in the space of two years.

Explore how automation can improve your global operations in the year ahead. Possibilities include “speech tech” services like autotranscription that make remote work faster and more efficient and the automation of not just tasks but entire processes. Gartner calls this hyper-automation: optimizing business processes at a qualitatively new level and applying innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Transformative solutions reimagining work and play

Will billions of consumers worldwide who moved online in a pandemic choose to exist there permanently, even long after the virus ebbs and lockdowns end?

Proponents of the “metaverse” are betting on this, from the social media giant formerly known as Facebook to the innovators working to bringing this virtual world to life through foundational technologies like blockchain, immersive virtual reality and augmented reality applications, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) for metaverse assets, and more.

“Metaverse experiences offer us the opportunity to play, work, connect or buy (and just to make things extra fun, the things we buy can be real or virtual),” writes a January 2022 article in Harvard Business Review, specifying that this emerging reality is in fact a multiplicity of worlds rather than a monolith. “Each entity that creates a virtual world does so with its own access, membership, monetization rights and formats of creative expression, so the business and technical specifications vary widely.”

Examples are wide-ranging in scope, focus and maturity, including:

  • The Roblox platform for immersive, often monetized games—soon to be the home of Nikeland’s virtual stadiums, where avatars dressed in the latest Nike apparel populate the stands
  • Theme parks and galleries in the user-owned virtual world of Decentraland
  • Nvidia’s vision of simulations for manufacturing and logistics
  • Microsoft’s plans to use its mesh platform and the cloud to enable avatars and immersive spaces for collaboration
  • The city of Seoul’splans to build a metaverse for government services, from riding tour buses to filing administrative complaints

“Imagine any activity that happens in a physical structure, whether it’s a retail store or learning experience, a job interview, a board meeting, a CEO giving a town hall, all of that can now happen in an amazing structure,” Touchcast CEO Edo Segal said in in a Euronews recap of the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show.

According to immersive technology outlet XR Today, businesses hypothetically will have the opportunity to provide services for the metaverse, sell meta assets like NFTs and leverage the metaverse for VR advertising and branding, a space where companies as varied as Coca-Cola, Gucci and Louis Vuitton have been early adopters.

XR Today refers to the metaverse as “a new country with no trade barriers…it will allow businesses from different physical locations to participate in a singular market economy.”

While “the impact of real-world borders, treaties and sanctions on the metaverse remains to be seen,” the article states, “eventually, one could imagine entire trading marketplaces and stock exchanges built in the metaverse that’s open to a much larger pool of investors than ever possible in the real world.”

So, will the metaverse’s execution live up to the meta-hype? One possibility is that the branded avatars and Bored Apes of today will ultimately usher in Web3, an umbrella term related to the decentralization of the Internet through technologies like cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse. However, globally focused companies interested in this space should watch the policy landscape as well as the latest technology innovations.

“While exciting and futuristic, the colorful image that the metaverse is projecting is only a mirage that should not distract us from the reality that we have a long campaign ahead for effective regulation,” writes Jacqueline Lee with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And effective regulation, while less exciting, is still vital to secure Web2 as a more dependable foundation upon which any trustworthy successor can develop.”

Ready to explore opportunities for innovation in your global business? Specialized consultants and advisors can help. For more information, contact us.