Sustainable competitive advantage requires relentless adaptation in the way a company serves its clients and its employees. Too often, companies place employee workflows and experiences on the back burner. It’s difficult to create an innovative workplace if a company’s employees are using tools designed in the 1980s.
Successful companies know the best way to serve their customers is to provide market leading workplace experiences that execute on three fronts – culture, process, and technology. What’s often forgotten is how technology can play a vital role in cultural enablement.
Market leaders deliver what I call Right-time Experiences that provide the right information, at the right moment, to their employees and customers. These experiences work across a wide range of devices and adapt to these devices. We’ve seen the first wave of this as companies mobile-enable workflows. However, the future of work will dramatically change as new technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and machine learning enters the workplace. In my research, I’ve asked many companies what technologies they are evaluating and what new workplace experiences they are exploring.
Last year, most organizations I spoke with considered augmented and virtual reality as a set of consumer gaming technologies. Today, this has changed as companies search for new ways to make data accessible and easier to understand. Augmented reality superimposes computer-generated images and overlays information on a user’s real-world view. Virtual reality takes this a step further by creating an immersive, computer-generated environment. Major vendors of the technology include Oculus, HTC, Microsoft, Samsung, and Sony.
Increasingly companies are investigating augmented and virtual reality to deliver these new workplace experiences, such as improving collaboration or making hands-free data access easier. Typical examples of these workplace experiences include training, design, and field service. Trials and implementations of AR/VR aren’t limited to specific industries. Augmented and virtual reality offers benefits across many types or organizations and roles such as viewing digital dashboards for knowledge workers or providing a digital overlay that displays equipment health to a factory manager.
Leaders aren’t replicating existing processes or workflows with AR and VR. These companies are creating brand new ways to build, sell and service products. For example, retailers such as Lowes are experimenting with virtual reality headsets to help their customers visualize furnishings for a kitchen remodel. ThysenKrupp, an elevator manufacturer, is using Microsoft’s HoloLens to visualize an elevator repair before the technician reaches the site. Once onsite, the technician can use augmented reality to view digital overlays of manuals and repair guides while they’re fixing the elevator.
Automotive manufacturers are also using AR/VR to improve product designs. For example, Ford is using the Oculus Rift to create virtual models of cars and collaborate on the design changes with different team members. VR minimizes Ford’s need for physical prototypes and allows the engineers to explore creative designs. Meanwhile, Audi brings a virtual cockpit to life for its Audi TT with an augmented reality brochure. Bechtel provides an excellent example of how tablets and AR can be used to improve construction by replacing paper documents and allowing engineers to visualize walls and other items on the job site.
Companies should take a cue from the leaders above and evaluate what processes could be enhanced or transformed by using technologies such as augmented and virtual reality. Next, the IT and Line of Business managers should build a scoped use case that’s easy to prototype. The team must also predetermine success metrics to ensure they can evaluate the project’s outcome. Companies should also ask their existing vendors for their AR/VR plans and use cases. It’s a rapidly changing field that will transform workplace experiences.