Nowadays the key to many organisations’ survival in a rapidly changing business world comes down to ‘innovate or die’. Sooner or later many companies take a leap of faith to keep up with the competition and get involved in emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). And rightly so – innovation is the key determinant of economic growth and social welfare.
According to PwC’s ‘Seeing is believing’ report, VR and AR have the potential to add $1.5 trillion to the global economy by 2030. With immersive technologies redefining soft and hard skills training, improving design and production processes and enabling greater productivity, it is no surprise that industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, energy, retail and training and development, are looking for ways to introduce them.
However, making your first steps into the unknown can be a complex and intimidating process, even for large multinational enterprises. Although large companies have set-in-stone processes for the introduction of new technologies, there is a series of traps they tend to fall into when it comes to VR deployment.
Let’s say you are one of those bold first adopters, an innovative industry leader paving the way for the rest of your sector. As such, you perhaps have already developed at least a few VR prototypes across your organisation. You showcased the innovation in front of managers and clients and now the VR headsets are just lying in the corner of your office.
At this stage, the inevitable questions the management will be asking are “Now what? What’s next?”. If you have demonstrated the ability of VR technology but you have no idea where to go from there, here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when taking VR to the next level – strategic deployment.
Get to know your organisational environment
Before you even start thinking about deploying VR, we suggest that you take a good look across your organisation and identify who might be the key people involved in such an initiative. When working with companies at the corporate level, we very often see departments working in silos, having their own projects, budgets and goals. While this is perfectly fine when delivering a prototype, when it comes to deploying VR at a scale you will have to think about all divisions of your company that will need to get involved in the overarching VR deployment strategy.
Depending on your specific use case that could include many different business units, but most often these are public relations/marketing, learning and development, information technology (IT) or even research and development (R&D) departments. It is vital to have these units aligned when it comes to determining the business case for using VR in the first place as well as the scale of the project and who is paying for it, various departmental requirements and desired outcomes. This will also help uncover the overall culture for innovation and digital transformation and which organisational units are resentful towards such large-scale changes. Having a good understanding of inter-departmental involvement and culture will help you ensure you are implementing the correct solution.
Understand your target audience
Another important aspect when it comes to VR deployment, which enterprises often tend to neglect or leave for the last minute as one of those non-essential tasks, is determining the target audience. It is vital to think about how and to whom you are going to deliver your VR experience as these will determine other strategic considerations such as the hardware and content distribution. Once you have identified your target audience, you will need to establish how best to address their needs.
For example, if your VR application is targeted towards designers and engineers in an industrial sector company and you would like them to use it directly on your premises, it is a good idea to develop a desktop VR experience on a tethered headset that provides better overall quality and will be a great tool for visualising even the smallest details of each component. On the other hand, if you need to provide training to your ship’s crew currently in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, you might be better off opting for a mobile VR experience on a standalone headset, which could be used at any time, anywhere, online or offline. Similarly, you should keep in mind variables such as the age, level of familiarity with VR technology, location and occupation of your target audience to deploy VR successfully.
Develop a sustainable hardware strategy
You might be wondering why hardware strategy is included as the key aspect of VR deployment. In contrast to more familiar and mature technologies such as smartphones and tablets, there isn’t a huge abundance of VR hardware brands to choose from. Instead of giving you a pros and cons list of the latest Oculus or HTC headsets, in this section, I would rather emphasise the importance of having a sustainable hardware strategy with clear upgrade paths. Since every organisation is unique and has its own different requirements, don’t be surprised if your IT department tells you they only accept hardware from certain countries or brands and not others, and they need all equipment to be in line with their internal policies for security.
From a technical point of view, keep in mind your preferred option needs to be a good fit with the IT department’s system requirements, enterprise Wi-Fi, firewall and cybersecurity considerations. On the operational side, we would recommend thinking about longevity and upgrade paths as well as who is responsible for maintaining and upgrading all VR hardware. These are a few long-term considerations we find absolutely essential when it comes to deploying enterprise VR at scale.
Develop a content distribution strategy
Here we are already, at the final stage of your VR deployment – the actual distribution of your content across the entire organisation and all its local or international locations. When it comes to this goal, it is important to find the right software solution that is built with enterprise requirements in mind. There are already a number of software platforms to choose from, each with its own pros and cons, but here are a few key things to consider when you are choosing yours.
Again, sustainability takes the leading position as you should ensure the software platform is suitable for the company’s use in the long run. Ideally, it should be content-agnostic and run VR applications developed from any source (e.g. Unreal and Unity engines) as well as support various types of hardware mediums, including desktop and mobile. Similarly to your hardware strategy, you will need to think about any Wi-Fi, firewall or overall security specifications. Moreover, when it comes to software, we always recommend our clients to consider how their preferred choice integrates with existing business systems (e.g. consumer relationship management (CRM) or learning management systems (LMS), etc.).
Last piece of advice
In this article, I’ve touched on the key areas that you will benefit from considering when deploying VR at scale, but you should never forget that in reality, even your earliest decisions can have an impact on different aspects of the deployment process. As a last piece of advice, I would recommend that you sit down with representatives from across your organisation and spend some time fleshing out how you are going to address the many different aspects of your long-term VR deployment strategy. If you find yourself struggling to do that, then you should look at working closely with a VR strategy professional in order to avoid the common pitfalls and costly mistakes, ensuring that you achieve the maximum business potential of VR for your company.
Feature image source: Using VR to Unlock the Power of Remote Collaboration