And every company will need a Chief Metaverse Officer. There, I’ve said it and got in before Gartner.
Ok, so slightly tongue in cheek but there is a seriousness to this. We have been here before, some 15 years before. Back in the days of 2006/ 2007, there was a rush to Liden Lab’s Second Life as businesses scrambled to own their own piece of an early metaverse and have a presence there. They didn’t really understand what it was, or why, or even how to engage with clients and others but hey, it didn’t stop them either.
"Second Life is a new phenomenon that represents a completely different approach to business, just as the internet did at the beginning. We are now seeing all sorts of commercial businesses taking a serious look at Second Life.
"Businesses should be experimenting. People in your organisation may already be using Second Life, so there is an opportunity to develop home-grown expertise, and to understand what it is all about before your competitors.”
Steve Prentice, senior analyst at Gartner
Dell opened Dell Island with a virtual factory that you could configure and buy a PC from; IBM opened offices and even had a ‘Metaverse Evangelist’; Sears opened a showroom where customers could change cabinet and countertop colours in a kitchen or redesign areas of their own homes; Starwood Hotels launched "Aloft", a virtual concept hotel that allowed the company to observe consumers' response to an "experimental" style of the hotel.
People were flocking to try it out. Many saw it as the herald of something new, a new paradigm in business models. It represented a time where you could build in a virtual world without the need for physical and costly capital expenditure and experiment. Walmart today for example has huge warehouses that they build and trial out designs but time-travel back 15 years and you could have done that in Second Life on the cheap.
Marketers explored the virtual realm, with big-name businesses like American Apparel, Scion and Cisco setting up virtual areas and stores for their products.
Even Reuters had assigned a bureau chief specifically to it and a handful of journalists who wandered through Second Life, visiting campuses such as Dell and Sun to find news stories that make it onto the real-world service. It was a new model of virtual journalism that crossed into the real world.
But even then companies were also mindful of the fact this was uncharted territory and a virtual presence also could mean virtually no accountability.
Organisations should provide guidelines for employees online profiles and a policy about revealing real-life information. Consider what information may be sensitive and advise your employees about what a positive profile should include when operating in the metaverse under a corporate presence. The cultural aspect should also be taken seriously if organisations are not to risk annoying or alienating potential customers.
Businesses need to focus on the importance of privacy and security awareness in the metaverse, perhaps more so than before.
Looking back, the articles that were written when the gold rush to Second Life reached fever pitch were incredible.
“Second Life is the death of the Call Centre”
“Virtual events cost a third of normal events”
“A second chance for corporate America”
“Fat people get online chance to lose weight” - I shit you not
Education. Healthcare. Recruitment. Tourism. It was all happening. Then it wasn’t.
By 2012/ 2013 things slowed down significantly. The value wasn’t there, the longevity of engagement no longer held excitement and the technology behind Second Life and other virtual world platforms didn’t move forward fast enough with expectation.
But this time it feels different. The technology, hardware and the convergence of existing trends such as 5G, Digital Twins, VR/AR/XR, Internet of Things, Video Games and more are happening all at the same time to build the metaverse. This means that businesses need to start paying attention again. We’re already seeing companies like Disney, through their accelerator, building layers of the metaverse through investing in startups.
Every company will become a metaverse company. Well, not every company - I mean I doubt my local newsagent will need a virtual presence somewhere - but to conduct business and reach a new audience demographic every major brand will need to become a metaverse company, have a metaverse strategy.
Because as much as we need interoperability within the industry itself, the companies who will migrate their strategy towards the metaverse will need to think this way too - how do I engage in a completely new virtual way with consumers or clients who are operating here too?
Every company will need a Chief Metaverse Officer. Well, if they intend to have a metaverse strategy then yes, they will. Is it a shift for the Chief Digital Officer? No. I wrote way back in 2016 that the CDO role was defunct anyway.
“A Chief Digital Officer (CDO) is an individual who helps a company, a government organization or a city drive growth by converting traditional” analog ”businesses to digital ones, and oversees operations in the rapidly changing digital sectors like mobile applications, social media and related applications, virtual goods, as well as “wild” web-based information management and marketing. ”
Therein lies the problem: Even when loosely defined the digital role is performed by the Chief Customer Officer, Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Technology Officer. There is also overlap with the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Operating Officer. Talk about stepping on every toe in the C-suite…
The Chief Metaverse Officer is most likely someone who has had experience with the realities industry, potentially video game experience on top, deep connections with the technology ecosystem that are currently the front-runners of building the metaverse. Who knows, maybe even those who have built I considered thriving businesses in Second Life more of an expert and qualified to write a metaverse strategy than the current crop of CTOs and CDOs.
The Chief Metaverse Officer also needs to recognise that to engage in the metaverse and build a strategy they’ll have to recruit for the same skills as the video game industry. Where the Data Scientist was once the ‘sexiest job in Silicon Valley’ we’re going to see a shift in attitude towards developers with Unreal Engine, Unity, CryEngine skills and the associated tools - creators who can use Blender, Maya and more to help imagine and build the environments.
Where we once had “The Making of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” books charting the development of the game and art, we might start seeing “The Making of Oracle’s Metaverse” with the same passion.
So there you have it - every company will be a metaverse company - and every company will need a Chief Metaverse Officer.
And Gartner will need a Metaverse Hype Cycle and Magic Quadrant.
What are your thoughts? Please let us know in the comments section below!