Beyond Retail, Luxury Goods, Land and other consumer applications, the metaverse has real B2B benefits. That’s according to attendees who joined the Financial Times in a panel discussion that focused on future technologies and the skills gap.
John Schultz, executive vice president & COO, operations, legal and administrative, at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, says: “By being here, [Davos] is the first step to normalcy and scaling the technology, and then it gets kicked around for a while and comes back with a commercial factor and we’re seeing that this year with the metaverse.”
The metaverse has been a bright spot of conversation at this year’s Forum, which has been otherwise overshadowed by the heavier subjects of inflation and war.
The metaverse: from gaming to commercial use
“The metaverse is moving from escapism and game-ism to commercial utility and public good, so it’s incredibly interesting to see that progression,” adds Schultz.
For global aviation company Boeing, augmented and virtual reality technologies—which are now synonymous with the metaverse—are already well integrated into industrial and manufacturing processes.
“When you think about putting together an aircraft to the precision you need, you want to try an aircraft thousands of times to the digital twin, and then in terms of designing it, building it and sustaining it, this kind of universe is actually very helpful do this in a virtual world before you do it in a physical world,” says Susan Doniz, CIO, Boeing.
“I really see that this is going to be the transformation of how we build things and manufacture them in the future in a way that is sustainable,” she adds.
For other businesses, who may be further behind in their digital transformation initiatives, the pandemic was an accelerator, says Vijay Guntur, President, Engineering and R&D Services, HCL Technologies.
“Disruption that’s happened in the last two years has given the opportunity for technology to become more pervasive and more inclusive of people in the digital transformation journey: lots of people are more convinced and have taken the plunge.”
He cites blockchain as one of the key technologies to have moved into mainstream use in areas such as land registration and NFT-enabled transactions in recent years.
“But if I were to take a bet on what will be the tech of the future, I think it’s quantum becoming much more realistic - and you will see investments turning into reality.”
Plugging the technology talent and skills gap
Finding people with the talent and skills to develop and deploy new technologies remains a challenge for global companies, but innovation is helping to plug the skills gaps.
Guntur adds: “I think the market for skills is hot, and one thing that is a silver lining for corporations and organizations is you can find people anywhere in the world and make it work.
“There’s a lot of need to reinvest in people in the organization to make them more capable to reskill and upskill.”
HCL Technologies has several programs underway to develop existing talent within the organization, as well as a return-to-work scheme for women.
Hewlett Packard has an initiative that brings people with no relevant technology experience into cybersecurity roles: “[They] may be a caregiver or someone out of the workforce looking for new opportunities; we take them in and give them skills in a career they haven’t been in before. Companies need to look at all potential pools for talent.”
Exploring ‘skills adjacencies’—taking people with related or relevant experience in another sector or industry and training in technology—is another rising trend.
HCL Technologies has found synergies between civil engineers and program managers, for example.
“The vast majority of jobs in tech require learning agility and you can find that in a lot of places,” adds Schultz.
For many organizations, the metaverse will remain a subject of fascination for now, but if you believe the hype at Davos, it’s here to stay. Asked whether future WEF meetings might become entirely virtual, Guntur says:
“It’s definitely a possibility…and then you can choose your weather!”