Deloitte: Emergence of virtual worlds
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for virtual worlds in business. A new report by Deloitte states that as the world enters a phase of technology convergence it will be easier for organisations to develop, run, and access virtual worlds.
“The perfect technology storm is here,” says the report by Deloitte which points out how leaders are now seeing the potential for accelerating the development of virtual worlds in all sectors from conferences to trade shows and classrooms to sporting events.
But what is a virtual world? This is a computer-simulated environment that is persistent and enables user participation with the use of personal avatars that can, in turn, communicate and collaborate with each other in that environment.
Following the global pandemic more organisations are looking to operate within a virtual world as this digital environment allows users to meet without the expense of travel or the worry about social distancing.
Deloitte profiles how virtual worlds will evolve into a three-dimensional environment with potentially an infinite number of configurations and customisations which will deliver value to customers.
Brave new world
Outlined in the report; A brave new world with virtual worlds, Deloitte says, ultimately, virtual-world experiences demonstrate the greatest potential around delivering group collaboration and networking, especially during times when people are virtual.
As the world enters a phase of technology convergence, it will be easier for organisations to access virtual worlds.“3D modelling continues to be enhanced, lending to more realistic digital humans and content; voice recognition and artificial intelligence are enabling increasingly seamless interaction between user command and headsets,” outlines the report.
“AR is quickly advancing to consumer-based headwear; 360o capture is quickly advancing, especially with camera improvements on mobile devices and new technology incorporation; communication providers are rolling out 5G, enabling fast processing speeds; and hyperscale cloud computing enables processing at the edge and anywhere at any time.”
Conference and trade shows
Conferences and trade shows are flagged up as two of the most obvious applications for this virtual world. “With over US$300 billion of direct annual spending and over US$800 billion of economic impact in the United States alone (in a typical non-pandemic year), conferences and trade shows demonstrate the value of communication and collaboration,” says Deloitte.
The report outlines how virtual worlds would be ideal for group events bringing together a scalable virtual, audience in a unified virtual location.
“User avatars can navigate a digital campus as if they were navigating a physical event location; they can attend keynote presentations in virtual auditoriums, engage in question-and-answer activities by raising their hand, network with other avatars in virtual coffeeshops or on a virtual beach, engage in breakout sessions, and more,” highlights the report.
Virtual-world events have another advantage over their real-world counterparts - persistence – as virtual conferences can be “always on,” allowing attendees to engage with the content and each other at any time during the 24-hour day.
One of the first examples of this type of virtual event was the Immersive Learning Research conference scheduled for March 2020 – just as COVID-19 was spreading around the world. The committee voted to use a custom iLRN virtual campus. This proved popular. Originally set to take place in a few rooms with 80 attendees, the planning committee wound up with 3,500 registrants.
Virtual-world platforms offer an option for people to communicate new ideas and network, like the physical world. This can include:
- Sports and entertainment
Virtual solutions can help to bring fans and consumers closer to collaborative experiences. The National Basketball Association can broadcast in virtual reality (VR). “On the spectrum of what is possible for more collaborative events, the industry still lacks maturity but is heavily investing in experimentation in these technologies to meet rising user expectations,” says Deloitte.
- Classroom training and workshops
VR can train users in a safe and measured way. Studies across many industries show VR’s ability to enhance long-term information retention, aided by its ability for immediate feedback. Doctors learn new techniques and prepare for surgeries in VR simulations before operating on live patients.
Deloitte Greenhouse spaces
The Deloitte Greenhouse spaces are physical environments designed to help clients tackle complex problems by applying tested principles—including behavioural science and analytics to break through traditional problem-solving methods.
“In the future,” says Deloitte Greenhouse leader Kim Christfort, “there will be more tools to get people fully immersed in challenges. People process an abstract problem differently than one that they are experiencing not only intellectually but physically and emotionally.”
The report highlights that adoption of virtual-world technology will not only challenge technology but also have a knock-on effect for privacy, health (risks include a reduction in neural activity, nausea and digital addiction) and the psychology of the users.
“Many barriers to virtual worlds will likely fall, as 5G enables greater processing speeds and bandwidth. In the short term, to provide truly immersive experiences in a virtual world, AR and VR technologies would have to mature to ubiquitous consumer-ready products,” outlines the report.
With these converging technologies we will see a shift: from developing individual AR and VR solutions to creating customised, virtual worlds that allow people to engage with others.
“The perfect technology storm is here, the new reality of virtual worlds is being created and companies are taking interpersonal collaboration and engagement to the next level,” concludes the report.
For more information on business topics in Europe, Middle East and Africa please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”