Updated: Jan 27, 2022
While one group of ‘Super Billionaires’ have been busy trying to send humanity into space and other planets, another cohort have already begun creating parallel universes on earth. The idea of a virtual
Metaverse has been around for a while, but the recent buzz around cryptocurrencies, blockchain and NFTs along with Facebook’s name change have brought the Metaverse into the limelight.
Let us try to understand the metaverse and its implications for the Consulting domain by tackling some of the most common questions:
What is the Metaverse and why the hype?
The Metaverse is widely regarded as the next iteration of the internet- an evolution from the 2D internet comprised of web pages that we look at, to an interactive 3D experience that will merge both the physical and virtual worlds that will continue to exist and evolve even when we don’t interact with it, differentiating it from the 3D/VR games it is often confused with.
In fact, the Metaverse is being envisioned as a cyberspace where you, through your digital avatar, will spend a considerable amount of time for both work and play along with your friends and colleagues, in their digital avatars. It will allow users from across the globe to experience breath-taking worlds and adventures, attend concerts and festivals with their friends, try on their favourite clothes and makeup, and whoever they want to be- all in real-time and from the comfort of their homes.
It will allow companies to redefine their workplaces and culture, through holoportation (using holograms as a proxy for physical presence), VR and AR, and enable them to create digital twins for their office, or retail space. Smart Factories with mixed reality capabilities allowing experts to solve problems from a distance, have also been envisioned.
Selling experiences, objects and artwork in the form of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and trading Real Estate in the Metaverse have gotten the most attention from investors and the public at large because these can be exchanged for real money. Eventually, all these items will be interchangeable across platforms and multiverses, which will boost their popularity even further.
The hopes of a first-mover advantage and the possibility of incredible returns have made the Metaverse the goldrush of the decade, tech-wise. Currently, Meta, The Sandbox, Axie Infinity and Decentraland are the biggest and most developed Metaverses in the market. However, heavyweights like Google, Microsoft, Tencent, Nike, Gucci, Epic Games, and many more are either building their own metaverses, or developing products or experiences for existing ones.
Gamechanger or just another techno-fad?
Despite the lack of clarity on what it will eventually shape up to be, one thing is certain- the Metaverse is here to stay. While NFT trading, and Metaverse gaming have already taken the world by storm, enterprise applications like, hybrid work environments aided by VR and holographic projections, Smart factories, and virtual retail stores are not too far ahead in the pipeline.
Whether or not the metaverse will be completely virtual or take a hybrid from remains to be seen. It is also unclear as to which metaverse will emerge as the leader among the current crop. Adoption of a particular metaverse will depend on a variety of factors which include immersion and engagement opportunities, ease of development, platform and hardware support, cross-compatibility, variety of experiences, and influencer adoption, among many others.
The major bottlenecks to widespread implementation are the current hardware and software limitations. VR headsets are still expensive for the masses and induce fatigue with moderate usage. Software development is also in niche pockets, with only major companies having the bandwidth to allocate resources for their metaverse ventures. The effects of the Metaverse on social behaviour, mental health and privacy of user data are also major concerns.
What role can Consulting play in the Metaverse?
Faced with one of the largest technological disruptions in our lifetimes, consultants with relevant expertise will be in high demand to help companies transition their businesses in part or full, into the Metaverse.
From onboarding, resource allocation, platform development and vendor integration, to branding and advertising strategy, implementation roadmaps and digital asset management, consultants will be able to help organisations overcome confusion and make prudent decisions. They will also play key roles in helping companies restructure themselves, forge strategic partnerships and grow inorganically. Companies will also need guidance in navigating the legal issues and concerns that will arise in the Metaverse, especially around intellectual property and privacy.
The biggest opportunity, however, could lie in helping companies leverage the rich consumer data and behaviours that they will have at their disposal, as users immerse themselves completely in these virtual worlds.
What threats does the Metaverse pose to Consulting firms that don’t adapt?
In an environment where more and more companies are looking to invest in the Multiverse and build their presence in the space, Consulting firms that are not equipped to meet changing client needs will be left in the dust. The convergence of many technologies and industries in the Metaverse means that the Metaverse, like the internet, will fundamentally change the entire business landscape in the coming years. Consulting firms will have to formulate strategies, products and solutions for each industry that include Metaverse integration at the core, to help companies make the jump. This will require considerable investment in resources, systems, software and personnel- both in terms of up-skilling the existing workforce and hiring new talent. It will also require foresight and visionary leadership. The firms that adapt will find their client base increasing, while those that don’t risk obsolescence.
How will the Metaverse change Consulting?
The Metaverse has already begun changing consulting. Many new specialised metaverse consultants have come up to capitalise on the gap created in this happening market. These firms are well versed in all things AR, VR and crypto, and are able to able to keep up and even surpass the services offered by the more established players due to their technical expertise and specialised nature.
To counter this threat, we could see large consulting firms acquire digital content, tech developers and smaller specialised metaverse consulting firms, with the aim of building capability and credibility in this space.
The Metaverse will also change how consultants operate and interact with their clients, significantly reducing overhead expenses like travel and accommodation. The needs of the clients will also keep changing, as the metaverse keeps evolving and hence, firms will have to be responsive and agile.
Mental and physical health of employees will be a key concern for large firms for both employee morale and productivity, as more and more consultants spend considerable amounts of time within the virtual world.
Bill Gates once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”. In a world where the Metaverse takes centre-stage, leadership in the Consulting Domain will simply be defined by who empowers their client for this transition the best, to weather both the highs and lows, of this great unknown.