Organisations should start thinking about their metaverse strategies now, as the new paradigm advances quickly and inevitably.

According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2022, the “Metaverse Continuum” – a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models – is redefining how the world works, operates and interacts.

The study, aptly titled “Meet Me in the Metaverse: The Continuum of Technology and Experience Reshaping Business”, finds that businesses are racing toward a future that is very different from the one they were designed to operate in — as technologies, such as extended reality, blockchain, digital twins and edge computing, are converging to reshape human experiences.

Paul Daugherty, group chief executive of Accenture’s new metaverse continuum business group, comments: “The next generation of the internet is unfolding and will drive a new wave of digital transformation far greater than what we’ve seen to date, transforming the way we all live and work.

“Our vision of the metaverse as a continuum challenges prevailing, narrower views and highlights why organisations must act today, or find themselves operating in worlds designed by, and for, someone else.”

Kgomotso Lebele, technology lead for Accenture in Africa, adds: “As the building blocks of the metaverse continuum take shape, it’s imperative that African companies begin incorporating this into their business strategy now. They must become metaverse businesses and start engaging in these new people-centric worlds.”

Accenture surveyed more than 4 600 business and technology leaders across 23 industries in 35 countries, including South Africa. At this early stage, 63% of local executives believe the metaverse will positively impact their organisation, and 43% think it will be a breakthrough or transformational.

“As the line between people’s physical and digital lives further blurs, organisations have the opportunity and obligation now to build a responsible metaverse — addressing issues like trust, sustainability, personal safety, privacy, responsible access and use, diversity and more,” Daugherty says. “The actions and choices they make today will set the stage for the future.”

The Technology Vision 2022 report identifies four key trends that companies will need to address:

* WebMe: Putting the Me in Metaverse – Enterprise strategies are built for the internet of today, a digital world where platforms often lack interoperability and data portability. Metaverse and Web3 are poised to reshape the internet; rather than it being a disparate collection of sites and apps, looking ahead, the metaverse will lead to a persistent 3D environment in which moving from one “place” to another will be as simple as walking from one room to another. 92% of executives believe that future digital platforms need to offer unified experiences, enabling interoperability of customers’ data across different platforms and spaces.

* Programmable World: Our Planet, Personalised – As emerging technologies such as 5G, ambient computing, augmented reality and smart materials advance, digital environments will be increasingly woven into the fabric of our physical world. These environments will reshape how people engage with worlds and redefine everything built in it, how people sense and interact, and control over it. About 68% of executives agree that leading organisations will push the boundaries of the virtual world to make it more real, increasing the need for persistence and seamless navigation between the digital and physical worlds.

* The Unreal: Making Synthetic, Authentic – AI-generated data that convincingly reflects the physical world increasingly support businesses and environments. More than ever before, AI is top-of-mind for companies, as companies and consumers alike shift away from considering what is actual versus fake to what is authentic–not just in terms of a company’s content and algorithms but its entire brand. With the unreal world about to become a reality, now is the time for leaders to ready their businesses. Already, 95% of executives report that their organisations are committed to authenticating the origin of their data and genuine use of AI.

* Computing the Impossible: New Machines, New Possibilities – The emergence of a new class of machines empowers organisations across industries to stretch the boundaries of what computers can solve. Tools like quantum computing and biology-inspired computing allow businesses to solve problems that may be too expensive, inefficient, or flat out impossible for traditional computing. As “grand challenges” become trivial operations, how enterprises compete, provide value, and partner will radically change; about (88%) of executives agreed that long-term success would depend on leveraging next-generation computing to solve seemingly intractable challenges.

Forward-looking companies are simultaneously navigating the uncertainty of today’s markets while beginning to compete in the metaverse continuum.

For example, working with Microsoft and Accenture, Mars embraces digital twins, one of the metaverse’s foundational elements, to reduce waste, increase speed and capacity, and empower its associates to make real-time decisions across its supply chain.

Mars is now extending this concept to product development with digital simulations factoring in variabilities, such as climate and disruptions, and maintaining greater visibility from the point of origin to the place of consumption.