January 26, 2023
Although extended reality (XR) technologies have been around for decades, only in the last few years has it matured enough for widespread enterprise adoption. Innovators love the adage “Think big, start small, scale fast,” but when it comes to XR, organizations continue to struggle to get to the scaling part, becoming stuck in “proof of concept purgatory.” While there’s no guaranteed method for getting buy-in, here are some suggestions that can help you make inroads at your company.
At some point, you will need at least one champion from the C-suite. Even if your company culture supports grassroots efforts, it will be difficult to get budget and support from other groups like IT and Cybersecurity without executive sponsorship.
There are champions out there: Identify those leaders responsible for innovation or digitization at large as well as leaders from different areas of the business who have a stake in the outcome of adoption. For instance, if the solution increases quality, then find the quality “czar.” Seek guidance from your management on how best to approach these key individuals.
You can also make champions of executives by having them try the technology for themselves. This is important because extended reality is a sensory experience. People often have preconceived notions about XR and devices like Microsoft HoloLens or Meta Quest from pop culture and other sources. Some will be hesitant to try it. In my experience, this is usually because they don’t want to appear awkward in front of others. So, meet with potential champions privately to demonstrate the technology, preferably with an app or experience they can relate to and that can be quickly learned. You will likely know within a short time whether or not they are onboard.
When it comes time to enlist the cooperation of other groups, C-level support will be critical. Remember, adopting new technology means more work for those involved, perhaps without all the funding and human resources needed for the effort.
Finding influencers within the organization can help move the needle on XR adoption. There is no stronger message than a business partner promoting the technology, too. Again, reach out to innovation or digitization teams for allies, as they are most likely to be open to new technologies and have the relationships needed to move the solution to the next level. Tap into research teams and “advanced” groups whose purpose is to figure out how the company should evolve to stay relevant.
Working with a specific factory or location? Find the person I like to call the “mayor,” a person with their finger on the pulse of that operation. He or she may or may not have an official title, but will be well-respected and well-connected. Find this person by talking to employees. Don’t take it personally if you are rejected at first. Fear of the unknown is common at the ground level and especially among longtime workers. In my experience, early detractors can become your greatest allies.
What you need to prove your business case varies from organization to organization. Some companies live by hard return on investment (ROI). Others will couch it as ROI when it’s really more about doing the right thing with supporting documentation or metrics. It typically boils down to What are we taking the money away from to pay for this? You know the drill: Money saved, quality improved, time reduced, etc.
You may be an SME, but coming across as a know-it-all will not win you friends when it comes to XR. You are there to propose solutions to real business problems, not push immersive technology. Put the tech on the back burner and focus on what your audience wants to accomplish. Spend more time listening than talking, asking questions about their business goals and objectives, their pain points and struggles. As Steven Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” As you understand your audience more, you can start introducing XR as a tool to meet their goals. Meet people where they are and take them on the journey with you. Engage influencers to find people who are more receptive and let the technology do the talking.
You might target a specific group of people with the most chance of success to create a ripple effect throughout the organization. Let’s use training as an example. Millennials and Gen Z workers need more training than seasoned workers and, as digital natives, are comfortable with and even crave technology. They’re also more likely to be forgiving when the technology doesn’t work perfectly. (A millennial employee once rebooted an unfamiliar device that crashed for me.) This group’s success will generate interest (or even peer pressure) within the company, drawing other workers in. You may even want to keep your proof of concept a bit covert and by that I mean don’t broadcast it. Rumors and rumblings of new activity will spark people’s natural curiosity.
Unfortunately, there is no one approach that guarantees XR adoption success. A lot depends on the company culture and appetite for change, but that is why it’s called a journey.
Randy Nunez has over 19 years of experience investigating emerging technologies. More recently, he has been focused on extended reality: researching trends and technologies, performing proofs of concept for technology prove-out, writing technical briefs, and delivering presentations to various audiences. Randy has been a speaker and an advisory board member for several technical conferences, is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering with a Telecommunications Option.