Business Enterprises are waking up to the term “Augmented Reality” and beginning to explore what it means to them. In essence, they would like to see the potential in the universe of customers (read value chain) being connected and collaborative in real time. This is not such a bad thing nor is it something new. It is hoped that it is not just another flavor of the month!!!
The immediate provocation for such thinking is the proliferation of technology such as Social Enterprise Management (SEM) / Enterprise Social Software, Sixth Generation Portal Technology integrating Content with Identity Management, Unified Communications and Web 2.0 / 3.0 Technologies, Imaging & Sensory Technologies, Business Process Management and Business Intelligence. The challenge of Augmented Reality is to make all these work together.
Wikipedia provides two definitions for “Augmented Reality” and true to its nature, the first one sounds technical attributed to Ronald Azuma that talks about “combining virtually and physically, interactively in real time, registered in 3D” while the second definition attributed to Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino talks about the “continuum that spans from the real environment to a pure virtual environment; In between there are Augmented Reality (closer to the real environment) and Augmented Virtuality (is closer to the virtual environment).
The most significant outcome from implementing “Augmented Reality” would be the convergence of “Product & Process Innovation”. Both technology and business will need to have a shared and equal equity to contribute to its success. The key operative word here is “Real Time” which business and technology have had difficulty wrapping their arms around for decades, despite the availability of tools and widgets. Because, the mindsets of organization and information designers has been discrete event driven rather than a continuum. Where the continuum represents Invention(Systemic Thinking), Innovation (Systems Implementation) and Improvisation (Systematic Life Cycle Management) concurrent to Program (Mind 2 Market), Product, Process (Time 2 Market).
This cannot be a one off discrete project. It should be viewed as a strategic initiative and should top the list of a Program Office directly in line with the CXO community of the business enterprise. The first step to address would be the mapping of the enterprise to get an integrated view of the Workflow, Data Flow and Information Flow connecting the Customer Universe (Enterprise Value Chain consisting of Customer / Client, Employees, Stakeholders, Shareholders, Vendors, Business Partners and Society) for an Interactive exchange in real time. Roles, Synergy and Culture are the other important aspects to map for comparisons.
This initiative will impact the business model – how the business interacts and operates in its universe. In doing so, it will create newer dimensions for the business and as a consequence a renewal in both, thinking and action. Design Thinking is fundamental to the successful initiation and implementation of such an initiative. It need not be a big bang implementation, but a clear prioritization of the processes and functionality based on not only the business expectations but also aspirations must be undertaken. Such aspirations must be mapped and aligned with the entire customer universe starting with customers and employees. It will demand a renewal of the enterprise architecture.
A few key hygiene factors that need to be stressed in undertaking an engagement such as this are:
- This should not be considered a front-end marketing initiative. This is an enterprise initiative that aims to renew the way business engages with its customer universe.
- The core of this engagement is the integration of Enterprise Business Processes; Workflow, Dataflow and Information flow connecting the universe of customers in Real Time.
- It is important to renew the enterprise architecture; the five layers of Strategy (Customer facing interface), Process (Boundary less business processes), People (Organization Capabilities), Technology & Applications (Enterprise Systems) and Infrastructure (Intelligence, Data, Security, Communications & Networking).
- While Business Intelligence is an important element, cognitive intelligence is a more critical element of this initiative. It requires participation from the roles in the extended enterprise business process. Therefore, Change Management with respect to Readiness, Expectations and Performance Management are critical.
- The design has to be at an enterprise level and universal in nature but the implementation of technology can be staged based on prioritization.
This is not creating a fish bowl but a mechanism to truly collaborate and interact in real time. Contrary to popular belief, the primary hurdler to real time is not communication and networking infrastructure but disparate enterprise business processes. Data and content has to be seen from a new perspective with respect to audio, video, graphics and text and content must be integrated and contextual to Profiles that are Personalized and Preferentiated. Divergence and Convergence must co-exist in a design for “Augmented Reality”.