Cloud in 2023: From Customer Transformation to the Metaverse

Cloud has always been a catalyst for transformation yet now it is ushering in a new wave of innovation -- particularly for the metaverse experience.

Bob Moore, Paige Hayes

February 24, 2023

5 Min Read
Data tunnel traveling at high speed. Abstract background for tech concept. Block chain or metaverse data.
ImagesRouges via Alamy Stock

During times of crisis, many companies cease all but core activities. They stop investing, improving, and innovating. They view stagnation as the only way to survive uncertainty. But the truth is, nothing is ever certain. While specific types of instability call for more conservative measures, progressive companies double down and come out better on the other side.

For them, disruption provides the perfect opportunity to rethink and evolve at a faster pace. We saw this at the beginning of the pandemic and have reached another inflection point. Smart businesses are laying the groundwork now for what’s next, especially in customer transformation -- despite unpredictable market conditions across industries -- and they’re doing so through cloud.

Reaching the Metaverse Through Cloud

These companies are accelerating their cloud journeys while taking time to define visions around the next-gen customer experience and applying cutting-edge ideas, like the metaverse. They want to build something more than a novelty to deliver true differentiation.

So whether for fun and reward, like Chipotle’s consumer-facing metaverse initiative that gave fans the opportunity to roll burritos and earn bucks, or to train thousands of geographically dispersed technicians on how to repair a device -- without bringing them all together in one place and disrupting operations -- metaverse applications can be transformative.

But before most companies can build transformative applications, they also have to build trust. Creating an amazing experience won’t matter if your employees or customers don’t believe in the technology or worry about their personal data.

Now is the time to establish solid foundations to be known for long-term success -- such as cloud and metaverse-specific governance. Plus, whether for sales, employee engagement or customer experience, companies will need to define the outcomes they seek.

For example, enterprise use cases such as optimizing operations -- like a digital recreation of supply chain, manufacturing and logistics processes -- will help align metaverse initiatives with the overall business strategy. These learnings can then be applied to helping transform the customer experience.

An Ecosystem to Fill a Skills Gap

Achieving both internal and customer transformation goals will likely take a combination of build and buy. Whenever an innovation emerges, new talent is needed to make it come to life, many of whom do not yet exist in house.

The cloud, metaverse, and its supporting technologies will require highly specialized and even obscure skills. Blockchain, for example, is responsible for most digital asset activities, which support certain metaverse transactions and financial services.

Acquiring skills should be a top priority for organizations that want to optimize cloud and succeed in the metaverse. Upskilling might mean sending tech experts in adjacent fields for focused training or making new hires. Fostering a culture that attracts and engages entrepreneurial-minded technologists will also set businesses up for success.

Beyond facilitating internal learnings, companies should look to partner with knowledgeable technology and service providers to help ensure their initiatives can be implemented quickly with the most meaningful outcomes.

With all this in mind, we’ll see a few specific cloud and metaverse trends emerge this year. Here are the top three:

For one, businesses will lead the next wave of adoption. Until now, early metaverse adopters were consumers -- gamers and techies, for example. In 2023, business applications will take the lead. Already, “metaverse-in-a-box” tools for recruitment, training and workplace collaboration are growing in popularity. Opportunities to use the metaverse to enhance the customer experience -- both driving loyalty among existing customers and reaching new ones -- are also rising fast. The metaverse for business is maturing to the point in which experiments or proofs of concept aren’t enough. Instead, aim for concrete business outcomes.

In another shift, AI (rather than VR which is what most people think of related to the metaverse) will take metaverse activities to a new level. Aside from its ability to power digital twins, AI can turn metaverse data into business value, drawing insights from what metaverse avatars buy, how they play, who they meet and how they engage with brands. For example, if customers are entering the metaverse through a headset, AI may also be able to tell you where they’re looking, what their body type is, even how they’re breathing.

Of course, such intensely personal data gathering could become a distressing privacy violation, so it will be imperative to use both AI and metaverse data responsibly. A “trust by design” approach can help privacy policies both stay ahead of regulations and foster a trusted metaverse brand. In fact, the metaverse’s advance may provide a good chance to upgrade data management and governance more generally.

In the area of skills, non-tech executives will enter the metaverse spotlight. The C-suite will need to rethink interactions and experience in their related functions. Non-tech executives will need to work closely with each other and with CDOs, CIOs and CISOs, who will be creating and protecting the metaverse infrastructure, experience, and data pipelines that will be needed for customer transformation.

One thing to watch out for: When every senior executive plays a role in an initiative, lines can be crossed or projects can stall because no one fully owns them. Giving one senior executive primary responsibility can help avoid this pitfall. It might be a new role (chief metaverse officer) or bestowed on an existing one, like chief digital officer.

Cloud has always been a means for transformation. Until now, that’s mostly meant optimizing internally. Now, it’s the path to next-gen customer experience.

About the Author(s)

Bob Moore

AWS Practice and US AWS Alliance Leader, PwC

Bob Moore is a Partner and AWS Practice and US AWS Alliance Leader at PwC. Bob has spent thirty years on the forefront of technology, specializing in cloud transformation and is a proud US Navy veteran. Having helped found a telecommunications carrier from startup, going public, and ultimate $2B merger, Bob has served in many executive roles. Bob took his expertise and created EagleDream Technologies, bringing his prior colleagues together to create a leading AWS Premier Partner. Never one to pass an entrepreneurial opportunity, Bob co-found EagleDream Health which was an award-winning healthcare analytics company born in the cloud. EagleDream Health was sold to NextGen Healthcare where it continues as a leader in the market. EagleDream Technologies success and cloud leadership brought Bob onto PwC's radar ultimately resulting in the acquisition of EagleDream by PwC.

Paige Hayes

Global AWS Alliance Leader, PwC

Paige Hayes is a Partner in PwC's Consulting Solutions organization with over 30 years of experience consulting to both large and small companies.  Prior to joining PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2002, she was a Partner in Arthur Andersen’s Business Consulting Practice.

Paige currently serves as a Global Client Partner to one of PwC’s largest clients and the Global Alliance Leader for PwC’s alliance with Amazon Web Services.  Prior to stepping into these roles in late 2020, Paige held a variety of industry and geography leadership roles within the Firm. Most recently, Paige led the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Advisory Practice in the U.S., a practice of approximately 1,300 professionals. Prior to that, she served as the West Region Advisory Leader and the Advisory Market Leader for the Southern California/Phoenix market.

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