Augmented reality is bringing massive change to a process near you. Our new research from the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work highlights that 82% of respondents expect substantial AR-driven redesign of business processes.
In other words, rewiring business processes as “journeys” will become a key competency for organizations in the near future.
So the logical question to ask is: What do I do when my business processes get “AR-ized”?
This isn’t just a case of employees being able to work more quickly. By reforming business processes into AR journeys, respondents also believe workers will be empowered to take a more analytical approach to work (56%) and make better decisions (48%).
Our findings suggest that the use of AR for business processes will gain more attention over time. So far, the “experts” in our study (those who’ve successfully scaled an AR implementation) have focused mainly on business-to-consumer (43%) AR applications (e.g., virtual try-on and product education) and consumer-to-consumer (38%) applications (e.g., the filters and overlays embedded in social media tools like Snapchat and Instagram).
This reflects the reality of what’s already playing out among early adopters:
- Makeup maker Sephora enables customers to virtually try out 20,000 of its cosmeticseither in-store or via its app, using its AR tool Visual Artist. So far, the capability has garnered over 8.5 million visits and 200 million product try-ons.
- With its AR-augmented mobile app barcode scanner, Walmart enables customers to more quickly compare product prices and also see product reviews and ratings. The technology has reduced the time it takes to scan multiple items by 50%, according to Walmart.
- Houzz enables home buyers to redecorate homes with AR, letting them see 3-D spaces and visualize furniture (e.g., size, colors, shape, weight, etc.) in their own rooms before they buy, heightening the probability of a purchase by 11 times.
- Enough with the (repeated) poking! Phlebotomists are finding veins using AccuVein, an AR device that can “see” subcutaneously through the patient’s skin to find a vein, leading to a 45% reduction in escalations.
Making Augmented Reality a Real Reality
Like other IT initiatives, there’s a certain amount of traditional blocking and tackling required to make AR “real” in an enterprise setting, such as identifying sponsors, running pilot initiatives in advance of full-scale roll-outs, etc. But based on our research, the following actions can help maximize real results:
- Recognize that AR is a genuine game-changer for your business. AR promises to be fruitful and beneficial to almost every industry. While the consumer market promises to yield a bonanza, it’s currently happening on a (very) small scale. Meanwhile, real opportunities to transpose today’s business processes as AR journeys will soon be – literally and figuratively – right in front of your eyes. So understand your target audience and their potential for scale, and adjust your goals accordingly. Past technology breakthroughs such as smartphones offer an instructive strategic roadmap to get the timing right.
- Pick your target spots and rewrite the narrative journey with AR. Now’s the time to deploy internal and (trusted) outside resources onto AR experiments and proto-pilots throughout the organization. This is especially important, because when – finally – ubiquitous consumer-grade AR wearables are everywhere, expert developers and AR journey builders will be needed to supercharge valuable experiences for consumers. So starting now is a strategic imperative.
- Help users help themselves – through iteration. Small changes through iteration to journey flows matter – especially if you don’t have to have someone guiding users through the flow every time. If users can navigate journeys by themselves, they’re far more likely to become advocates, which will help scale adoption.
- Make time for scale: Take at least six months to prepare for scale; don’t release a new AR journey at the last minute and expect it to take off like wildfire. Focus on things like whether the right HMD technologies are being used, whether they’re fit for purpose, whether journey intros and outros need refinement, etc.
- Context – more than ever – matters in AR. Magic moments in AR will happen when journeys are built to meet people where they are. Creating AR journeys within the right context will make them far more impactful. From within that defined context, knowing what works and what doesn’t, you can tap wider audiences, adjacent work streams or customer demographics.
- Help employees avoid becoming “uncomfortably numb.” While it’s true that AR can function as something of a Sherpa guide for your rote-and-repetitive work processes to be faster and more accurate, it can also “numb” users and prevent them from thinking critically about their work. Can you be too “prescriptive” in AR? Yes. That’s why deep consideration given to the elements of flow within the AR journey as well as great organizational change management are of huge importance.
- Adhering to privacy best practices is essential. The use of AR only intensifies the need for data privacy, since wearables (as well as smartphones) are capable of tracking user behavior down to the minutest detail. In fact, AR (like AI) might one day understand us better than we know ourselves.
All businesses require urgent action and assessment as to the applicability of AR – fast. Like the advent of the smartphone over a decade ago, this moment requires all of us to think differently, because with AR, the journey is the process.