Selecting Initial Use Cases for Enterprise Augmented Reality
Which of the many use cases for enterprise Augmented Reality should you implement first?
Selecting the best use cases for enterprise Augmented Reality introduction is arguably one of the most important steps that business managers will perform when exploring the technology’s potential to impact workplace performance.
During the ARise ’15 conference, Carl Byers, president of the AREA and Chief Strategy Officer of Contextere, presented key concepts and provided valuable recommendations for those who are planning to introduce AR in their organizations. This post builds upon those remarks.
Why Use Case Selection is Important
Careful selection of use cases for your company’s first AR project is critical for several reasons. First, the project will be used to choose the tools and to pilot the selected technologies while learning their benefits and limitations. Second, successful results will illustrate AR’s potential and help obtain buy-in for further investments from other groups and management.
The enterprise IT department is frequently involved with vendor selection and assessments of new tools. Since hardware is almost always involved in the delivery of AR experiences, the IT department may consider support for enterprise mobility management, connectivity and data security among other processes and objectives. The evaluation of a vendor’s training and support programs may also be performed during or in parallel with the development of the first project. Consider use cases that leverage prior positive experiences with IT introduction projects. A use case in a department that has not had prior IT-assisted technology introductions may introduce unforeseen problems.
Other departments, for example, human performance support and training organizations, also frequently feel they have a stake in how Augmented Reality is introduced. Their interests need to be weighed and considered when selecting initial use cases.
Driving Internal Rate of Return for AR
The ultimate goal of introducing a new technology is to improve operational efficiency. Efficiency might be improved by driving down costs or time, or improve workforce productivity. Sometimes capturing the full value of a new technology involves organizational change.
When evaluating possible AR use cases, it’s important to consider how deeply changes associated with AR introduction may impact a business process, or multiple processes. An initial, low-cost research project in a sandboxed environment or an isolated field support improvement for one specific piece of equipment may be just right. But if the organization’s management is exploring more dramatic changes, AR introduction may be part of a larger initiative.
When considering the details of the AR introduction project and calculating IRR, it’s important to examine the productivity changes that could, once demonstrated for an isolated case, be applied across an entire factory or line of products and customers. Consider how a few small and specific pilots could meet your long term goals.
That said, it’s well known that large-scale change is usually slower. Should an AR pilot be considered as part of a larger organizational transition, the project may have to cope with many more variables and could experience greater delays. The good news is that, if proven in the context of a broader change management approach, AR adoption may be driven from within as “just an integral part” of the organizational improvements.
Complexity that’s Easily Tracked
Early resistance to AR projects has, in some organizations, been traced to the fact that the task or use case that was selected for AR testing was easy for an employee to perform unassisted. The lesson is that if there isn’t a pain point, AR isn’t needed. Don’t waste valuable time, money or political “capital” of an organization.
That said, there are also risks in overreaching with respect to the current state of the art of Augmented Reality. If the user pain point proposed for a use case involves conditions that are difficult for current AR systems to identify or objects that are difficult to track, the technology may not perform reliably. Lack of reliability and repeatability fuels doubts and generally reduces the user and management’s appetite for the new technology.
Leveraging Existing Enterprise Data Stores
Developing the first AR experiences for a pilot requires new skills, methodologies and tools. Rather than adding to the project workload by developing new content as well, a use case can reuse or leverage existing enterprise data.
While some assets may need to be modified or adapted for mobile delivery platforms, overall project complexity will be lower and less costly when new AR experiences are based on existing enterprise data.
Involving Mission Critical Systems
Whenever mission critical or other high-impact enterprise systems are involved in an AR pilot project, the project may be escalated to management levels that are more risk averse: the CEO doesn’t want to do anything that might impact sales and stock prices, and the C-suite frequently shares that aversion to risk. On the other hand, if you can gain their support, their subordinates will be on board with the project and there will be fewer delays due to internal doubts.
The need for deep testing of any interface with a mission critical system, if that’s the route that’s recommended for an early AR project, is more costly and time consuming and may introduce unanticipated delays. If testing fails, integration with mission critical systems may cause the project to be cancelled.
- Choose one or a few use cases where value can be measured clearly. For example, reduced down time, increased safety or compliance.
- Focus on simple, practical, quick value capture. In the figure below we show how seven different factors can be weighted:
- Use a standard network architecture
- Design for bursty communication for longer battery life
- Identify where there’s large differences between novice and expert performance
- Make it easy to capture and repeat best practices
- Find use cases where some network services (e.g., videoconferencing with an expert) or special equipment (e.g., safety glasses) is already required
- Solve a current or recurring pain point
- Provide access to enterprise data systems via mainstream (legacy) interfaces
- Thoroughly document all assumptions, steps taken and feedback, and share these with your technology partner.
Source: APX Labs
Choose and Choose Again
There are potentially hundreds of interesting use cases, and we’re currently building a use cases listing on the AREA site.
Choosing the initial AR use case is, as we’ve discussed, important but not the end of the process.
Frequently there are multiple AR use cases that can impact the operational efficiency of an enterprise. As a result, it’s not unusual for an AR pilot project to take workflows of multiple departments or processes into account. If this is the case, make sure the different use cases are well defined and the lessons learned in one project are captured and applied to others.
What are the initial use cases you’ve considered for evaluating whether Augmented Reality is right for your organization?