Last week Steve Prentice of Gartner came up with his latest view of businesses in Virtual Worlds. Steve, you are probably aware, is the chap behind some rip-snorting headlines. Last year, for Gartner Emerging Trends Symposium/ITxpo 2007, Steve came out with the view that "by the end of 2011, 80 percent of active Internet users (and Fortune 500 enterprises) will have a 'second life', but not necessarily in Second Life." That one caused much debate, and not a little ridicule.
For Gartner Emerging Trends Symposium/ITxpo 2008, held last week in Barcelona, Steve's headline-grabbing headline was: "90 Per Cent of Corporate Virtual World Projects Fail Within 18 Months." Quite where this statistic come from, I really don't know. However, I can't say I have an issue with it. In fact, if you go on to read the rest of the announcement, you might conclude (as I did) that the outlook is far from bleak for virtual worlds. There is a fair amount of what I would describe as 'TBO' - The Bleedin' Obvious. A case in point is the sub-heading for the piece: "Success requires clear objectives, focus on users and realistic expectations." However, no matter how self-evident this is, Gartner rightly point out that too many have failed to follow it.
The piece then goes on to list a number of ways in which Virtual Worlds can deliver dividends for businesses. I cannot see that any of these would come as a surprise to a Virtual Worlder, but for those with no experience - or have given no thought to the subject - then these might prove interesting:
- Rich real-time collaboration environment, far better than web-based tools
- The cost to experiment is miniscule - a small outlay, with maybe big gains
- Reduce the cost of travel by hosting virtual meetings
- Know who your market is, and address their needs
- Immersive scenario-based learning - particularly for hazardous occupations
- Persistent virtual workplaces
So there you have it. Read the headline - and it's all Doom & Gloom. However, delve into the article and you will find this is a very positive piece about the corporate / organisational use of environments like Second Life.
Oh... they also slipped in another prediction, that by 2012 an estimated 70% of organisations will be running private virtual worlds, the 3D intranet. So you might now want to get hold of OpenSim, Multiverse, Wonderland, Qwaq or whatever else floats your boat.