Virtual Worlds Shows Promise For Collaborative Work -- With Hurdles To Be Overcome

Ericadriver_2By Erica Driver

The Virtual-Worlds Consortium for Innovation and Learning and SRI Consulting Business Intelligence today released the results of an online survey conducted early in March 2008 titled "Virtual Worlds and Collaborative Work: Survey Results." The organization surveyed 81 people who are active users of virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life) about the use of virtual worlds for collaborative work. Most survey respondents (about 85%) were in North America; the rest were in Europe and Asia. Fewer than 20% of respondents are using virtual worlds mostly for pleasure and fun; 58% have a strong interest in how these technologies can serve for work. Some of the key findings:

  • Most respondents believe virtual worlds present a great opportunity for collaborative work. When asked about the potential benefits of virtual worlds for collaborative work, most respondents said they see benefits like: Being together in a virtual world enables a wider range of potentially beneficial interactions with collaborators; presence via avatars brings a new and useful dimension that enables better connections with collaborators; and virtual worlds can give remote workers an opportunity to have informal "water cooler" sessions that they miss by not being co-located with their coworkers (see Figure 1). Slide1_4 (For Forrester thoughts on the water cooler conversations see the Feb. 4th blog post Virtual Offices For All: Return Of The Serendipitous Interaction.) When asked for which types of work situations or scenarios virtual worlds could bring the most benefit, 93% of respondents said when project teams are highly distributed across geographies and/or time zones and 69% said projects that benefit from use of various types of media.
  • But we’ve got some major adoption hurdles to overcome. About 34% of respondents said that major technology and/or worker attitude issues must be addressed before virtual worlds will play much of a role in collaborative work in most organizations. The biggest hurdles will be getting management to recognize the potential benefits of using virtual worlds for collaborative work; making sure every project or team member is comfortable with the use of virtual worlds to work effectively in this new environment; finding ways to integrate virtual worlds with other collaborative tools and technologies that may still be used to complement virtual worlds; and deciding which virtual worlds will best meet the organization's evolving needs in the area of collaborative work (see Figure 2). Slide2_3

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re: Virtual Worlds Shows Promise For Collaborative Work -- With

It's the 'adoption hurdles' that I'm most interested in as Executive Director of the Association of Virtual Worlds. Having run a large enterprise for a well-established Fortune 200 company, it is clear to be that it's these hurdles that pose the biggest challenges for virtual worlds in the enterprise.Consider the following which, although broad generalizations, I think are based largely in fact:1) People don't like to adopt new technologies unless they have to. In some cases, they're burnt out on change. Virtual worlds are not yet viewed as a necessity and therefore will not be an easy sell to the workplace.2) Companies refresh their hardware once every three to four years. Much of the hardware out there is inadequate to handle the virtual worlds downloads we have today. Moreover, IT departments with extremely tight budgets are reluctant to add new stuff to the mix, particularly stuff that requires a significant paradigm shift and eats up bandwidth.3) There are still a relatively small number of people who know anything about virtual worlds. So, even if 1 and 2 above were resolved, virtual worlds would still seem like a game to many people.To get there, the virtual worlds community needs to mainstream the concept of virtual worlds. Demonstrate why they are not a game. Then, the community must articulate a strong business proposition and present the message credibly and in a common sense way to the business community. Now, if the community fails to do this now, I am confident that virtual worlds in the workplace will happen, only not as soon. Even the biggest doubters would have to admit that the Club Penguin fans of today are likely to continue to embrace virtual worlds as they grow up and join the workforce.But, adoption can happen sooner and this is what the Association is all about -- first, a Business & Social Network; second, a publishing division; and third, a facility and headquarters built in a browser based virtual environment, so even a skeptical corporate executive need only 'click' to get there.

re: Virtual Worlds Shows Promise For Collaborative Work -- With

Hi Dave,Your points are well taken and I am hopeful that the Assn. of Virtual Worlds will be able to help mainstream this technology that has so much promise for teaching and learning, innovating collaboratively, communicating and networking, interacting with and presenting information, and managing real-world systems remotely.Erica