September 19, 2018 – Scott Montgomerie:

Almost everyone’s heard something about the promise of augmented reality (AR). Next-generation video game action. The future of interactive movies. Or blockbuster AR investments from heavy-hitters like Facebook, promising a new way that we’ll connect and interact.

Is this exciting? Absolutely. But there’s more to AR than hype or novelty. Smart companies are already using AR to redefine how they get work done and train employees. Aerospace leader Lockheed-Martin is using AR to improve manufacturing efficiency and accuracy of complex spacecraft. Prince Castle uses an AR-based remote assistance tool so on-site workers at fast food chains can connect with an expert service technician in real-time to troubleshoot and repair kitchen equipment more quickly and accurately.

Enterprise AR is not the future. It’s here. A recent Harvard Business Review study found 68 percent of enterprise executives they surveyed believe that AR is “important to achieving their companies’ strategic goals in the next 18 months.”

But here’s the catch: The same survey showed that just 32 percent of these executives believe that their senior management understand the technology and understand the potential benefits it can bring to their company. It’s time to change some minds.

Are you interested in test-driving AR applications in your company, but concerned your leadership might not be convinced they’re ready to adopt — or have the budget for it? Here are three ways to make the case for enterprise AR at your company.

1. Dream big with AR — but start small
Build a practical AR project that shows real results. For example, you can’t get started by promising to overhaul your company’s end-to-end manufacturing process. Find one piece of your process where AR can make a clear difference in terms of efficiency, build quality, error reduction, and/or build time.

Is there a complex, costly step in your assembly or manufacturing process that demands precision? Test-drive AR to show how virtual instructions or 3D content overlaid onto the real-world could help your technicians get it done faster, with a lower margin of error. Measure and share the results among key stakeholders. Then, brainstorm with your leadership on how you might bring the same results to other sophisticated procedures or parts of the process.

One clear benefit from starting with an AR pilot, not an overhaul: you can build an AR project in a week or two. You can demonstrate viability and ROI quickly, and turn your skeptical CIO into your partner on the next AR project.

2. Partner with IT as early as possible on your AR deployment
A lot of people looking at AR don’t just face skepticism from the C-level executives. A major roadblock can be the IT leaders who have to implement and integrate AR within their already-complex IT landscape. IT decision-makers might see AR as another system to integrate — and another purchase order that needs approval. And worse, some of the proprietary AR equipment and software can be expensive.

The good news on cost: An AR investment is lower than you might think. Many businesses can benefit from AR using the handheld devices already in their employees’ pockets, minimizing the need for an additional hardware investment. For example, field technicians or on-site workers can access intuitive AR instructions and diagrams for how to conduct maintenance or repair complicated machines, all on their smartphones or tablets.

As you collaborate with IT on your AR deployment, do not lose sight of security considerations. Your IT team might not admit this to you, but security concerns rob them of sleep. Consider security issues from the start to mark certain that confidential content and data are protected and that only the required users and devices get access to AR applications.

For example, some enterprise AR trailblazers leverage their company’s CAD libraries and use them to create digitized AR instructions. CAD files are often some of the most critical and guarded pieces of an enterprise’s intellectual property. (Just think of a military contractor.) As you plan your AR project, work with IT partners to ensure you can build within the firewall and follow all IT-governed protocols.

3. Don’t build your AR deployment from scratch
We recently met with a large enterprise company with operations around the globe. The company’s leaders had seen the value AR could bring to their operations and had been approached by a service provider to custom-build a bespoke AR solution and were ready to pull the trigger on development, with a multi-million dollar price tag. They had no idea there were mature toolsets on the market that could dramatically decrease the time-to-market and cost of such a solution.

As it happened, they learned these type of scalable solutions existed — ones that were pre-built and could enable them to grow at scale and quickly create new AR content as needed. The lesson to learn: don’t invent your own AR solution. You can prove ROI in collaboration with vendors who have built out successful AR use cases.

AR isn’t a promise, it’s ready to solve enterprise-level problems. Get creative, but start small. Partner with IT on deployment, particularly to ensure security needs are met. And leverage proven AR success so you scale out to other processes and use cases.

Since co-founding Scope AR in 2011, CEO Scott Montgomerie was one of the first executives to get augmented reality (AR) tools in use by multi-billion dollar corporations.