On March 1, 2022, IMA welcomed its employees back to work at its Global Headquarters in Montvale, N.J. After two years of remote work fueled by the power of technology, I felt happy to be back in the presence of live humans. I went to a meeting in a physical conference room where everyone sat around a physical table talking about how projects were going and enjoying the novelty of each other’s company after a two-year hiatus of in-person meetings. It felt a little surreal, with no spotty Internet connection breaking up someone’s chain of thought or someone entering the Zoom room late with their computer unmuted and their dog barking in the background. That is why when reading an article in Accounting Today, “Five Ways the Metaverse Will Change Accounting,” by Dan Gertrudes, CEO And Co-Founder, GrowthLab, I stopped in my tracks. “The Metaverse is real,” Gertrudes proclaimed, and accounting and finance professionals need to start preparing for this world of augmented reality, virtual reality, and second digital selves which will affect everything from how work is conducted, how consumers experience products, and how people learn.
I am not ready for the metaverse, as I am just being reintroduced to working in a physical office space outside of the home. But businesses need to prepare for it; Gertrudes cites the size of the “metaverse-related startup” market at over $10 billion this year and others like J.P. Morgan estimate $54 billion is transacted every year on virtual goods, almost double the amount consumers spent on buying music. The competitiveness and longevity of a business will depend on how early they develop and implement a metaverse-strategy, according to Gertrudes.
But which department plans for the metaverse? Gertrudes does not provide a definitive answer to that question, but I suspect this job (along with others that require strategic thinking, scenario planning, and forecasting) may best be done by a management accountant. Management accountants are trained to recognize market disrupting trends and to think innovatively about how their organization can remain competitive (and differentiated) when new applications of technology emerge. For example a large portion of the April 2020 IMA report, “Strategic Analysis – Methods for Achieving Superior and Sustainable Performance,” is devoted to frameworks for innovation, change, and market disruption. These include Blue Ocean Strategy, Reverse Innovation, Creating Shared Value, and Disruptive Innovation. Report authors Mark L. Frigo, Ph.D., CMA, CPA and Kip Krumwiede, Ph.D., CMA, CSCA, CPA, write, “Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.”
So what activities can the metaverse deliver that will be of use to management accountants? Here is a brief round-up:
- Team Building
According to Microsoft, the metaverse includes virtual meeting rooms to train new hires or chat with your remote coworkers so it could be used as a way of upskilling teams or fostering connections. For example Mesh for Microsoft Teams includes “mixed-reality capabilities of Microsoft Mesh, which allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences, with the productivity tools of Microsoft Teams, where people can join virtual meetings, send chats, collaborate on shared documents.”
- Engaging with People
Virtual reality will make powerpoints seem like a thing of the past when it comes to presenting to clients. Clients will have the ability to experience your brand in new ways. For example, architects will be able to show clients how their building will look upon completion in situ. Each client experience can be customized to suit their specific needs and requirements.
- Distraction-Free Virtual Working Space
Remote working can have many benefits, but some people lack the physical space in their home to create a distraction-free workplace. Virtual reality can be used to create that space, offering people a way to focus-in on tasks that require their complete attention.
Because the metaverse’s impact on accounting and finance is predicted to be so substantial, it is helpful to start considering what it might mean for how you work and how you interact with colleagues and stakeholders. At IMA’s upcoming Accounting and Finance Conference (IMA22), there will be many speakers who focus on the transformations happening in the profession because of technology. For instance, Blake Oliver, CPA, Chief Podcast Officer and host of the Cloud Accounting Podcast will discuss “Tech Trends Facing the Future of Accounting and What To Do About Them.”
Technology can be a transformative force, but it must add meaning and value to be relevant, otherwise it is just a new toy, not a tool to for connection.