- 11:11 - I think any industry that thinks they’re free from being affected by the metaverse is going to be naive in their thinking. I do think that the B2C type of industries are going to land up looking at this first because, again, it’s “Where does their target audience hang out?”
- 13:17 - I think there is opportunity in the corporate space and if you have a look — I mentioned J.P. Morgan, so FSI, financial, banking, insurance — those organizations are often quite forefront of adopting technology. They’re often quite pioneering. They’ve got the pockets, deep pockets to look at how to invest and how to better service their customers.
- 17:15 - I’m hoping that maybe the metaverse — it’s going to alter our world but hopefully enhances it — doesn’t replace some of those really cool things which are essential to being human. That’s what we’ve got to hold on to.
Julie Tregurtha, Area Vice President for Coupa for Africa and the Middle East, joins the VISION by Protiviti podcast where she speaks with Joe Kornik, Editor-in-Chief of VISION by Protiviti, about the metaverse and its implications for the future of businesses. Tregurtha, a resident of South Africa and leader in the IT industry for more than three decades, heads up a team responsible for the promotion of Coupa, a software company based in San Mateo, California.
Customers will lead companies into the metaverse, says Coupa VP for Africa and the Middle East - podcast transcript
Joe Kornik: Welcome to the VISION by Protiviti podcast. I’m Joe Kornik, Editor-in-Chief of VISION by Protiviti, our global content resource looking to the future and examining big themes that will impact the C-suite and executive boardrooms worldwide.
Today, we’re exploring the metaverse and its implications for business, and I’m very excited to welcome longtime technology expert, Julie Tregurtha, to the program. Julie is Area Vice President for Coupa for Africa and the Middle East, where she heads up a team responsible for the promotion of Coupa, a software company based in San Mateo, California. She has been a leader in the IT industry for more than three decades and resides in South Africa. Julie, thank you so much for joining me today.
Julie Tregurtha: Thanks, Joe. It’s lovely to be here, talking to you today from Johannesburg, South Africa, and I’m really excited about this conversation we’re going to have.
Joe Kornik: Right. Julie, you’ve been a leader in the IT industry there in South Africa for over three decades now, so there’s a lot about technology that I’m curious to drill down and ask you about, specifically about the metaverse. There are many implications to the metaverse, right, and there are technologies that will enable it. We’ve heard a lot about them—Web 3.0, XR, AI, 5G, blockchain, etcetera. The list goes on and on. Which ones are you most excited about as we start to move into the metaverse, and why?
Julie Tregurtha: Joe, I think you’re right. There’s a lot of different aspects to the metaverse from a technology perspective and, actually, all of these pieces have to come together because it’s not going to be underpinned by one thing. It’s going to be underpinned by so many different pieces and elements. It’s hard to pick one that I think is, for me, most exciting but I think the one that maybe we just relate to the most is the XR piece, extended reality—everything from what we understand as reality today through the spectrum of augmented reality and virtual reality, and I think along with that, the devices and the hardware and the capabilities that you’re going to have through different XR technologies that are really going to open up this new world of the metaverse to us as consumers. Maybe that’s the piece that I found most intriguing for me to get excited about.
5G network, it has just got to be there and it has got to work, but it’s not something that you’re necessarily going to touch and feel. It’s more an enabler, so perhaps that’s why I feel that the XR piece is the most interesting. Having said that, all of these aspects have to come together, work together and, obviously, reach the right technology level that they need to be at in order for the metaverse to really become something that’s real.
Joe Kornik: Right, and that’s interesting because XR, certainly, there has been a lot of advances over the last several years. There has been some—I think as those devices get smaller and more user-friendly, we’ll probably see a lot more adoption. I think we tend to think of them from a gaming standpoint, but I’m more curious about how you think businesses will use the metaverse and particularly maybe they’ll be using XR, I’m not even sure, but what are some of the ways that you think strategic business leaders will be leveraging the metaverse?
Julie Tregurtha: I think it’s really exciting. We’re right at the beginning of that journey. If you have a look at the metaverse up to now, it has certainly occupied a bigger role in the consumer space. Companies that are starting to experiment and invest in this are very much consumer-related businesses—FMCG, retailers, big brands. Those are the first movers, but it’s definitely, in my opinion, not going to end there, and I think that irrespective of the industry that an organization plays in, I don’t think they can ignore what impact this is going to have on their market, their customers—whatever those customers look like and how they behave and interact with those customers—but they’re going to have to consider this. I think that there’s so much opportunity. I think there will be so many use cases across different industries that will emerge. They’re not necessarily known yet. They’re not necessarily documented. Nobody has necessarily put those out there yet, but I think as we move more and more into the space that the use cases will come out that we maybe don’t even think about today.
The one that I think as well pops into my head because it’s cross-industry is training. If you are trying to train using this type of technology internally to train users, train your employees in something, and it could be anything, whether it’s putting together the components of a product that you created or if it’s in a healthcare industry and you want to practice how to do a heart transplant, it doesn’t matter. I think there’s going to be a lot of cases where the metaverse can be used for training, education, learning more of how the world operates in a particular business.
Joe Kornik: I have to say when I talk to business leaders, there is a lot of—maybe not a lot— but there’s a fair amount of skepticism out there about the metaverse and its overall impact, and I’m just curious your thoughts on that. Is that warranted? I’m just curious when you think about if you’re talking to business leaders that are a little bit more skeptical about the metaverse, what do you say to maybe ease their minds?
Julie Tregurtha: My view is I don’t think it’s warranted. I don’t think it’s warranted, and I say that because I’m fairly comfortable that this is going to be a wave that is going to come. It is definitely going to come and it’s definitely going to impact and affect everyone in terms of the way that we operate in our world. Yes, it’s complex. It’s very undefined. You look for a definition of the metaverse today and you come up with so many different things. It’s vague. It’s confusing. There are very few people that really, that even ask me to understand this whole world. It is actually quite overwhelming.
I think that’s where the skepticism is coming from. It’s more based on a lack of understanding and a fear perhaps than based on any justified view that this is just really going to remain something that is going to be out there but it’s not going to affect me. I think that it is coming, and I think if you have a look at some of the big organizations that we know have a massive impact on all of us—Apple, Meta, previously Facebook—these organizations are investing, Microsoft, they’re all investing a huge amount of money in this wave.
It is maybe still regarded as hacked. There are views that it’s a metaverse bubble. It’s not going remain out there as just a peripheral thing. I really do believe that the—maybe we don’t know what the full impact is going to be today but it is absolutely going to be part of our future world.
Joe Kornik: That leads me to my next question. I was going to throw around some of those global economic impact forecasts, right, for the metaverse for, let’s say, 2030 and beyond. They’re all over the map, everything from a little under a $1 trillion to all the way up to $15 trillion, depending on which particular study you look at. Would you categorize on the scale of the metaverse being sort of a nice complementary niche platform for some companies to take advantage of versus all the way to a revolutionary game changer for global business by 2030 and beyond, where would you fall on that spectrum?
Julie Tregurtha: I believe it’s going to be a revolutionary game changer. My caveat is, in your question, by 2030, I think that is the piece that I wouldn’t necessarily hang my hat on. I do believe it’s going to be a revolutionary game changer, but I think it might take a slightly longer timeframe to get there to that point than 2030. For many, many years, the way that we discovered and purchased and consumed goods and services was through physical interaction. It was visiting a store, picking up a product, touching and feeling it, attending an event, or booking a service, and that was the way we did things. Then the internet came around and e-commerce platforms started to pop up and rival the offline world.
Then what happened was we got hit by COVID. COVID really changed everything and if you look at—and I’m mentioning this because I think it comes back and touches this, why a revolutionary game changer. If you look at what happened with COVID and how it changed so many different elements of our lives, physical stores closed and the only way that you could really purchase anything was on an e-commerce platform and it became the sole portal to purchase and to get goods delivered. Social engagement was restricted to telecommunications and social media networks, and obviously, COVID also changed the way that we work. Companies had to switch over to Zoom and Teams overnight from being office-based, face-to-face, and onsite.
Other industries, the entire entertainment industry came to a massive, just at complete standstill. And even manufacturing industry, factories were closed and plants shut down because they laid off workers. You think about the changes that we’ve gone through and how those things managed to create a drastic shift in the way that we do things. Now, the world has semi-returned to normal and yet I’ll bet you that most people are still engaging with the e-commerce portal to do their shopping. They’re still working on Teams and people are not back in the office full-time. The adoption of this technology was kind of all forced, forced because of circumstances. We had to find a way to keep our lives and our world running, even though we were all locked up into our homes. I think the metaverse really points to the next kind of generation of that, the next creation of an alternative solution to the way that we operate to really enhance how these technologies have impacted our lives by taking them to the next level.
Joe Kornik: Right, and you’ve mentioned several sectors and you’ve mentioned some service lines like supply chains and from a sector base, we’ve heard manufacturing, we’ve heard healthcare. We’ve heard some potential success stories. Do you have any thoughts on what sectors you think have the potential to be the most disrupted or transformed by the metaverse?
Julie Tregurtha: Joe, I think that it’s going to fit all industries. I think any industry that thinks they’re free from being affected by the metaverse is going to be naive in their thinking. I do think that the B2C type of industries are going to land up looking at this first because, again, it’s “Where does their target audience hang out?” If you have a look today at where people are hanging out, it’s quite extraordinary already how many people are visiting some of these metaverse worlds and how many hours are being spent, perhaps not by my generation but certainly some of the Gen Z and even the Gen Alpha, the next generation. In fact, it’s quite scary I think how much time is being spent there.
I think that the B2C, the organized, there are industries like FMCGs, the big brands, the retailers, if they want mindshare, brand awareness, they want to find subliminal ways of reaching their target audience, it’s already happening. They’re already doing this. Samsung has bought land in Decentraland. J.P. Morgan has opened a virtual bank, and there are other examples. I think there are definitely industries that are going to go there first and go there early.
I think the entertainment industry is going to be looking at this in a big way. Fascinating that Justin Bieber did a metaverse concert in 2021 and attracted 10.7 million viewers. I think it’s definitely the entertainment industry and events industry which was so badly hurt by COVID, so I think for them, it’s not only a way maybe to recover but also a very interesting way to reach a much larger audience than what they were traditionally if they were trying to do just a Madison Square Garden concert.
I think there is then the opportunity in the corporate space and I think if you have a look—I mentioned J.P. Morgan, so FSI, financial, banking, insurance—those organizations are often quite forefront of adopting technology. They’re often quite pioneering. They’ve got the pockets, deep pockets to look at how to invest and how to better service their customers. Maybe it is more around trying to create a far better service-oriented environment for an experience for their customers.
I think the other one which is really interesting, I mentioned healthcare from a training perspective, but there’s talk about Philips as an example, creating their own corporate metaverse, which really becomes a destination for patients to go and get access to virtual healthcare, and I think that’s really interesting. That is really exciting.
Joe Kornik: Right, and Julie, thanks so much for all this great information. I have just one more question for you. I just want to wrap up by asking you to look out into the future 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, as far as you want in terms of when you think the metaverse will really be making a major impact on all of our lives. Paint me a picture of what’s possible. What am I missing, like what aren’t we thinking of?
Julie Tregurtha: I think the view 10, 15 years out is a scary one and it becomes a controversial one because you have this potential vision where people sit in their homes, in their lounges, with their virtual reality headset on. They go to the office, their virtual office, and they sit in a boardroom and have meeting with a team but they actually don’t leave their lounge. When they want to buy something, they go to the virtual mall and they go and try on clothes and check out the new latest coffee machine and experience the latest set of golf clubs and then pick which one they want to buy. They don’t even have to go on holiday because they can go and choose to walk the Great Wall of China or go up the Eiffel Tower or go look at the Niagara Falls and they don’t even leave their lounge. If you want to really be extreme and, as I said, controversial, that is a view of the future. I think the movie Ready Player One encapsulated some of that, where really we all live in a virtual reality. We all live in an alternate universe and we actually almost want to leave our reality because maybe it’s not that great.
I think that is a—do I see that happening? Not for me, because I wouldn’t want that and I think for me, it’s really important to still embrace reality and have physical contact with people and things. But I think that is a scary view out there because I think the possibility could exist that you maybe never have to leave your lounge, and that is a scary possibility and that starts introducing so many other very, very tricky conversations, psychological and mental and physiological impacts of the metaverse on the human race.
I’m hoping that it maybe doesn’t get to that extreme. I’m hoping that it really becomes—as smart phones didn’t stop us talking to each other face-to-face, it was revolutionary and that it created and connected the world and not only telephonically but from a social media perspective, but it didn’t necessarily replace our face-to-face contact. I’m hoping that maybe the metaverse—it’s going to alter our world but hopefully enhances it—doesn’t replace some of those really cool things which are essential to being human. That’s what we’ve got to hold on to.
Joe Kornik: Absolutely. Thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.
Julie Tregurtha: Pleasure, Joe. Thank you for having me and thanks for the opportunity to have the conversation.
Joe Kornik: Absolutely. Yes, this was fun.
Thank you for listening as well. Please rate and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to check out all the great metaverse content we currently have online at vision.protiviti.com. I’m Joe Kornik. We’ll see you next time.
Julie Tregurtha is Area Vice President for Coupa for Africa and the Middle East where she heads up a team responsible for the promotion of Coupa, a software company based in San Mateo, California. She has been a leader in the IT industry for more than three decades. Her focus on enterprise software and how it can solve critical business problems has led her to become one of few women leaders in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Tregurtha resides in South Africa.