Augmented reality (AR) has delivered demonstrable value in specific workplace use cases for a number of years, but most deployments remain small and dominated by enthusiasts with skill, patience, and an interest in the technology.

In our latest report, my colleagues J. P. Gownder, Andrew Hewitt, and I explore barriers to broader adoption and highlight the steps that leading companies are taking to address and work around those barriers. As the report describes, a public safety campaign from almost 50 years ago offers a good way to think about approaching this employee experience change.

British readers of a certain age (now I feel old!) no doubt remember the Green Cross Code man’s road safety films, which played during the adverts (commercials) on television and at the cinema. He reminded children to stop, look, and listen before crossing the street. Leaders should heed his advice before implementing workplace AR at scale:

  • Stop. Turn away from the beautifully animated photo-realistic holograms dancing before your eyes and take off your headset for a while. Spend time understanding the business problem — and the people facing that problem — before offering them a technology solution.
  • Look. Observe the steps necessary to complete tasks today, both in your own organization and, if possible, among peers. Understand the desired outcome from a set of tasks and the current constraints or dependencies that affect it. Know which of those constraints and dependencies are immovable and which you might have an opportunity to change. Map and understand the employee journey as it relates to the tasks you’re observing.
  • Listen. Ask questions, show you heard the answers, and then make it clear how you’ll take action. Equipment vendors, managers, innovation team members, implementation consultants, and industry analysts all have perspectives that may be worth hearing. But no one understands how things really function better than the frontline workers who complete the workflows you’re hoping to improve.

AR is a technology that’s easy to misunderstand. Enthusiasts often gravitate to the richest and most impressive graphical interfaces, which may do nothing to improve the day-to-day employee experience for a proficient frontline worker. By stepping back from the hype, and focusing on sustainable and demonstrable improvements to real workflows, companies discussed in the report are achieving demonstrable benefits.

As always, if you have your own products and solutions to share, please schedule a briefing and tell us all about them. If you’re a Forrester client and want to discuss (or challenge) our thinking on this topic, please schedule an inquiry.