Business leaders believe the metaverse stands to be one of the most impactful technology trends for the next decade.
The metaverse is a technology that will "truly disrupt us as a brand and company," said Manoj Kumbhat, global CIO at manufacturing company Kimberly-Clark.
When thinking about engaging with younger generations, Kumbhat sees the metaverse -- a virtual world where consumers can shop, work and play -- as particularly important.
"As we think about the next generation, how do we bring consumers into the brands we're building?" he said during an MIT Sloan CIO Symposium panel called "The Most Impactful Technology Trends in the Decade Ahead."
Though other technologies including quantum computing will also have an impact over the next 10 years, Kumbhat said the metaverse and technologies enabling it, such as 5G and augmented and virtual reality, will likely be the most transformative for businesses.
Although the metaverse got a lot of attention on the panel, not every business leader agreed that it will be the most critical challenge or important technology for improving business operations over the next decade.
The metaverse is a virtual world that businesses are beginning to tap into. But building it and learning how to operate within it will take new skills, panelists said.
Suneet Dua, products and technology chief growth officer at PwC US, said during the panel discussion that his company has clients already deeply immersed in the metaverse.
Suneet DuaProducts and technology chief growth officer, PwC US
However, human skills aren't developing fast enough to keep up with the development of this new virtual world, Dua said.
"I have clients who have already purchased real estate in the metaverse, who are transacting in the metaverse, who are expecting us to transact with them in the metaverse," Dua said. But he also has clients that are printing 30-page reports.
"That digital divide is a real problem," he said.
Business leaders need to have their sights set on the metaverse, Dua said. But if tech leaders don't push for upskilling and reskilling executives and employees to drive their businesses into the virtual space, Dua said it will result in a "bigger issue."
"Eighty-five million new jobs are coming in the next three to four years and all of us in the room have to reskill ourselves to those new jobs and new skills," Dua said. "We have to know what the future skills are."
While businesses should be preparing for new innovative technology trends like the metaverse, the effects of other technologies, such as AI and ML, are already starting to take shape.
Behind the scenes technology trends
Although business leaders believe technology like the metaverse is set to have a significant impact, panelist Eben Hewitt, fellow and CTO of Sabre Hospitality at Sabre Corporation, said advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to have the greatest impact on businesses over the next decade.
Using airplanes as an example, Hewitt said machine learning is used to dictate what seats passengers will sit in as soon as a plane arrives at a gate.
The growing use of such algorithms in subtle ways to expedite business operations will be significant in the long-term, Hewitt said.
"This is a trend I see happening," he said during the panel. "[Ongoing advances in ML] will increasingly permeate our daily lives in ways that we don't recognize, in ways that do not grab the headlines."
Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.