A VISIT TO THE VIRTUAL WORLD
The PA Consulting Group has offices all around the world, but its newest location is out of this world altogether.
Claus Nehmzow, a virtual world consultant
Second Life, the online 3-D virtual world, is where PA decided to hang out another shingle last year and construct a stunning
futuristic (albeit artificial) office building (see image). In doing so, they were the first consultancy in Second Life—but
by no means the first big business. As of last month, 50 other corporations had a presence on Second Life, like Sony, BMG,
Adidas, the BBC, Reebok, Reuters, Sun Microsystems, AOL and Warner Bros. And they were joined by a total "resident" population
of more than 10 million, according to Second Life.
What is it?
If you have never visited Second Life, a virtual world might evoke hallucinatory images of a computer-generated, gaming environment.
And you would not be entirely wrong. However, while an avatar (the persona you adopt on joining) can fly and perform magic
in Second Life, there are no points, no winners or losers, and no strategies to employ. The sole purpose, according to the
company, is enjoyment. Avatars (and there are tens of thousands of them "in" Second Life at any given time) can spend their
time shopping (Armani recently opened a store), taking courses (Harvard Law School conducts some its classes), attending concerts
(The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, one of London's oldest symphony orchestras gives performances), relating to other avatars,
and, of course, conducting business.
His avatar John Manguru
Where is pharma in all of this?
Several pharma companies have shown interest in PA's online site, according to Dan Walsh, a member of PA Consulting Group's
management team and head of the firm's life sciences and healthcare practice. "We are starting to talk to different companies
about how Second Life can be used for R&D collaborations. Virtual conferencing on special topics is an obvious use for it."
David Winigrad, president of The Hal Lewis Group, takes it a step further. He claims consultants are amiss if they don't expose
their clients to such sites. In an interview in this issue of CONSULTANTS CONFIDENTIAL he says: "We are doing our clients a disservice if we aren't actively considering the implications of emerging communication
channels like YouTube, text messaging, instant messaging, virtual worlds like Second Life and others that we haven't even
Life on other planets
Further, Winigrad stresses that "pharmaceutical companies who don't recognize that such technology has completely changed
the paradigm that once governed the way they communicate with physicians and other stakeholders will be putting their futures
In an attempt then to find out more about what Second Life has to offer a consultancy, we contacted Claus Nehmzow, a specialist
in consulting in virtual worlds. He is also a member of PA's management group and leads their thinking on participatory media
and virtual worlds. With 25 years of experience in strategic and IT consulting, he has worked with large corporations as well
as small VC-backed innovative start-ups.