Enabling Firstline Workers to Learn and Succeed

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At what used to be called Mobile World Congress – now just MWC – which started in Barcelona this past weekend, Microsoft released the new version of its mixed reality headset: HoloLens 2. There’s enough coverage out there on how HoloLens 2 advances the craft compared to the first generation, so rather than focusing here on the greater field of view, improved comfort and better wearability of HoloLens 2, I want to talk briefly about one of the very cool applications of the technology for first-line workers.

With the release of HoloLens 2, Microsoft has pushed very hard not just to have great tech available, but also to demonstrate where HoloLens 2 can make a practical difference for people in business contexts. Microsoft talks about this as increasing the time-to-value of using HoloLens, so that customers don’t have to buy the headsets and then build the applications that deliver value using them. As always, it’s the effective use of the tool that delivers return-on-investment, not merely having it available.

One of the new time-to-value applications released by Microsoft is called Dynamics 365 Guides. This new application – in the Dynamics 365 stack rather than the Office 365 one – enables the creation of mixed reality training materials for people working on physical objects, with machinery, or on a production line. The intent is to increase the ability of an employee to learn the process steps in carrying out a sequential job on a factory floor, such as installing the sleeping compartment in a long-haul truck (as one early adopter of HoloLens and Dynamics 365 Guides is doing). Instead of separating the learning from the doing – by putting new workers through classroom training that is removed from the factory floor and tries to teach a process that involves real objects with only paper workbooks or PowerPoint slides – the training is designed to work directly on the factory floor. Turn up, don a HoloLens, and get the job done while being given step-by-step visual instructions that are superimposed on whatever object you are working with. And in a cool link with Office 365, employee performance can be analysed using Power BI for identifying where new or better instruction is needed, or where the process could be improved through better design.

I like what I see here: not just an emphasis on delivering new technology, but showing possibilities for how work could be improved, and providing the capabilities to bring those new possibilities to life.

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