"HCE is the leading industrial disruptor, building and connecting software solutions to streamline and centralize the assets, people and processes that help our customers make smarter, more accurate business decisions."
Verticals include Industrials, Cybersecurity, Commercial Buildings, Warehousing and Logistics, Aerospace, and Life Sciences, with outcomes focused on sustainability, digitalization and cybersecurity.
Immersive experience (IX) scripts
Role: Lead script writer, storyboards, 3D art direction, interaction design and graphic support
The immersive experience room is a fully enclosed space that combines Purple's proprietary audiovisual and sensor technology with projections of 3D environments and storytelling to provide a 360-degree interactive experience.
The IX rooms are a multi-million dollar investment, proposed by former leadership and first implemented at the headquarters in Charlotte, followed by the room in Atlanta, GA.
The narratives are crafted to steep customers into day-in-the-life scenarios of various personas on industrial teams. They explain industry trends, demonstrate how the software gathers enterprise data to help support decision-making across operations and provide customer case studies.
The Atlanta team had contributed one prior immersive experience to the shared company library. I was hired to develop consecutive experiences that complement product rollouts for their bi-annual marketing events.
Just as I was tying a bow on my content strategy and org analysis initiative, my director informed me that, under the mandate of our VP, I was to write up a project plan to complete three pre-determined IX experiences within the next six weeks. At that point, I had no context and had never seen the room.
As I reached out to the three teams associated with each product rollout, I began to understand that no one wanted to participate in IX room projects, and I found myself struggling to get their cooperation.
I soon learned the elephant in the room was that none of Honeywell's customers were based in Atlanta. The product marketing teams suffered from a high staff turnover and often ran on a skeleton crew, under pressure to drive results and reluctant to squander time on such a massive endeavor if it didn't move the needle.
Early on, I inquired about porting to a mobile platform or producing a VR experience for our bi-annual marketing event and learned several marketing colleagues had been investigating mobile room solutions but without luck.
As I continued, I learned about many known concerns and discovered other unpredictable diversions and delays.
Some complained that the room caused dizziness and that the presentation felt like a giant PowerPoint with the flat, cutout persona characters slapped over the realistic 3D backgrounds.
The interactions in the room were also notoriously buggy and prone to going haywire, or sometimes, the room would go offline and become inoperable. I eventually dubbed the IX room "The Millennium Falcon" when presentations failed to jump to light speed.
But the scope of problems with the IX room went far beyond mynocks chewing on the power cables.
The Atlanta marketing team developed the first IX experience with Purple and the full cooperation of our Chief Product Officer, the driving force behind the product and a gifted speaker.
New presentations would require the presence and expertise of high-performing salespeople who could adapt the scripts to their own words and guide customers through the format in a reasonable amount of time. Ideally, the entire presentation should last no longer than fifteen minutes before moving on to a sales discussion with the client. This dependency on the availability of expert presenters and adherence to a concise presentation format were both concerns.
The original format also required product demo videos, which were often unavailable and relied on special preparation by busy UX teams. The video quality and aspect ratios were inconsistent and the pacing was often too fast for clients to follow.
The new stories and experiences were to rely on the format of the original storyboard, and while it served that particular vertical, a cookie-cutter approach couldn't ensure the delivery of a visually immersive scenario for every product.
For example, the original IX presentation featured cool industrial robot arms moving packages on a busy assembly line in a warehouse. While the Industrials experience featured a visually impressive setting, it was almost entirely static apart from a few blinking lights, and there was little opportunity to incorporate motion and take advantage of the immersive potential of the room. The climax of the Commercial Buildings experience concluded in a chiller room with one spinning motor fan. Identifying and curating compelling content for the IX room would require a more bespoke and flexible approach if we were to consistently build a robust library.
As for completing our projects, our media resources at Purple provided a reasonable but limited number of revisions, and our dedicated media teams were on fire completing their projects for product launches at our marketing event, so I was on my own to complete several rounds of additional media revisions. Compounding the chaos, two team members were on maternity leave, and we lost two blog writers.
I arranged to meet the VP for a candid one-on-one discussion regarding the many challenges, and he acknowledged my concerns with the understanding that we'd complete the projects at hand and revisit the future of the IX room later.
So, with my polite prompting and at the behest of the VP's mandate, I engaged the Industrials, Commercial Buildings, and Cybersecurity marketing leaders and product marketing teams to gather and define the challenges, scenarios, personas, specific use cases, outcomes, and case studies.
I guided Purple's 3D artists and designers to develop immersive environments and interactive graphics that wrap the screens. I pushed for cinematic angles and ambient lighting to enhance immersion and compensate for the lack of motion. My modest 3D and effects background proved helpful for solving various visual problems. I also prepared evocative audio loops for each industrial setting and gathered and embedded videos to support the case studies.
To develop compelling narratives, I queried our engineers for recognizable day-in-the-life asset failure scenarios. I took license to ratchet up the tension, leading up to the desired outcomes our products delivered.
Reasoning that preventative maintenance would eliminate the asset failures I needed to create the stories, I speculated how new software implementation would likely alarm customers with a flurry of alerts. The engineers confirmed that my suspicions were correct. By challenging a consideration overlooked in the previous format, I uncovered a typical customer experience while highlighting the diagnostic power of the product.
Although Honeywell directs its content at the C-suite, the IX scripts address a range of personas as audiences typically include various team members, and sales teams encourage a multi-level approach.
Our teams decided to drop the previous convention of addressing the personas by name. For example, instead of identifying the reliability engineer as "Maria," I wrote, "The maintenance engineer receives the work order from the plant manager on his mobile device." Using names can be effective for explainer videos but felt contrived when delivered in person.
I completed the final graphic and interaction revisions and, instead of lackluster product demo videos, enabled narrators to step through high-quality screenshots at the pace of their delivery. One of our offering managers pitched in with some video demo edits.
With all media fully assembled, I reevaluated the scripts in the context of the room, incorporated feedback from the VP and marketing teams, and further massaged the scripts to flow for storytelling.
The most critical method of trimming down and punching up the rhythm and natural language of the final scripts involved memorizing and performing high-level versions of the story in the IX room for the Industrials team. I repeated the process to improve the Commercial Buildings and Cybersecurity scripts and offered their team members impromptu tours.
I especially connected with the Industrials product marketing team, led by Praveen Sam, who shared and informed my fascination with the autonomous future and emerging tech. Praveen is a remarkable, knowledgeable industry veteran, a gifted presenter, and a visionary. After working closely with him on white papers, I was happy to learn from him and drive the final production to meet his standards.
As for buggy interactions, the owner and developer of Purple's media platform explained that we should upgrade our dated hardware. In the meantime, I repeatedly recalibrated the touchpoints after a room full of spectators leaned against the walls and scrambled the sensors. At one point, we shut off the sensors completely and pantomimed the interactions to demonstrate for a client.
Completing the IX experiences was unsustainably time-intensive due to the many unpredictable moving parts and dependencies beyond anyone's control.
The Industrials team fully embraced the project, and thanks to Praveen, I had the pleasure of presenting the final experience to two of their leadership teams, who were thrilled.
Shortly after, I worked closely with Praveen a talented sales leader, Sandeep Chandran, to modify the script, visuals, and interactions in preparation for a visiting client. As Praveen predicted, the client was wowed by Sandeep's delivery in the immersive format.
The Commercial Buildings team was restructured and despite working diligently to polish their presentation, their IX experience never saw the light of day beyond our internal demos.
I also completed a script for Cybersecurity, but the team ultimately opted to sit out and focus on a later product release.
Future content strategy and development recommendations:
Throughout production, I kept constant notes and prepared a detailed list of considerations for future projects, addressing concerns with the current format and suggesting alternative approaches.
I submitted my IX After-Action Review and Content Strategy Proposal to the director and discussed it with our marketing leaders and the VP.
I urged that we unencumber ourselves from the rigid templated storyboard and paint in broader strokes to get customers on board the vision of the autonomous future and leverage the immersive potential of the room.
Ultimately, I proposed producing ensembles of two-minute videos in the IX room to achieve reliable, affordable, and prolific production, predictable delivery, and flexible curation. The approach would enable our product marketing teams to speak faster to market and drive a multi-channel content strategy while maintaining our capacity to host clients in Atlanta's IX room, should they visit.
We could stitch together a concise series of curated videos served on a backdrop of immersive industrial environments with ambient audio.
Anyone could introduce clients to the room and provide short segues between video presentations, and ensure our stories are told succinctly and flawlessly to prime sales discussions.
One approach would be to create interactive, animated visualizations of products and services. For example, we could develop an interactive digital twin simulation or animation, a visualization of a cybersecurity assessment illustrating a plant's points of vulnerability, or a logistics route montage. Capture the imagination and illustrate how customers may experience clairvoyance and omniscience through the predictive superpowers of AI and machine learning.
In the future, we would need to prioritize product demo dependencies ahead of production to identify the strongest use cases and ensure product screens were available.
A brand-focused approach would prioritize evergreen content, for example, based on our three pillars - Sustainability, Digitalization, and Cybersecurity. At Honeywell, I heard personal stories from employees from many countries. To empathize with customers, we could share voice-of-the-employee stories reflecting the company's domain expertise.
A visual approach would be to identify and prioritize narratives around spectacular subjects such as our Chilean mining customers, our oil and gas customers' naval fleets, or our aero and defense customers' flight experiences through the point of view of an attack helicopter. Or step into an animated 360 video to ride a glass elevator in a commercial building that delivers customers to different locations and arrives in the autonomous future.
We could edit videos as products changed, and production could range from high-end 360 videos and custom 3D renderings to stock footage. We could even include our C suite to empower narration or emulate their voices with A.I. And no doubt, reallocating the IX room budget would benefit our marketing far beyond the limitations of the room's location.
From the beginning, I investigated a blue-sky approach that included VR development. Imagine seating a group of C-suite customers in recliners at our marketing events and offering an immersive VR presentation. The customer could return with the headset to share their executive experience with their team.
Other considerations included using green screen to add speaking video characters instead of the flat, cutout personas. I also investigated volumetric video capture to put our speakers directly into the 3D environments. I discovered Google's Starline trials, a real-time executive telepresence experience that might be a powerful option for a global company like Honeywell to wow visiting customers with bleeding-edge tech.
I delved into NEOM, Saudi Arabia's trillion-dollar effort to develop a sustainable smart city, industrial complex, and logistics hub. NEOM showcases several on-site media complexes and includes a volumetric production stage. When I asked around Honeywell about the possibility of involvement, few knew about NEOM or were skeptical that we would get involved. When the CEO of Honeywell visited Atlanta, I inquired and he confirmed with excitement that NEOM "couldn't get enough of Honeywell."
Speaking with the owner of Purple, I mentioned my thoughts about the possibility of connecting Honeywell and NEOM through an immersive experience. He liked the idea and shared that he'd already worked on some of their visualizations but said there was no way to share an experience with another system. That might have been my next puzzle piece if I stayed on board.
If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer.
Under new leadership, the IX room will undergo a hardware revamp in conjunction with developing another customer experience room. HCE will coordinate with the newly restructured Buildings team (HBT) to share the rooms (elephant included).
My year at Honeywell was incredibly turbulent, but I gained exposure to the inner workings of the world's critical infrastructure through the lens of Honeywell's six verticals. I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Honeywell's experts and creating content for a powerful, albeit delicate, immersive media experience.