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Effective drone plan must overcome the 'burden of adoption'

Drone technology has the potential to disrupt business methodologies that have been in place for more than 50 years, according to Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager at Intel Corp.'s drone group. But to tap into that power and mine the most value from drone data, Nanduri said companies must first manage that disruption by developing a drone plan that answers questions like "what do I need from a drone?" and "how will I get there?"

SearchCIO sat down with Nanduri at the recent InterDrone conference in Las Vegas to talk about the CIO's role as drones continue to disrupt IT processes. Overcoming the burden of adopting a drone plan depends not only on a dramatic workplace shift and a clear ROI, but also on CIOs' expertise in managing large data sets, he explained.

Editor's note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Who in an organization should be in charge of a drone plan? What role does the CIO play?

Anil Nanduri: I look at it as a business transformation problem. What we see in the ecosystem right now is that drones are something new and something cool. People are reading about it in the press; a lot of people are excited. So, you say, 'Oh, we see those things about drones, what do we do about it?' There's two parts to it. One is understanding what the application is that pertains to the company that's looking at adopting drones. What do I need from the drone? Is the drone the means to do something more efficiently? More cost-effectively? At a faster rate? If you see that transformation of, 'Hey, I'm doing an inspection or I'm doing a survey and it usually takes me a week and a drone can do it in 10 minutes,' you can clearly see the value. And then you say, 'Oh, it's much cheaper to do it with a drone because I don't have as many upfront costs to capture this information.'

Then you come and say, 'But that's just one data set. How can it be deployed into my workflow? The last 50 years I'm used to surveying through a certain process. Can this immediately replace that methodology? How much of it is manual in which people will need new skills to understand and operate drones, and how much of it is automated so I'm able to import it with relative ease?' There's going to be a burden of adoption. This is where drone disruption happens and this is something that happens in so many industries. It only takes one person to prove the value of that business transformation.

It becomes a CIO aspect because the drones are a digital way of capturing data.
Anil NanduriVP, Intel Corp.

From that perspective, if it's going to be about how data is handled, if it's going to be about disruption of a workflow that was done traditionally for decades, then you have to look at the early adopters and ask, 'How is that value creation being saved?' Because, at the end of the day, you're either creating new value you can monetize or you're reducing your operational expense; it's going to be one of the two. There's going to be a significant change in the two that immediately determines how disruptive the force is and how big it's going to be. [People won't understand it at first,] so there's an incubation period in which you'll have to test it out. It's going to be a little slower and you can be a little more patient about it because it's something new. But if it's disrupting from an operational cost standpoint and suddenly things become much cheaper and quicker, that could drive into a much quicker disruptive force. It all depends on the application.

It becomes a CIO aspect because the drones are a digital way of capturing data. It gets back to the question of what the drone is doing. If it's delivering something, it's a logistic thing, but if you're capturing images and sensor data, then that requires data processing. And so, from that perspective, how do you manage these large data sets? What transformation is required? Do I even have the skills? That becomes the CIO's job [to figure that out] from a strategy standpoint and figure out how to handle that information. It's a new way of getting information. Then you have to adopt it into your workflow.

There is a transformation that needs to occur -- not just figuring out how to use the drone, but also how it gets plugged into business practices, whether it's IT or the sales force. When you think of it as data, it's a CIO function; it's a technology function.

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