Drones are today supporting a wide range of enterprise activities at lower costs and reduced risks. The devices offer a wide range of financial and environmental benefits while opening up other opportunities. From detailed insights and enhanced safety to cost-cutting and a faster way of performing tasks, the drones enable organizations to optimize their operations and improve efficiency.
Today, more and more companies are using drones to perform low-cost aerial photography and video shooting, monitor construction sites, and inspect buildings, oil and gas infrastructure, and other facilities. Fortunately, the drone technology is very customizable and flexible to integrate into workflows hence improve overall efficiency.
As more companies implement drone programs, they should develop strategies to integrate them into their workflows. However, there are several challenges that organizations need to address. Some of these include scalability, public safety, skills gaps, incompatibilities, and more.
That said, the improved efficiencies and revenues justify the use the UAV technology for most businesses. However, the CEO and senior management need to see or understand the processes or areas the drones will optimize, potential costs savings, the services that the technology will change, and improvements to expect.
Challenges implementing drone programs
Despite the many benefits the drones offer, some challenges such as technology gaps, lack of understanding of their capabilities, and potential impact may hinder their deployment. Some organizations that are already using drones for their operations may not be taking full advantage of the technology due to various challenges, poor strategies. Other issues include lack of collaboration and support from the stakeholders such as the executive, managers, department heads, legal, and more.
For businesses considering investing in drones or enhance existing systems, they need to engage, plan and communicate well with all the stakeholders.
Challenges businesses face when integrating drones into their workflows include;
- Company bureaucracy and delayed decisions -
- Inefficient solutions with Information scattered in different applications and locations
- Lack of compliance with industry standards, aviation, and government regulations
- Scaling challenges since these often requires additional hardware, pilots, drones, software licenses, etc.
- Drone services involve working with multiple teams in various fields. Also. It may include different types of hardware, software, and providers. Coordinating such an ecosystem, comprising various internal teams, can be a challenge, especially if there is no standard document that guides people on what to do, the chain of command, responsibilities, and more.
Strategies when integrating drones into existing workflows
Before implementing a drone services program, it is necessary to assess how the technology will support the overall business strategy. Involving all the other departments and external technology providers is critical in ensuring proper implementation, organizational buyer-in, and support. Typically, the internal stakeholders will play a role in the planning, implementing, and supporting the integration.
For example, involving the purchasing, accounting, safety, legal, IT, and maintenance departments makes it easier to implement and manage the drone program while getting all the necessary support from the different teams across the organization. Also, external consultants and service providers would provide the required expertise, guidance, and any other assistance to fill in the technology gaps.
Integrating drones into your business
Most companies are aware of the potential benefits they can derive from drones. From improved safety and faster operations to lower costs and the ability to perform complex tasks, no company should ignore the benefits that unmanned aerial vehicles deliver.
Acquiring drones or data is just the beginning, and most companies are at this stage. To benefit from the technology, the company must analyze the data to gain insights that allow them to make better data-driven decisions and streamline its operations.
A wide range of applications allows organizations to integrate the data into existing workflows. However, creating value requires smooth integration, which may not be possible unless all stakeholders are on the same page and ready to support one another.
In most cases, companies will implement their drone programs differently from others depending on the scope, size, geography, and other factors. That said, below are some issues that each company, regardless of how they choose to implement the program, will need to consider.
- The drone services team should decide whether to go for an in-house, outsourced, or hybrid program. During this period, it is necessary to consider the benefits and cons of each system. When outsourcing, define the provider's scope in terms of services to offer your business. Typical services could include data collection through aerial imaging, flight planning, operations, data processing, and analysis.
- Create the standard operating procedure manuals, policies, and checklists to guide the teams in planning, deploying, operating, and managing the drone services. Some issues the policy manual should address include pilots and their qualifications, drone flight crew members' requirements, data management, licensing, and more.
- Establish a data governance policy and strategy on how to integrate the drone data within the internal and external systems. Other considerations include guidelines on how the data flows along with the entire system from the collection, processing, analysis, reporting, responsibilities, security, and storage.
- Ensure the services will meet current and future needs. While implementing the drone program, it is vital to consider any potential future requirements. As such, the organization needs to plan well and ensure that the deployment is scalable to accommodate future requirements.
- Identify the technology, platform, and sensors for your drone services. At this stage, you need to choose the appropriate sensors and technology that will enable you to collect and transmit the data of interest. Also, you need to decide about the platform to manage the processing, analyze and provide actionable reports.
- Once you have everything in place, implement the drone services program and change management. Communicating about major changes within the company and with external stakeholders is also critical in ensuring everyone is up to date and aware of what is happening. Also, you need to establish a good strategy on how to properly manage the changes.
Things to consider when integrating drones into the workflows
Usually, integrating the drone program into the corporate workflow is a collaborative process between the relevant departments in the company, the drone service provider (DSP), and sometimes, other third-party teams. To ensure a smooth and successful integration, below are some of the best practices.
Communicate clearly and involve all stakeholders
A clear and strategic communication to create awareness about the benefits of a drone program is critical in getting overall support. Ideally, there should be an up, down, left, and right, or rather a vertical and horizontal communication.
The communication involves informing, discussing, and seeking the opinion of all the stakeholders, and especially in areas where the services will affect the operations. Engaging all stakeholders eliminates future surprises and disagreements while ensuring a better productivity improvement.
Involving everyone ensures proper participation and sharing of all opinions and ideas. It also encourages everyone to be part of the program, provide their input - ensuring that you end up with the best decisions.
By involving all stakeholders, the project managers can build consensus, address any obstacles, and have successful implementations with fewer setbacks.
Encourage corporate Buy-In
Smooth integration of drone services into workflows is critical in ensuring the maximum value of the data. Consequently, this result in improved operations, reduce downtimes and increase revenue.
Usually, there are different layers of bureaucracy in most large enterprises and organizations. And the people in different positions must buy-in and support the drone program.
Corporate buy-in is necessary for the project to take off. Ideally, the board, executive, and senior managers must see the potential of drones in improving the business operations for them to agree and provide necessary support and resources.
Ideally, make an effort to create a buyer-in across all departmental and management levels. Top-level buyer-in is critical in ensuring support and funding of the drone project. Further, creating the buy-in within the various functional groups within the organization is necessary since their services are critical in providing the resources, manpower, and functions to support the project.
Encourage cross-functional teams
Ideally, integrating the drone services into existing workflows causes some disruptions to other services and processes. It also has the potential to add value and deliver various benefits. It also enables the organization to make use of all the data that drones collect. Today, organizations are collecting large amounts of data using drones. However, due to a lack of expertise and proper tools, most companies do not analyze or utilize all the data, thus missing potential opportunities.
Generally, you should involve all the departments that the drone services will require or impact. Other than those where drones services will impact workflows and operations, you need support from other departments such as finance, procurement, legal, HR, and others for smooth implementation.
Additionally, it is crucial to understand the chain of command, and engage the key people and especially the decision-makers in each team. Introducing the DSP and ensuring internal teams understand its role is also necessary as it helps to improve the decisions making processes.
Improve the efficiency of the existing workflow before and after integration
The efficiency of the existing workflow before integration will influence the outcome of the drone program. That is, if it is inefficient, the drone services may not deliver their full potential. Luckily, this is also an opportunity to adjust and improve the workflows to provide more value than what they have been achieving.
Streamlining existing systems before and after integrating the drone services is essential in ensuring that the company enjoys the full potential of the new technology. Addressing any underlying issues internally and through consultation with the technology service providers can go a long way in improving the overall efficiency of the integrated workflow.
Ideally, with proper communication, collaboration, and support from everyone, including the executive, the team players can make the necessary changes to optimize systems with little resistance. It is advisable to look into the recommendations from external technology providers, consultants, and internal workers. And then implement them if they result in streamlined workflows and improved efficiency.
Collaboration is critical in overcoming the various hurdles that may arise. One good strategy is to appoint someone from one of the teams to coordinate the information flow between the internal and external teams.
Avoid over-relying on the DSP
The services from a DSP may vary depending on whether the company or client is just starting to use the drone services or whether they want to improve their existing systems. For new deployments, the customer may engage the DSP to fly the drones, provide sensors, and analyze data and all related functions. Instead of just providing the drone services as a business tool, the provider, in this case, gets too involved, and there might be some conflicts when the DSP management structures and chain of command differ from that of the client.
For example, a DSP may not have equivalent business management experience as the client, and though they may excel in aviation, their efforts may not align well with the company goals and operations. Additionally, the different management styles may impact the efficiency of the UAV services.
Additionally, the client may require the DSP to do additional management tasks and functions beyond their capacity hence overstretching them. Although the client aims to let the DSP fill in the technology and skills gap, there should be some guidelines and limitations. Generally, over-relying on a DSP for all the services and crucial management functions have risks such as low-quality services, data insecurity, and more.
Such a problem arises due to ineffective cross-functional collaboration, and organizations can overcome it by engaging the relevant people and teams.
The drone services department should consult and establish good working relationships with internal and external teams to enable easy implementation, integration into the corporate workflows, and management.
Within the organization, it is necessary to encourage cross-functional collaboration to reduce implementation time and ease some processes, such as bidding, purchasing, authorizations, and other internal procedures.
Because of the various technical skills requirements for integration, the company must work closely with drone service providers. The DSP and other third-party experts can provide the necessary skills that could be lacking within the organization, hence enable a smooth integration and operation of the drone services.