A T&T conversation: what’s next with the industry’s digital transformation

Part two of our interview with industry expert Chris Rospenda as he discusses drones, robotics and why failing fast is better than inching towards perfection

By | 4 minute read | August 18, 2021

Blue Semi-truck traveling on a highway

In an earlier post, IBM industry expert Chris Rospenda talked about how travel and transportation companies are returning to full operation. In part two of our discussion, he discusses what he excites him about the next few years, and offers some winning insight on why failing fast will get you ahead more quickly than striving for perfection.

Q: What’s exciting to you in the coming years and what excites your customers?

Automation: predictive automation and predictive analysis. I think we’ll see machine learning to the point where a manager gets a notice that there was a problem, it was corrected, parts were ordered, and the machine fixed itself, not the technician. Ten years from now, I believe we’re going to see more robotics and operation technology — not information technology, but operation technology. I think that that’s very exciting.

Image of IBM travel and transportation expert

Chris Rospenda, travel and transportation expert for IBM

The other big interest is with drones. We can use drones to make life a lot easier from inspections on buildings, infrastructure, waterways, bridges, the antennas on top of the Hancock center in Chicago. Before, we would put somebody’s life on the line to go up there and look at it. Now we can do it with a drone. The visuals on drones are becoming more and more precise. We did some work a few years ago with an airline and drones doing inspections for fuselage damage due to lightning and hail and it worked. Now we’re going to get to the point that the resolution of those cameras is going to be incredible, so what else can you do with those?

Construction worker piloting drone at industrial site to use for inspecting equipment

We are already using drones for vegetation management in the IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite. We’re looking at wildlife management. What could be done next?  We could use them with the oceans, and the rivers, and the waterways, when we notice pollution flows. And we notice migratory patterns that we have never been able to manage before because we couldn’t afford to put an aircraft up there for eight hours to watch the whales migrate. But you could get a solar-powered drone to sit up there for 24-hours. NOAA would love that. Those are the things that excite me.

Q: Best piece of advice you would give to a T&T client looking at industry transformation?

Don’t reinvent the wheel (i.e. stick with what you know) and fail fast. Go do the job, put your heart and soul into it, fail, learn from it, get out and go do something else. Move on to the next plan because if you make enough sincere calculated attempts at success, you will be successful. And every time you fail, you learn something from it. Sure, it’s discouraging, it hurts, it’s embarrassing a lot of times, but you have to get past that. Nobody criticizes you for failing and doing the work, they criticize you for not doing anything.

I have to chuckle because a couple of years ago, a guy said to me, I’m not going to buy anything off the shelf I’m just going to use my team to build it. I said to him, that’s not your core business, right?  But he had investment money and thought he could do it even though it would take three or four years to build one module and by then the company would be three or four years behind. He insisted, though, that then the company would own the software.

The question is, how much are you investing to do that? If you run a trucking company, have the best drivers and the most efficient operations people, but don’t build software to manage your tires. Bottom line, if it’s not your core competency, don’t do it.

Q: What’s the thing you’re hearing most from your customers now?

I’ve talked to a couple of company presidents in the last few weeks and their big concern is keeping their employees safe. Then the other side is the liability if they don’t. They’re going to do the best they can for their employees. And if an employee has to take two or three weeks off to quarantine, let them do that.

Aircraft Maintenance Mechanic Inspecting and Working on Airplane Jet Engine in Hangar

People are truly optimistic about moving forward and getting on with normal life. But they don’t want to take the big leap just yet. You know in the mergers and acquisition space, I am certain that there are companies that have already contacted BCG or Booz, and said, Put this deal together for me and then put it on the shelf. When we think the economic climate is right, we’ll make an offer. But I think the offer is not sitting way back on the shelf, it’s right in front where a company can get to it quickly.

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