Technology Foresight: Visions of the future on technology and key aspects of development

When we refer to technology issues in an organization, it is common to touch on the point of “how to do technology planning so that we can identify the new developments that the organization has to commercialize in the next x years.”  This topic has been widely studied in the literature on technology forecasting and the future of society’s behavior.  There are many books with titles that explain the possible technological trends of the next 10 or 20 years and their impact on society and organizations. Similarly, the techniques for predicting some phenomena have been perfected in recent years – such as climate prediction, which, thanks to super-computing and the use of mathematical models, we can enjoy an increasingly “accurate” forecast. Let’s not forget the scientific literature, which has magazines that help us understand the future of society, technology, economy, politics and environmental phenomena.  However, there are many other variables that no matter how hard we try to model them, we cannot understand how they behave 100% – making it difficult, therefore, to model them. A classic example is trying to model the behavior of our clients. What will they need? What will they like? How will they react to our product offer? Will they buy from us? Can we model their behavior?  Perhaps the answer to these five questions is too risky to say that we understand them, except for the last question, whose answer tends to be a “not all.”

However, other tools help to understand the most important relationships that have to do with the business: both internal and external elements that can help us understand in a large percentage how our organization is functioning in its particular environment.  These same tools can help us identify the changes we can achieve to envision -both endogenous and exogenous- and help us understand how our organization could function in a future environment. It is good to introduce a couple of words that we use in these studies: the “trend scenario” and the “ideal scenario.”  When we do the exercise of trying to understand what may happen using the events representing the most likely trends of occurrence, we are building the trend scenarios. On the other hand, we must create the scenario-with the same events as in the previous case-that we want for our organization, which is the ideal scenario.  By the time we get to this point – remember that we have already made an inventory of possible changes both internally and externally, identified the most critical changes, and generated trend scenarios – the participants in the planning process have a very good level of understanding of what is happening holistically, and therefore, already know the difference between the trend scenario and the ideal one; this difference is because some variables that we want to change will not (trend) change, and so that is an activity assigned to management: make those variables, which may not change if they do so at the will of the participants (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

The other variables have been identified that the trend indicates that they are “on track” and do not need “much attention” from senior management, but they need to be from management so that there are no significant detours.  This is where foresight comes in since directors are convinced that they have to make these variables happen, no matter what.  Up to this point, we have carried out the organization’s foresight strategic planning; we still need to carry out the operative planning of the same.  Thus, it is recommended to use technological roadmaps, which must be done with the people involved.  The technology maps help us to visualize the “what to do,” “how to do it,” and “when to do it” in a fast and effective way, identifying possible paths for its realization, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Diagram of a generic technology map [1].

These exercises of visualization of the future help us generate possible strategies for developing new products/services that meet the future needs of potential customers. When the need arises, our organization already has a product ready to be marketed.  These strategies are the ones that shape, through strategic projects, the success of the organization.  These activities that we have identified that tend not to be carried out are carried out by the organization’s will, making them the key to the development of the organization.

References

[1] M. M. Carvalho, A. Fleury, and A. P. Lopes, “An overview of the literature on technology roadmapping (TRM): Contributions and trends,” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, vol. 80, pp. 1418-1437, 2013.

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