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Strategic Foresight for Collaborative Exploration of New Business Fields

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  • Rohrbeck Heger - Strategic Foresight & Innovation

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To ensure long-term competitiveness, companies need to develop the ability to explore, plan, and develop new business fields. A suitable approach faces multiple challenges because it needs to (1) integrate multiple perspectives, (2) ensure a high level of participation of the major stakeholders and decision-makers, (3) function despite a high level of uncertainty, and (4) take into account interdependencies between the influencing factors. In this paper, we present an integrated approach that combines multiple strategic-foresight methods in a synergetic way. It was applied in an inter-organizational business field exploration project in the telecommunications industry.
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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1957807
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TOBIAS HEGERi
University of Potsdam, Chair for Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship
August-Bebel-Straße 89, 14482 Potsdam, Germany
tobias.heger@eict.de
RENÉ ROHRBECKii
Department of Business Administration, Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University
Fuglesangs Allé 4, 8210 Aarhus, Denmark
Email: rrohr@asb.dk
AbstractTo ensure long-term competitiveness, companies need to develop the ability to
explore, plan, and develop new business fields. A suitable approach faces multiple challenges
because it needs to (1) integrate multiple perspectives, (2) ensure a high level of participation
of the major stakeholders and decision-makers, (3) function despite a high level of
uncertainty, and (4) take into account interdependencies between the influencing factors. In
this paper, we present an integrated approach that combines multiple strategic-foresight
methods in a synergetic way. It was applied in an inter-organizational business field
exploration project in the telecommunications industry.
Keywords: strategic foresight, business field exploration, innovation management, open
innovation
Strategic foresight for collaborative exploration of
new business fields
Strategic foresight for collaborative exploration of new business fields
Heger, T. and R. Rohrbeck
Technological Forecasting and Social Change, forthcoming.
This is a preprint. The final article can be found here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2011.11.003
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1957807
2
1 INTRODUCTION
In the past decades, much knowledge has been generated of how to conduct foresight
activities. In the 1960s, scholars started to study national foresight programs. They aimed to
identify future technologies that would generate the largest potential for economic welfare [1].
In a corporate context, foresight activities have been employed to make better long-term
decisions [2, 3], support innovation activities [4] and strategic planning by identifying
alternative trajectories [5] for emerging technology [6] trends and creating future scenarios
[7]. As a result, we now have a rich body of knowledge of methods that can be used to
address specific management challenges.
In our literature review, we argue that more knowledge is needed to successfully apply
strategic-foresight techniques to complex planning tasks such as exploring new business fields
[8-10]. From a company’s perspective, new business fields are characterized by a multi-
dimensional uncertainty [11] that results in typical planning questions such as: Is there an
underserved demand? If yes, how much are customers willing to pay? How can the demand
be satisfied? Should we address the market with a product, a service, or a hybrid product that
combines both a physical product and a service? Which (emerging) technologies should be
used to build the product and service? How will we produce? Is the business opportunity
financially interesting?
This multi-dimensional uncertainty translates into the “chicken or egg” dilemma: if the
firm does not know which technologies it should employ to build a certain product, it will not
be able to define the properties of the final product. If the product properties are unknown, it
cannot ask its potential customers how much they are willing to pay. If the willingness to pay
is unknown, so is the business potential. This will make it impossible to take the required
investment decisions. This dilemma results in a dual planning challenge: (a) dealing with
uncertainty, and (b) dealing with the interdependencies between the multiple aspects of the
new business fields.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1957807
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Our point of departure is the expectation that strategic-foresight methods could help to
reduce the uncertainty and that the challenge of interdependencies can be met by integrating
multiple methods. More specifically, we expect that strategic foresight could help in (1)
combining an external trend analysis with an internal analysis [12], (2) facilitating the
strategy-formation process [13-15], (3) supporting strategic decision-making [16, 17], and (4)
moderating innovation planning [4, 18].
Based on strategic-management frameworks and strategic-foresight methods, we have
developed such an integrated methodology that is designed to support collaborative business
field exploration. In this article, we report on the application of the methodology in a pilot
project that aimed to explore the new market for intelligent and adaptive management of
broadband networks. This is a potentially large market that enables the delivery of high-
quality services over the Internet such as Internet Protocol-based Television (IPTV),
multimedia services that build on high-quality video streaming, or broadband-intensive cloud-
computing applications that require reliable connections. It is also a new business field in
which multiple parties need to work together to jointly create a market and come up with
solutions. In our case, a consortium of nine partners from academia and industry came
together to conduct the project collaboratively.
2 LITERATURE REVIEW
In the following literature review, we show why strategic planning of new business fields is
particularly challenging and why we expect that those challenges can be met effectively with
an integrated strategic-foresight methodology.
2.1 The challenge of exploring new business fields
When Jeffrey Immelt says that ‘Constant reinventing is the central necessity at GE...We’re all
just a step away from the commodity hell’, he emphasizes the need to continuously create
new products and move into new business fields [19]. This has also been discussed in
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strategic-management literature; it is concluded that companies need to master two roles: the
first role is to improve processes and incrementally improve their current portfolio of products
and services. The second role is to continuously explore new business fields [20]. Companies
that are good at both roles are called ambidextrous organizations [21, 22].
Companies such as Nokia have shown how moving into new business fields can be
done successfully. In its 150-year history, Nokia has changed from a pulp-and-paper company
and from producing rubber boots and tires to becoming the world’s leading manufacturer of
mobile phones [23]. Nowadays, Nokia is at the brink of becoming a service company, which
would be the third major transition and the third time that the company has moved into a
totally new business field.
However, many companies continue to struggle to move into new business fields for
multiple reasons:
Information on emerging business fields is not detected by corporate sensors who
are directed towards the current business [24], foresight could help by proactive
scanning.
Top management suffers from an overflow of information and lacks the ability to
access the economic potential [25, 26], particularly if faced by multi-dimensional
uncertainty. In this case, foresight could show the interdependency between the
signals from different perspectives (competitive environment, emerging
technologies, customer needs, etc.).
Information on business potential is filtered by a middle management which fears
that the new business may cannibalize current business [27, 28]. This means that
foresight should ensure to reach or, even better, integrate top management in the
exercise because participation is the best way to lay the basis for decision-making
and taking action [8].
Complexity of company structure that triggers inertia and prevents companies from
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seizing business opportunities because they are too slow to react [29, 30]. This
increases the need to reach top-level management with foresight results and include
not only top management, but also other relevant internal stakeholders [31].
That means that in order to support business-field exploration with foresight activities,
companies need to be able to integrate multiple perspectives, integrate stakeholders
throughout the process of the foresight exercise, and ensure top-management visibility or,
better, top-management participation.
2.2 Planning new business fields
Planning new business fields has many similarities with strategic planning, it
concerns the long term, in which the investment is expected to pay off [32],
aims to create a synthesis of what should be achieved and how the firm can achieve
it [33, 34],
involves looking ahead and, to a certain extent, forecasting and anticipating
possible futures [12, 31],
requires integrating stakeholders to tied planning to execution [33], and
needs to encourage strategic thinking and support the strategy formation/new
business-field exploration process [35].
We can therefore tap into the much larger pool of knowledge that has been created in
the field of strategic management to define what should be done in a new business-field
exploration project. In particular, we want to use three groups of frameworks as guides to the
relevant questions and aspects in a new business-field exploration project:
Porters 5 Forces help to grasp the extent of competition in a (new) market [36].
Business-modelling frameworks direct the analysis towards the major elements of a
viable new business field [37, 38].
Business-planning frameworks ensure that all important aspects of founding a
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company are taken into account [39].
For our new methodology for business-field exploration, the elements of all three
frameworks were considered as potentially relevant aspects for our analysis. Table 1 shows
how the elements of the three frameworks match with the elements of our analysis.
Our foresight project
Elements of guiding frameworks
Dimension of
analysis
(method)
Porter’s 5
Forces
Business
modelling
Business
planning
Product properties
(use-cases, target-costing
pre-phase)
Value
proposition
Customer
segments
Key activities
Key resources
Technology plan
Competitor analysis
(Value Network and
MACTOR*)
Rivalry among
existing
competitors
Bargaining
power of buyers
Bargaining
power of
suppliers
Threat of new
market entrants
Key partners
Competition
Strategic
position
Market analysis
(scenario analysis)
Threat of
substitute
products and
services
Industry analysis
and trends
Target market
Risk assessment
Financial analysis
(target-costing)
Revenue stream
Cost structure
Financials
Elements that have not been adopted from the guiding frameworks:
Business modellingcustomer relationships, channels
Business planningcompany description, marketing and sales plan, operations, management and organization, community
involvement and social responsibility, development, milestones, and exit plan
* MACTOR stands for Matrix of Alliances and Conflicts: Tactics, Objectives, and Recommendations [62].
Table 1: Elements for new business-field exploration.
In the first phase of the analysis, product properties are clarified. Particularly, we
address the product’s value proposition, its uniqueness or relative advantage over competing
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offers, its positioning against competing offerings, and a clearly defined target-market
segment and its match with corporate strategy. Additionally, a first evaluation of the
customers’ needs, wants, and expectations is conducted.
Concerning the competitive environment, it needs to be clarified how to deal with up-
and downstream partners, i.e., in particular whether there may be shifts of power in the value
chain and identification of potential new suppliers and buyers. Taken together, these aspects
have also become known as the value network [40, 41]. In this network, it needs to be
clarified whether there are potential alliances or latent conflicts that would favour or prevent a
successful market entry.
The market analysis includes an analysis of the environmental conditions (political,
regulatory, and sociological factors), identification of market and technology trends and
drivers, and an analysis of the development of possible future market configurations. The
latter serves as basis for strategy development later on in the process.
In the last dimension of our analysis—the financial analysis—, the insights from the
first three areas are used. Complemented by an estimation of the customers’ willingness to
pay for the new product, it allows a first evaluation of the commercial attractiveness of the
new business fields. A preliminary forecast of the market potential is often needed to
convince decision-makers to support the decision to move into a new business field.
In the first two chapters of the literature review, we have seen why exploring and
planning new business fields is particularly challenging. Overall, it can be said that there are
two major challenges: (1) ex-ante uncertainty about a wide range of aspects of the business
fields and resulting business model, and (2) interdependencies between the aspects that make
cooperation between corporate departments and decision-makers necessary. In the next two
chapters, we will discuss why a combination of strategic-foresight methods can be expected to
help when facing these challenges.
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2.3 Strategic foresight to deal with uncertainty
Strategic foresight in a corporate environment is concerned with reducing the domain of the
unknown and helping to account for uncertainty in the decision-making process [10, 42]. In
the French tradition, strategic foresight (prospective) is even seen as a learning process
through which the future (in our case new business fields) is invented and created [42-44].
The most popular method of strategic foresight is scenario analysis. It has been shown
to be able to create a structure that allows managers to take a higher number of arguments into
account and grasp the systemic nature of the decision [45, 46]. At the same time, it can be
used as a platform to ensure participation of relevant stakeholders and decision-makers [47]
and can also have an impact on the perceived quality of the strategic decision-making [15].
In practice, it can be expected that methods have to be chosen [8, 48] and tailored to fit
the task [12]. Strategic-foresight methods are expected to make a company aware of its
environment [49, 50] and make strategic decisions more robust to future change by
integrating wild cards (i.e., future events that are singular, sudden, surprising, and shattering)
in the analysis [51].
We know that companies are increasingly using strategic-foresight methods [14, 52].
But it is also suggested that more research is needed on how strategic-foresight activities are
embedded in decision-making processes and what value they generate for companies [53].
Some studies have identified potential value contributions [32]; other studies supply first
evidence about the impact of strategic-foresight activities [54, 55]. In addition, studies have
shown that some companies rely on complex strategic-foresight systems [56, 57] to increase
their innovation capacity [4, 58, 59] and resilience against external (disruptive) change [25,
60, 61]. For example, some companies use the systems to assess the coherence between future
trends and their strategy and product portfolio [62].
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2.4 Method integration for dealing with interdependencies
The idea to combine foresight methods has a long history. In 1988, Flores and White
proposed to structure literature on combined forecasting methodologies along two tracks: (1)
“selection of the base forecasts” which determines which forecasts to include—qualitative,
quantitative, or both—, and (2) the “selection of the method of combination” which is
concerned with the approach to combine them, i.e., systematically, or in an intuitive way [63].
Armstrong [64] proposes to select methods based on their advantages and
disadvantages, for example by combining quantitative and qualitative approaches. This view
is shared by Dryample and Filde. In their study, they give recommendations when to apply
quantitative or qualitative methods [65, 66]. Instead of discussing quantitative and qualitative
approaches, Ulrich argues that the focus should be on the difference between objectively
existing aspects and interpretations and perspectives [67].
Prior to Clemen’s review of literature on combining methods [68], research on this topic
centred on proving that combining methods does in fact increase accuracy. Metcalfe et al. [69,
70] propose to select methods solely based on multiple perspectives. They specifically argue
that using different groups of stakeholders—thus leveraging their differing perspectives,
opinions, and backgrounds—increases accuracy and the understanding of possible futures.
Linstone [71] promotes a similar approach on a larger, national level. Based on empirical
data, he shows the usefulness of considering technical, organizational, and personal
perspectives.
Tseng, Cheng, and Peng [72] developed a model that combines a scenario analysis, the
technological substitution model, and Delphi to provide market-penetration assessments. They
argue that, in the end, the value of the common combination of a technological substitution
model and a scenario analysis is often limited by a lack of available data on latest-generation
technologies and quantifiable data. To overcome this problem, they integrate current opinions
of seasoned experts to make a more holistic forecast. Their model generates market-share
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predictions based on the scenario analysis and technological-substitution model, with both
based on and supported by the results of expert estimations.
Kameoka, Yokoo, and Kuwahara review Delphi-Scenario Writing (DSW) [73]. In
contrast to other combinations of Delphi and scenarios, DSW starts with Delphi and uses the
scenarios to clarify the interrelationships between items that were identified during the Delphi
forecast. Based on the results, adequate strategies can be developed.
Scholars have also reported on combinations of scenario analyses and roadmapping [74-
77]. These combined methodologies usually start with an environmental analysis to identify
key influencing factors and end with the development of differing scenarios that provide the
basis for the interpretation and selection of the most favourable scenario for the company.
During the development of a roadmap towards the favourable scenario, key events that need
to take place to arrive at this scenario are identified and described. Finally, a tracking system
can be set up to help to monitor the development towards the favourable scenario.
Petrick and Echols [78] introduced a heuristic method consisting of a combination of
supply-chain management and technology roadmapping that heavily relies on IT (information
technology) support. According to their argumentation, sustainable decisions in new-product
development can only be made when the differing perspectives can be considered in an
integrated way.
In conclusion, we have shown that combining foresight methods has been advised to (1)
reduce deficiencies of the individual methods, (2) tailor the methodology to the task, and (3)
integrate differing perspectives. Based on the first two chapters of our literature analysis, we
like to add the objective to combine methods to (4) create a holistic view of a new business
field that takes into account the interdependencies between the differing aspects of the
analysis.
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3 DESCRIPTION OF OUR CASE
3.1 The market of providing quality of experience
Telecommunication network operators are confronted with an increasing need to reduce costs
while increasing network capacity. New Internet services such as video streaming have led to
a steep increase in network traffic. This results in the need to make network usage and
management more adaptive and intelligent [79]. More specifically, the main trends that drive
the need for better network management [80-84] are:
Increase in rich-media consumption, particularly online videos. The increasing
availability of IPTV offerings leads to additional network-traffic peaks, especially
in the early evening hours.
Increase in personalization of online service. This includes VoD (video-on-
demand) services that replace linear television. On the network level, this implies a
change from broadcasts with rather low network-capacity usage to unicasts which
require separate connections for each user.
Media consumption independent of time, place, and device. Future media offerings
will allow watching any video content at any time on all devices. This implies that
videos, for example, will be streamed increasingly through mobile networks with
unicasts.
Rise of end-users’ quality expectations. The quality expectations rise after years of
dominance of low-quality video content on the Web. The latter is of special
importance for IPTV services since the minimum requirement for IPTV is a
perceived quality level similar to that of conventional TV reception.
Aim to increase network efficiency. At present, bandwidth assurances are given
based on overprovisioning, i.e., greatly over-dimensioned networks have to ensure
functionality, even in peak times. Network operators increasingly seek to increase
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network efficiency to downscale overprovisioning and save costs.
The expansion of fibre networks—which will greatly increase network capacity—is
currently underway, e.g., with FTTH (fibre-to-the-home) or FTTCab (fibre-to-the-cabinet)
roll-outs [85]. However, fibre networks require massive investments in infrastructure and are
expected to only postpone the impending problem of congestion [86]. Additionally, massive
overprovisioning through fibre connections means that, most of the time, network load is
nowhere near a network’s full capacity [83, 87]. Thus, intelligent mechanisms to increase
network efficiency remain of interest, even if the fibre network roll-out is complete.
Finally, advanced network mechanisms as analysed in RUBENS have the potential to
open up new business fields for telecommunications operators who seek to regain their
dominance in the ICT market by moving into the service market [88, 89].
3.2 Selection of the appropriate team
When selecting an appropriate team for a strategic-foresight activity, multiple aspects are
important. It has been suggested that an ideal foresighter has six characteristics: he is (1)
curious and receptive, (2) open-minded and passionate, he has (3) broad knowledge, (4) deep
knowledge, (5) a strong external network, and (6) a strong internal network [8]. In our project,
most of the participants had a background in research and development as well as some
experience in a business- or marketing-related position. In addition, it was important to find
people who were intrinsically motivated to engage in a future-oriented project.
For a new business-field exploration project, it is also essential to involve people who
can provide differing perspectives. In our case, that translated into the need to have
participants with knowledge of the core network, access network, and end-user service
domain. Inviting experts to specific workshops and interviews further strengthened the
interdisciplinary character of the team. The external experts ensured that all relevant aspects
were taken into account and that the perspective or lack of knowledge of individual team
13
members did not bias the results of the analysis.
It is also important to directly involve decision-makers to build trust in the results of the
analysis [90] and middle managers to ensure their commitment to implementation and prevent
organizational inertia [28, 91]. In our case, both groups were not only present at regular
steering-board meetings, but also, and more importantly, actively participated in workshops,
which created commitment.
3.3 Combining multiple foresight methods for new business-field exploration
Within the RUBENS project, the potential new business field was explored along four strata.
These were guided by four key questions:
Q1: what are the key product properties (including the question whether services
should be included and a hybrid product should be offered)?
Q2: who are the relevant actors in the value network, what are their interests, and how
will they behave in the new market?
Q3: how will the market of the new business field evolve? What are the trends and the
barriers?
Q4: has the new business field the potential to become financially viable?
These questions were used to structure the project, define the project tasks, and coordinate the
participating organizations.
Throughout the process, various tools were used, for example workshops, reports, or our
own desk research. Table 2 provides an overview of the main field of application of the
various tools and a brief description why and how we used them.
Main field of
application
Tool
Description
Data collection
(primary sources)
Questionnaire
Survey to collect new and unique information that is not
available in other sources
Information
gathering
(secondary sources)
Reports, studies, etc.
Gathering of scientific or other high quality information
Project documentation
Gathering of information available in other work-packages of
the project
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Desk research
Gathering of universally valid information and public
information
Generation and
discussion of results
Workshops
Moderated and interactive face-to-face meetings to generate
input from and results by the project team
Panel discussion
Moderated face-to-face meetings to present and discuss
controversial (intermediate) results: one presenter, multiple
discussion partners in the panel, and the tool of choice to
integrate external experts
Information
presentation
Meetings
Face-to-face meetings without moderator where either
information from the team members is gathered or results
are presented
Mailing lists
Send-out of project documentation for validation
Conference calls
Clarification of project progress, discussion about minor
issues or intermediate results
Table 2: Fields of application and description of the tools used.
The project was divided into five phases. Before the first phase, an initial collection of
input laid the basis for the following analysis (phase 0). Phases one to four addressed the four
guiding questions mentioned above and phase five prepared the conclusions and developed
recommendations for decision-making. An overview of the project execution is shown in
Figure 1.
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Figure 1: Project structure to explore a new business field.
3.3.1 Phase 0: input collection
At the start of the project, input for the analysis of the new business field was collected from
several sources:
1. The documentation of base technologies
2. Publications in scientific journals
Phase 0
Input
Phase 1
Product definition
(Use cases, Target Costing pre-phase)
Phase 2
Competitor Analysis
(Value Network Analysis,
MACTOR method)
Phase 3
Environmental Analysis
(Scenario Analysis)
Phase 4
Financial Analysis
(Target Costing)
Phase 5
!"#$%&'()"#*))&+*%,&-$%",$./#
Product idea, tentative description of product
advantage & targeted market segment
Next stage in NPD process: product development
3. Identification and specification of product components
5. Identification of actors, creation of actor profiles
6. Identification of dependencies among actors
@
8. Identification of key strategic fields and
related objectives
@
9. Assessment of actors‘ position on objectives
1. Identification of customer requirements
?
10. Assessment of influences among actors
11. Interpretation: development of implications
recommendations
12. Identification of focus of analysis
(timeframe, scope, scenario question)
14. Development of projections and specification of
consistencies
13. Identification of influencing factors and key factors
15. Calculation and description of scenarios
16. Interpretation: development of implications &
recommendations, identification of „Wild Cards“
18. Estimation of market potential and
component cost
@
19. Cost breakdown
20. Development of implications & recommendations
21. Adaptation of product definition, review of positioning
and target market, decision about further development
7. Definition of value chain network
Doc
Legend
Workshop
Meeting
Project
documentation
Doc
Questionnaire
?
Reports,
studies, etc.
Panel
discussion
Conference
- call
Mailing-lists
@
Desk
research
Input
Sequence
2. Identification and specification of product functions
Doc
4. Consolidating the use cases
17. Identification of customer requirements, product
functions and product components
16
3. Reports and studies published by research institutes and public institutes
4. Internal studies that were conducted by the project partners
5. Articles in non-scientific journals and newspapers
3.3.2 Phase 1: product definition (use-cases)
To operationalize product properties without predefining how the product should be built or
which technologies should be used, the product was defined through use-cases. A use-case is
an iterative process in which experts with a technological perspective (including technology
foresighters who supplied future-oriented information) gave recommendations on the long-
term perspective and experts with a market perspective were consulted on current and
emerging customer expectations. From a customer’s perspective, these use-cases describe
how the product is used, what benefit is generated, and how it interacts with the
telecommunication network. These use-cases were developed by (1) defining the customer
requirements, (2) defining the specific product functions, (3) clustering the functions into
product components, and (4) the consolidation of the first three steps into use-case
descriptions.
3.3.3 Phase 2: competitor analysis (value-network analysis, MACTOR method)
The second phase started with the creation of a generic value network consisting of relevant
roles and interfaces. These were developed on the basis of expert input and existing models
(step 5). The value-network perspective becomes pertinent due to the increasing complexity
of products and services [82, 83]. This was followed by the identification of actors that were
relevant in the targeted market segment (step 6). Basic information about each actor was
collected in “actor profiles”, one-page summaries of basic information and relevant activities
(step 7). To fill the profiles, they were distributed among the team members to search for
relevant information in a two-week period. In order to ensure relevance and similarity of
results in this research activity, a template was created and distributed to all team members.
17
The actor profiles contained information about:
the organization’s roles in the value network,
its main objectives in regard to quality of experience,
basic company data to indicate the size of the organization (revenue, number of
employees),
trends and disruptive technologies that posed substantial threats to the organization,
own influencing power over other actors, and
exposure to influencing power from other actors.
The actor profiles helped to consolidate data on the various actors and provided a
structured way to gather preliminary input data for the MACTOR method (Matrix of
Alliances and Conflicts: Tactics, Objectives and Recommendations). The MACTOR method
is one of the few multi-actor issue analyses [84]. These analyses are applicable in situations
that are difficult to foresee, in which multiple actors are involved and varying interests,
perspectives, and options collide. We specifically chose MACTOR because it also recognizes
differences in the power distribution in the value chain [92].
In step 8, key strategic fields—such as content, services, and devices—were identified
and concrete objectives were derived that could be assigned to individual actors. Consistent
with Godet’s original approach [92], the strategic position of each actor on these objectives
(their opinion of the objectives) was rated on a scale from -4 to +4, where -4 indicates total
opposition to the objective and +4 indicates a complete match between the objective and the
corporate strategy (step 9). In the next step, the data on the influence between actors was used
to calculate the relative influences between the actors in the value network. The influences
were weighted on a rating scale as well. The lowest value, indicating total independence was
0, whereas the highest value, 3, indicated a very high degree of dependence (step 10). Based
on both the data from the opinions of the actors and their relative influences on each other, it
is possible to map actors in a convergence and divergence diagram. Here, harmony and
18
hostility between actors are identified. This is the basis for identifying strategic fields where
alliances and collaborations may be possible and where conflicts have to be expected. This
allowed us to give recommendations on cooperation: with whom to collaborate, in which
relationship conflicts have to be expected, and, based on the objectives, how to mitigate the
conflicts by giving in to certain objectives of an adversary (step 11).
3.3.4 Phase 3: market analysis (scenario analysis)
The goal of phase three is to consolidate all relevant perspectives and answer the question
how the new business field may develop in the future. The central method is scenario
analysis; its particular strength is the ability to integrate a high number of influencing factors
[93].
Before starting the scenario analysis, a further specification was made concerning time
horizon, scope, and actor perspective, i.e., the role for which we want to generate insights and
recommendations. The latter was a particularly tricky part because the new business field
implied that the network operator might be well advised to extend his role portfolio in the
value network (step 12).
In a one-day expert workshop, the most important political, sociological, economic, and
technological influencing factors were collected and consolidated into 12 key factors (step
13). For each key factor, future projections were defined, i.e., the state of an influencing factor
in the future. For each projection, the working group estimated its likelihood (step 14).
Following this initial workshop, the consistency among all projections was assessed. That
meant answering the question whether future state A of influencing factor 1 can occur with
future state A of influencing factor 2 (step 15). With the help of scenario software, all possible
scenarios and their inherent consistency were calculated. For five consistent yet very different
scenarios, a detailed analysis and thorough description was created (step 16). To illustrate the
meaning of each scenario, supporting images were added to the description.
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In a second expert workshop, the resulting scenario descriptions were presented. After
all participants had had sufficient time to familiarize themselves with the scenarios,
implications and resulting recommendations were developed (step 17). In addition, so-called
wild cards were identified. Wild cards represent events that have a major impact on the object
of analysis, but occur suddenly and unforeseeably. For that reason, wild cards are not
modelled into scenario analyses as influencing factors, but are taken into account after the
scenarios have been generated. After identifying them, their importance and impact on the
QoE (quality of experience) market and likelihood were rated.
3.3.5 Phase 4: financial analysis (target-costing)
From the preceding stages, a deep understanding of the competitors in the potential market for
QoE was achieved. In the financial analysis, the aim is to quantify the market potential and
generate first estimations on cost, revenue, and profit. It was decided to use a target-costing
approach. Here, inverse accounting is leveraged instead of traditional cost-plus methods. The
price that the customers are willing to pay is taken as upper limit for the retail price and all
steps of value creation are optimized to achieve the allowable retail price [85]. Business-field
exploration activities are the beginning of a new product or service, thus the possibilities to
significantly engineer value-creation activities are given; target costing can be applied
optimally.
From phase 1, a first product definition already existed. For target-costing, it is required
to particularly detail customer requirements and product functions and components. Product
functions are descriptions of functionality that a product will deliver, e.g., video and audio
quality, video-on-demand functions, or simultaneous multi-TV access. Product components,
on the other hand, are the physical components that are necessary to realize the before-
mentioned functionality, e.g., CPE (customer premises equipment) or CAS (control and
application servers). The set of customer requirements and product functions and components
20
was identified by desk research and validated and extended with a questionnaire that was
developed and distributed to a panel of 19 industry experts (step 17).
With the succeeding step 18, two things were done: an estimation of the market
potential followed by an estimation of the expected component cost. For the market
estimation, the project focused on six countries (Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands,
Spain, and the United Kingdom). As is often the case when assessing new markets, there was
no data available that directly addressed the customers’ willingness to pay, in this case for
IPTV quality enhancements. Therefore, the strategy for estimating the market potential was to
work through analogies with available market data—here: online video services, conventional
TV, and IPTV—and derive a reasonable willingness to pay from these. To estimate the
number of potential customers, data on population, number of households, age distribution,
broadband-access penetration, and weekly TV and Internet consumption was leveraged. On
the cost side, the input data came from aggregated real-cost data from the participating
equipment manufacturers and network operators.
Within the target-costing phase, we had two goals: first, to check if the market for the
one product in question could be profitable overall and second, to identify components for
which the costs have to be reduced to ensure product profitability. The latter was done by
comparing the willingness to pay and the cost for a certain component (step 19). This allowed
us to identify components that were in need of cost optimization, in our case the DSLAM
(digital subscriber line-access multiplexer) and those that required additional investments for
improvements, in our case the service platform. Overall, the financial analysis confirmed that
the product had the potential to become profitable (step 20).
3.3.6 Phase 5: final business-field validation
Overall, the project resulted in a positive assessment of the new business field, insights on
drivers, barriers, showstoppers, and recommendations on how to enter the new market:
21
The use-cases provided a firm ground to build a portfolio of products within the new
market. This was the answer to question 1 mentioned above.
The competitor analysis showed the need for alliances to successfully create and
exploit the new market. This was the answer to question 2.
The scenario analysis allowed us to identify the antecedents for the market creation
such as network congestion. For example, it was revealed that the new market will
only emerge if overprovisioning is declining, either because of a reluctance of network
operators to invest in the extension of network capacity or an increase in data traffic
through increasing demand for personalized high-quality video services or cloud-
computing applications. This was the answer to question 3.
For one product, the financial viability was demonstrated through financial analysis.
This was the answer to question 4.
Collaborative market exploration was also the basis for further investigation within the
participating organizations. Having participated in the collaborative effort allowed them to
add to their own view the perspectives from other companies that play different roles in the
value network. Thus, the reliability of the results was increased. In addition, they explained
that the personal interaction in the workshops and team and steering-board meetings increased
their confidence that results and recommendations could be trusted.
3.4 Process overview
In this case study, the aim was to use and combine foresight methods to explore a new
business field. Figure 2 summarizes the approach. In our pilot case, the project was started to
evaluate whether newly developed technologies could provide a basis for a new market. In
other cases, the starting point may also be a product idea or the initial idea of an important
product advantage.
After the initiation of the new business-field exploration project, four major phases were
22
identified. These phases followed the four guiding questions that are shown in the centre of
Figure 2.
Figure 2: Key questions and methods for exploring a new business field.
To answer the questions, four methods were used:
Use-cases were used to define the product properties without having to imply a
certain technical solution. They define the product only through a description of how
the customer will interact with the product.
Product idea, emerging technologies, first ideas
on product advant atge Devel opment of new busines s
field
Final business field
validation
Use cases
(Product definition )
Scenario analysis
(Market & environm ental
Analysis)
Value networkanalysis
& MACTOR method
(Competi tor analysi s)
Targ et costin g
(Financ ial analys is)
Exploring new
business fields
What are the key product properties?
(Including the question if services should
be included and a hybrid product should
be offered)
Has the new
business field
the poten tial to
become
fin ancially
viable?
Who are the
relevant actors
in the value
network, what
are their
interests and
how will they
behave?
How will the market of the new
busin ess field evolve? What are the
trends and the barriers?
23
A value network was modelled and the MACTOR analysis was applied to model the
interests of the relevant actors in the value network. This allowed us to identify
potential conflicts of interest with other actors, predict the level of rivalry in the
market, and identify potential alliances.
A scenario analysis was used as the primary integrating method that allowed us to
integrate observed trends from the technology, competitor, customer, and political
environment. The result was a good understanding of the barriers to successful
business-field development.
Through a target-costing analysis, the qualitative insights of the previous phases were
quantified and the overall financial viability was checked.
On the basis of this analysis, the consortium of organizations concluded that it was worth it
to further pursue the QoE business field. The company that was the primary objective of our
analysis held a top-management workshop that used the project output to define a roadmap
for the development of the new business field.
3.5 Methodological synergies
As shown in Table 3, the integration of methods exploited synergies in the data collection and
evaluation.
Information
Processed by method
To develop
Originally collected for
Re-used for
UC
VN
M
SA
TC
UC
VN
M
SA
TC
Value proposition
X
X
X
X
Product properties
Relative product
advantage
X
Product functions
X
X
X
Target market
segments
X
X
Customer expectations
X
X
X
Market potential
X
X
Product positioning
X
X
Strategic fit
X
Up- and downstream
partners
X
X
X
X
Competitor analysis
Interdependence
among actors
X
X
X
Industry growth and
profitability
X
Competitor strategies
X
X
24
Information
Processed by method
To develop
Originally collected for
Re-used for
UC
VN
M
SA
TC
UC
VN
M
SA
TC
Rivalry, potential
market entrants, and
competitiveness
X
X
X
Power structures
X
X
X
Convergence and
divergence of interests
X
X
Environmental
conditions
X
Market analysis
Market and
technological drivers
X
Future market
configurations
X
Strategies to meet
future market
configurations
X
Production costs
X
Financial analysis
Allowable retail price
X
Sales and revenue
estimates
X
UC: use-case method, VN: value-network analysis, M: MACTOR, SA: scenario analysis, TC: target costing.
Note: The crosses in the “re-used for” column show the synergy effect of the method integration.
Table 3: Synergies created by the method integration.
In the first step, the definition of use-cases—the identification of customer expectations
and product functions—creates a sound basis for the following steps of the methodology. The
successive value-network analysis provides the foundation for the analysis of power
structures, potential alliances, and conflicts that result in the development of strategic options
in the competitive environment within the new market. The scenario analysis benefits strongly
from the high degree of market knowledge that is established in the preceding steps. Finally,
the target-costing analysis uses the insights from the product definition, customer needs, and
market conditions as well as the knowledge of the power balance in the value network.
3.6 Strategies to facilitate collaboration
When exploring new business fields, we are dealing with an analytical problem that is
characterized by a high level of uncertainty and interdependency between the sub-issues (i.e.,
what product features should be offered, what technologies should be used, what technologies
are affordable given a certain set of features, etc.).
To ensure that we kept everyone informed about overall progress, to which extent
uncertainty had been reduced, and aware of interdependencies, we
25
provided enough time to brief and re-brief participants on what had been achieved in
the past and what was expected as a result from the task at hand,
held regular face-to-face meetings and at least bi-weekly conference calls,
had two major team-building events, one at the start and one halfway through the 12-
month project duration, and
visualized the project progress, including the status of individual contributions (this
also helped to put pressure on team members to deliver quality on-time).
Concerning the challenge of a high number of participants in project meetings, we
distributed preparatory homework one week prior to the meetings,
used pre-structured questionnaires to effectively collect data,
supported discussions in the workshop with templates that had to be filled out
collaboratively, and
held panel discussions to reduce the number of participants discussing simultaneously.
In addition, collaboration beyond meetings needed to be organized in a way that allowed
team members to build on each other’s results while providing progress transparency. For that
purpose, various IT-based tools were employed:
Wikis (websites that can be changed in real time by all project participants) to
document project results
Forums to discuss the different sub-issues
Online mind-mapping tools to collaboratively structure new topics during telephone
conferences
Instant messaging to facilitate direct interaction
Foresight projects in particular also rely on the knowledge, experience, and openness of its
participants. An interdisciplinary team is also recommended to ensure that trends are
sufficiently challenged and conclusions are validated from various perspectives. In our
26
project, this was achieved by inviting academic researchers, industry engineers, and business
analysts to join the team. With respect to industry participants, it is advisable to cover all
relevant actors in the value network, but this is often difficult to achieve. In our case, project
partners included network-equipment manufacturers and network operators. Insights from the
perspective of media companies or end-user device manufactures had to be brought into the
project by interviewing external experts and other sources.
4 CONCLUSION
In our literature review, we have argued that more research is needed to understand how
foresight activities can be successfully applied in a corporate context. When companies wish
to explore and develop new business fields, they are faced with a particularly challenging task
that is characterized by (1) the need to integrate multiple perspectives, (2) a high level of
uncertainty, (3) interdependencies between customer needs, technological capabilities,
competitor behaviour, legislative contingencies, production cost, etc., and (4) the need to
involve a high number of external experts and internal stakeholders.
We have discussed that it might have a merit to combine multiple foresight methods and
shown that there are documented approaches that aim to combine foresight methods to (1)
make them more reliable, (2) integrate qualitative and quantitative data, and (3) integrate
different perspectives. In this paper we have described the application of an integrated
methodology to explore a potential future market in the telecommunications industry. Therein
we attempted to answer the following four guiding questions:
What should the key product properties be?
Who are the relevant actors, what are their interests, and how is power distributed
among them?
What are the barriers and drivers for the business field?
Has the new business field the potential to become financially viable?
27
The sequence of the complementary methods exploits methodological synergies.
Results and data that are only intermediate results from analyses used early on in the
methodology are often re-used in later stages. Additionally, the methodology is highly
interactive and fosters integration of cross-functional team members and calls for the
involvement of external experts. Achieving optimal results with the proposed integrated
methodology requires an iterative process. This, however, is difficult to realize due to time
pressure and resource limitations in the exploration phase of new business fields.
It should be noted that not all new business fields can be explored with foresight and
planned ex ante. In the absence of planability, companies have to rely on serendipity, i.e., start
multiple business-field development initiatives and wait and see which will produce
promising results. Therefore, companies will need to rely on corporate venturing schemes to
move into new business fields through an entrepreneurial push [94] in addition to foresight
activities.
5 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This study was partially conducted as part of the RUBENS project of EUREKA CELTIC. The
authors would like to thank all RUBENS partners for their valuable contributions,
cooperation, openness, and feedback. Special thanks go to the Deutsche Telekom AG.
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i Tobias Heger is research associate at the Chair for Innovation Management and
Entrepreneurship of the University of Potsdam and project manager at the innovation management unit
of the European Center for Information and Communication Technology (EICT). His research
interests are market exploration, collaborative innovation and innovation networks as well as
innovation in information and communication technologies.
ii René Rohrbeck is Associate Professor for Strategy. His research interests are organizational
change, strategy as practice, innovation management and organizational future orientation. His
research has been published in R&D Management, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management,
Futures, Technological Forecasting and Social Change and in several books, including “Corporate
Foresight: Toward a Maturity Model for the Future Orientation of a Firm”.
René Rohrbeck has 6 years of practical experience in the ICT and automotive industry, where
he worked at Deutsche Telekom and Volkswagen on strategic management, innovation management
and corporate foresight. In addition he has served as consultant for various companies in the ICT,
automobile, luxury goods and energy industry.
... Portanto, a competição é fundamentada na dinâmica e na inovação, sobressaindo as firmas com maior capacidade inovativa (Marshall & Parra, 2019;Negassi et al., 2019;Porter & Linde, 1995). Esta capacidade inovativa envolve a capacidade de tomada de decisão de investimento, para aquisição de novas tecnologias, abertura de novas unidades de negócios, lançamento de novos produtos, contratação de pessoal qualificado ou treinamento da equipe já contratada, fusões e aquisições (Boone, 2001;Heger & Rohrbeck, 2012;Hunt & Morgan, 1995;Rohrbeck & Kum, 2018). ...
... Os resultados dessas pesquisas devem identificar o conjunto de mudanças estratégicas necessárias para o futuro da firma. Esses resultados são úteis para o desenvolvimento de cenários ou criação de imagens alternativas do futuro (Lehr et al., 2017) e para as decisões de investimento, seja no desenvolvimento de novos negócios (Heger & Rohrbeck, 2012), seja para avaliação e aquisição de recursos estratégicos (Makadok & Barney, 2001). ...
... Assim, os investimentos são realizados em função das características internas e externas da firma, principalmente no que se refere à tecnologia, o nível de competição e o nível de atração do mercado. Diversos autores afirmam que o ambiente de competição influencia nas estratégias e decisões de investimento das firmas, que as decisões de investimento são tomadas em função do ambiente no qual estão inseridas, ou, ainda, que o ambiente externo às firmas deve ser levado em consideração nas decisões de investimento (Arrow, 1962;Dias et al., 2019a;Håkansson & Snehota, 1989;Heger & Rohrbeck, 2012;Hunt & Morgan, 1995;Schumpeter, 1934;Wu et al., 2017). ...
... The 6G-technology, which supposedly will replace it, is still at the conceptual research stage and far from reaching the market. An assessment of the mobile wireless business world in the 6G era is therefore heavily characterized by what Heger and Rohrbeck [7] term "multidimensional uncertainty". ...
... Despite knowledge management actions, there are always certain risks and uncertainties. Scenario analysis remains the most popular method of strategic foresight [7,9] with scenarios defined as challenging descriptions of alternative future states ( "futures") relevant to a strategic decision and representative of plausible developments in the external world [9]. This paper explores plausible futures for the business environment of mobile network operators in the 6G era through the use of scenarios. ...
... Features of technology, economics, market demand, and geopolitics for which we have no present certainty will shape the future of the 6G era. It is thus characterized by 'multi-dimensional uncertainty' [7]. However, with futures research methods and strategic foresight, it is possible to reduce the domain of the unknown [8], probe plausible developments, and provide partial clarity about possible futures. ...
... Today, however, the anticipation of the future follows a significantly different approach, whereby companies apply a variety of tools across different hierarchical levels to understand future challenges . The openness of these newer approaches is further characterized through the willingness to exploit CF benefits by applying them in different contexts such as product development, innovation management or organizational change (Heger & Rohrbeck, 2012;Van der Duin et al., 2014). ...
... However, it is subject to recent academic discussion, aiming to identify how foresight on markets can lead to future advantage. Research in this area focuses on the early detection of market signals (Bisson & Diner, 2017) to estimate their future development and how CF can be applied to the exploration of new business fields (Heger & Rohrbeck, 2012). Furthermore, it deals with future-oriented development of products in (Açıkgöz, Günsel, Kuzey, & Zaim, 2016) and the development of precise understanding of customer demands and product configuration (Schweitzer et al., 2019;Von der Gracht & Stillings, 2013). ...
... These include 'traditional' strategic management techniques such as SWOT, PESTEL and Value Chain (Calof, Arcos, & Sewdass, 2018;Kunc & O'Brien, 2017;Sarpong & Hartman, 2018;Vecchiato & Roveda, 2010a). However, the majority of research on tools is centred around scenarios and roadmaps (Heger & Rohrbeck, 2012) with scenarios being described as the overall tool for envisioning strategies, consensus-making and sensitizing for the future (Lehr, Lorenz, Willert, & Rohrbeck, 2017;Metz & Hartley, 2020;Ringland, 2010;Tapinos, 2013). Roadmaps, however, are rather applied in a concrete context, when particular goals need to be achieved. ...
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... Discussions of social and organizational innovation often include the concept of serendipity (Cisnetto and Barlow, 2020;Leckel, Veilleux and Dana, 2020;Sauer and Bonelli, 2020;Fink, Reeves, Palma and Farr, 2017;Heger and Rohrbeck, 2012;Anokhin, Wincent and Frishammar, 2011;Kakko and Inkinen, 2009;Knoben, Oerlmans and Rutten, 2006;Koh, 2000;Godoe, 2000). It is also a feature of the process of research (Murayama, Nirei and Shimizu, 2015;McKelvey, Zaring and Ljungberg, 2015;Cunha, Clegg and Kamoche, 2012;Boudreau, Lacetera and Lakhani, 2011;Buenstorf, 2009;Rahmandad, 2008;Graebner, 2004;Nelson, 2003). ...
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... 'Strategic Foresight' involves creating a series of different visions of the future and using these visions to develop new organisational strategies and decision tools [51,52]. Strategic Foresight is a blend of 'futures' work and firm oriented strategic management approaches [53,54]. The emphasis is on individual organisations, how they can anticipate and react to multiple emergent futures to remain competitive or achieve 'success' broadly defined [55]. ...
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... Bisson e Boukef, em estudo apoiado pela SCIP (2021), apontam que, dado que as estratégias de TD devem ser precedidas e apoiadas por uma visão apurada do ambiente externo e suas movimentações, é necessário desenvolver processos de foresight para rever os assessments gerados (BISSON; BOUKEF; SCIP, 2021). Como reforçam Heger e Rohrbeck (2012), o foresight estratégico no ambiente corporativo preocupa-se com a redução do domínio do desconhecido e em reduzir a incerteza no processo de tomada de decisão estratégica. ...
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