IT tools for foresight: The integrated insight and response system of
Deutsche Telekom Innovation Laboratories
Paper accepted for publication in
Technological Forecasting and Social Change
Special Issue “Foresight Support Systems: The Future Role of ICT for Foresight”
Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences, Department of Business Administration
Bartholins Allé 10, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel.: +45 871 64929
Sorauer Str 3, 10997 Berlin, Germany
Email: email@example.com, Tel.: +49 30 61289260
Telekom Innovation Laboratories
Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, 10587 Berlin, Germany
Email: Heinrich.Arnold@telekom.de, Tel.: +49 30 835358420
In this article we present and discuss the IT tools that Deutsche Telekom
Innovation Laboratories use to support their corporate foresight activities. These tools
are integrated into an approach that encompasses the discovery of change,
interpretation, and triggering managerial responses. The overall system consists of a
tool for scanning for weak signals on change (PEACOQ Scouting Tool), a tool for
collecting internal ideas (PEACOQ Gate 0.5), and a tool for triggering organizational
responses (Foresight Landing page). Particularly the link to innovation management
and R&D strategy is discussed in detail. We further report on the value creation and
lessons learned that have accumulated over the last eight years throughout which the
tools and approach have been built gradually.
Key Words: corporate foresight, scouting, IT tools, Web 2.0, social networks, innovation
In many industries firms are increasingly looking at corporate foresight approaches to
help them increase their responsiveness towards external change [1-4]. At the same time new
information technology (IT) based tools have emerged that can support corporate foresight
activities and increase their productivity.
In the past years many firms have experimented with the usage of social networks inside
and outside the firm , with Internet-based broadcast search [6, 7], and idea competitions
. To a lesser extend also tools such as (real-time) Delphi analysis [9, 10], Wikis [11, 12],
and prediction markets .
In this article we explore how such IT-based tools are integrated in a consistent system
that includes scanning for change and triggering organizational responses. Or put differently,
we aim to shed light on how IT tools need to be combined to bridge the gap between
corporate foresight and follow-up functions such as innovation and strategic management.
Our discussion is based on existing literature on the topics corporate foresight, IT tools in
management, and IT tools in foresight as well as on our 8 year experience of using IT tools
for corporate foresight, innovation and strategic management at Telekom Innovation
T-Labs are the central research and innovation unit of the telecommunication provider
Deutsche Telekom (DT). T-Labs work closely with the operative units of the corporation
offering new ideas and support in the development and implementation of innovative
products, services and infrastructures for DT's growth areas. T-Labs have locations in Berlin,
Darmstadt, Bonn (Germany), Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv (Israel), and Mountain View (USA).
With this large geographic reach and a topic scope reaching from core network
functionalities, through secure communication to IP-based end-user services, T-Labs need to
build a foresight approach that is broad enough to serve all areas (and potential white spots),
but which also generates insights that are concrete enough to trigger organizational responses.
In this article we conclude with lessons learned and general recommendations on how to
implement IT-based foresight and innovation management systems.
2 Literature review
2.1 The corporate foresight process
The foresight process discussion has been inspired and guided particularly by the
“Organizations as Interpretation Systems” model of Daft and Weick . They identified
three steps that lead from perceiving change to an organizational response:
• Step 1: “scanning – data collection”, where the change is perceived
• Step 2: “interpretation – data giving meaning”, where the perceived change is
translated into organizational implications
• Step 3: “learning – action taken”, where the organization defines and executes a
response based on their insights into their environment.
Their model has inspired many foresight activities for both public organizations [15, 16]
and private firms [2, 17-20].
While the model of Daft and Weick is particularly useful as a mental framework it is
weaker on highlighting the important aspects of implementing foresight activities. Building
on an earlier multiple case study with 19 large European companies we identified 5 major
barriers in translating signals on change into organizational responses  (see Figure 1).
When designing a foresight process these barriers can be taken as a starting point, which
allows identifying the activities that need to be implemented and the actors that would drive
these activities. In Figure 1 we distinguish between the actor responsible for the step and
actors that are needed participants. It can be seen that scouts drive the initial detection of
signals in the environment. We define scouts as either internal employees or hired consultants
that gather data on changes through multiple means, including expert interviews, data mining,
and visiting conferences and other relevant events .
Figure 1: Foresight process with barriers, activities and actors (based on )
This first detection is particularly challenging and can be characterized as a search for a
needle in a haystack in which you do not know what you are looking for . Liebl and
Schwarz propose to operationalize this search by distinguishing into the novelty aspect
(“invention”) and the diffusion aspect . In that way the novelty filter provides a large
number of candidates for important changes, and assessing for a sufficient diffusion allows
identifying the changes that are on the track to become major changes. At the same time it is
important to keep an open mind and not focus too much on a limited number of megatrends,
which would in most cases result in additional blind spots .
After the initial detection most firms would employ foresighters to serve as process
facilitators or brokers  between the scouts and internal stakeholders that trigger
organizational actions. We define these foresighters as internal employees, performing the
functional task of supporting the translation of change drivers into organizational responses.
This functional task can be enacted through re-phrasing of change drivers, publishing trend
reports, organizing workshops, creating inspiring visions and scenarios [26, 27] or through
any other suitable methods to increase communication and ensure a high level of participation
of internal stakeholders.
These internal stakeholders include upper management decision makers (for example the
executive board) and the actors responsible for planning and executing the organizational
response. In the process model we mention innovation and strategy managers as two
examples for the latter group, but depending on the role distribution in the respective
organizations’ organizational responses might also be owned by functions such as corporate
development, risk management, and strategic marketing.
For innovation management, corporate foresight would be expected to first and foremost
contribute by spotting innovation opportunities and initiating innovation projects ,
particularly in times when the environment is uncertain . In addition, firms are also using
corporate foresight to continuously monitor and challenge the state-of-the-art of on-going
innovation projects and in a more strategic role, to support the identification of new promising
innovation fields . Thus, foresight would also be expected to contribute to the overall
innovation capacity of a firm .
For strategic management, corporate foresight would be expected to contribute to
management under uncertainty [32, 33]. More specifically, corporate foresight should help
informing decision makers about how to deal with state, effect, and response uncertainty [1,
34]. This is particularly important for decisions that need to be taken in the short-term, but
which will have a strong impact on the long-term competitiveness of an organization . In
addition, corporate foresight might support a broader dialogue with other external
stakeholders to prepare systemic change through orchestrated actions . Another important
role of corporate foresight might be to facilitate organizational learning and thus promoting
adaptations processes .
In our process model we also agree with the expectation that foresight processes and
indeed change processes are centred around people . Thus, it is important to point out that
IT tools should not replace, but rather facilitate human interaction and induce collective
2.2 IT tools for corporate foresight
In the last 15 years the usage of IT tools in management has been fuelled in particular by
the fast development of web-based applications. It has always been the expectation that IT
tools would help to augment individual creativity, work productivity, and in particular
augment the productivity of communication . Here, IT support tools can be expected to
reduce the effort and thus hopefully increase the direct interaction of experts, leading to an
increase of opinion sharing among them . It has also been shown that large, knowledge-
intensive firms and firms that work under an open architecture framework are more likely to
adopt Web 2.0 solutions (browser-based applications with a focus on interaction and
collaboration), suggesting that IT tools create more value for these firms .
Much of the debate on IT tool usage is focused on their ability to enhance the capture,
retrieval, combination, and usage of knowledge [12, 42]. In that respect it has been shown that
IT tools have a positive impact on input-based competencies, transformation-based
competencies, and output-based competencies . Particularly Web 2.0 technologies are
expected to act as a lever for organisational learning and knowledge exchange . Further, it
can be expected that the degree of openness, freedom, and employee empowerment in
corporate environments will have an effect on how strong the positive effect of the IT tools
will be [45, 46].
From the foresight perspective Web 2.0 tools can advance foresight methodologies and
increase transparency , leading to an increased likelihood of creating impact. They also
allow integrating own employees in the insight search and the interpretation process [25, 43].
In addition, Web 2.0 has led to a faster diffusion of issues, leading to an inadequacy of
existing sensors. Using Web 2.0 tools to enhance existing sensors can however open the
opportunity for catching up with the increased pace of change, enabling again timely
responses [42, 48].
When investigating which Web 2.0 tools could be used for foresight purposes, we find
many candidates, such as prediction markets , online idea competitions , social
networks , Internet-based broadcast search tools [6, 7], real-time Delphi analysis , and
Wikis [11, 12, 49]. In addition to these more sophisticated special tools there are a number of
universal tools that can contribute functions to a foresight support system. An overview of IT
tools useful for foresight is given in Table 1.
Table 1: IT tools for foresight, an overview (extended version of )
Software application that extracts and aggregates information on
predefined topics from a selection of sources
Online libraries storing studies and reports centrally to give
access to all employees
Systems that store electronic documents centrally, in order to
enable working on them collaboratively. Includes versioning to
prevent version conflicts.
Listing of all employees, which allows searching for internal
experts and stakeholders
Platforms where user profiles around their identity, roles and
skills are presented and interaction among users is enabled. In
the foresight context they are powerful tools to share
information and facilitate interaction.
(Online) game in which players bet on ideas, concepts, etc. in a
stock-market-like fashion, leading to prediction of the
comparative value of the respective ideas and concepts.
Form of communication that allows the sending of text messages
as well as other documents instantaneously and thus speeds up
communication and interpretation of information
Systems (or functionality within a system) that assign keywords
to any kind of electronic information or files. These keywords
support the identification of related content and their
accumulation indicates trending areas.
Software program that runs a Delphi-like analysis with multiple
rounds and among a group that is connected over the Internet.
Such an analysis is usually completed within one or two days.
Web pages that can easily be edited by anyone and are used to
collaboratively create knowledge. Each user can add information
to complete previous entries or to correct wrong information,
resulting in up-to-date peer-reviewed information.
Platforms for collecting (crowdsourcing) ideas, e.g. for new
innovation projects in a competitive manner, providing intrinsic
or extrinsic incentives. They can, however also be used as a way
to scan for signals on change.
Platforms for asking online users to suggest solutions to a given
problem. Similarly to online idea competitions they can also be
used to collect signals on change, particularly suited for
monitoring a certain field.
Predefined groups that are known for their common need for
specific information. The list is the basis for the dissemination of
information to these groups.
Web sites used to regularly post new information, commentaries,
graphical elements, and videos. Particularly suited to
communicate information in fast-changing domains.
dg = data gathering, in = interpretation, re = organizational response
There is however only a limited understanding about how individual IT support tools can
be integrated into holistic foresight support systems . Most likely a combination of tools
can help to overcome weaknesses of the individual tools [51, 52]. Also, social networks can
be expected to be a central part, forming an interaction and common working platform [53,
54]. Further, group decision-making support through voting mechanisms can be expected to
be important in most foresight support systems , particularly if decision under high
uncertainty  and high impact decisions, such as mergers and acquisitions , need to be
It is important to also point out the disruptive character of the introduction of an IT
support tool. Tools are implemented to change the way people work , but one should also
beware of the potentially negative aspects. High-impact decisions can be expected to require
the agreement of multiple decision makers, which can often be achieved only through trusted
relationships and direct interaction. Therefore, it is important that the IT tools do not
discourage direct face-to-face discussions.
3 IT tools supporting foresight at Deutsche Telekom
With a number of roughly 230,000 employees and an innovation culture that encourages
them to share their ideas and insights, Deutsche Telekom (DT) has a strong need for
supportive IT tools and implemented a number of them for specific purposes. On the
corporate level especially a corporate social network (Telekom Social Network), an idea
management platform, as well as prediction market and (internal and external) idea
competition solutions enable employees (and the outside world) to participate in developing,
assessing, and implementing new ideas.
While DT is open to innovative ideas from any employee (and increasingly from outside
its organization), Telekom Innovation Laboratories (T-Labs) as DT’s research and innovation
unit have the explicit mission to generate innovative products and services for the Deutsche
Telekom Group. It is thus not surprising that innovation management at T-Labs among others
relies on foresight activities, enabling the early detection of new opportunities and threats.
Given the complexity and size of the organization as well as the volatile environment of
the telecommunication sector as such, T-Labs’ IT tools support their foresight activities across
all three foresight-process steps:
• Data Gathering: enabling a large number of contributors from inside and outside
the organization to share information (ideas, observations, insights, etc.), the IT
tools being particularly useful for handling a large quantity of information
• Interpretation: enabling multiple stakeholders to assess and judge information
from their perspectives and to participate in a dialogue with other stakeholders
• Organizational Response: enabling follow up activities, particularly with
innovation management through a direct process link.
Thus, these tools support (1) scaling the information processing capacity of the company,
(2) participation independent of geographical location, and a high reach to information users
across the globe, as well as (3) more efficient and effective means of integrating foresight
activities and results with other processes.
The T-Labs foresight tool approach is built on three primary platforms. While striving for
a single all-rounder platform seems natural (as handling an ever growing number of tools with
different user interfaces and user accounts can be a major barrier to using these tools) it is not
to be recommended and impossible in practice, where actors and processes of foresight are
spread across different organizational units and IT systems. Requirements, information needs,
sources of information, organizational structure, and stakeholders are changing continuously,
which requires flexibility in the tools’ information structuring and interfaces. Currently, three
integrated platforms support foresight and response systems at T-Labs and its parent
• A database and workflow tool for scouting and assessment of developments and
trends coming from markets and technology (PEACOQ Scouting Tool)
• An idea generation and management system building on impulses coming from
technology and market intelligence (PEACOQ Gate 0.5)
• An Intranet portal for making insights available to every DT employee and for
crowdsourcing additional information and opinions (Foresight Landing Page)
Figure 2 shows the contribution of the three platforms and how they jointly cover the
whole process from data gathering to the organizational response. Figure 2 also shows the
functional aspects of the platforms and how the platforms are integrated.
Figure 2: IT tools for foresight at T-Labs and their combined functionalities
3.2.1 PEACOQ Scouting Tool
The functions of an IT tool should be designed on the basis of a clear understanding of
quantity and type of data that it should process. While spread sheets (e.g., Microsoft Excel)
can create a quick and powerful solution, they have limits regarding the amount and types of
data they can hold and the number of stakeholders with their specific information needs they
can serve. Databases have proven to be more useful and flexible in these regards. The
foresight and R&D strategy responsible at T-Labs explains:
“In the early days of T-Labs we started scouting for developments and trends
as a means for orientation and collecting impulses from our environment. We
looked at roughly 30 such topics per quarter and discussed them with a then small
group of researchers and innovation managers. Today T-Labs have grown to a unit
with more than 350 researchers and experts and a large number of innovation
activities, and are connected to as many stakeholders across DT’s international
business units and corporate departments. For foresight purposes, we are now
processing more than 200 topics per month, serving various intelligence purposes
(including our own R&D strategy and project definition, start-up scouting for DT’s
innovation hubs, corporate risk management, etc.) and feeding into multiple
formats, e.g. market analysis for project proposals, regular trend reports, start-up
reports, or topic-specific white papers and studies for internal and external target
groups. It is inevitable to have a tool that supports managing all this information
and users and allowing processing and managing contents of different output
formats. The tool has become a hub for interaction with many of our internal and
At T-Labs, multiple sources are being used for the collection of data used for foresight
purposes. A major source is a network of internal and external scouts, who are briefed to
search for developments and trends in specified areas. They contribute their findings in the
form of topics (descriptions of a development or trend and its potential relevance for DT),
which are then discussed and assessed by groups of DT internal experts. Given that scouts and
experts are located in different countries across the globe a virtual solution for central
collection and assessment of information is needed.
Since scouts can be external professionals, this solution needs to be accessible from the
Internet. And since the multiple expert groups represent different stakeholders with different
information needs and criteria of assessments, a flexible user roles and rights management as
well as individual categorization of information are additional requirements. The database and
workflow solution supporting these requirements was developed together with a T-Labs spin-
Via a secure connection scouts are able to post their topics to the browser-based platform
and in addition the scout can provide references, categorization, tagging, and attach
documents. Topics can either be technological developments and trends or descriptions of
start-up companies and their products or services. They are structured into title, description,
innovative aspects, and maturity level.
The proposal of topics is the starting point for a workflow in which topics are assessed
and discussed, selected for follow-ups, or edited for internal publication. Workflow, user
groups, user rights, categorization, and assessment criteria are configurable and thus adaptable
to changing requirements. Throughout the workflow the status of the topic is tracked and
following steps are being triggered automatically. Currently, upon adding a new topic it will
first have the status of a “Draft”. When being happy with their work, scouts can publish their
topics into the editorial process, starting with the status of “Topic Round”. In this round topics
are filtered regarding their quality, newness, and relevance by an editor. They are either
• rejected and moved to the status “Topic Repository” immediately,
• or a rewriting or clarification is requested sending the topic back to the scout in
the status “Reply”,
• or are “Integrated” into other topics when being identical or complementing,
• or are moved to the next stage “Expert Round”.
In the expert round a group of internal experts assesses the topics, in order to discuss
these and short-list them for the “Topic Selection Round”, where the decision is being taken
which topics should be further analysed. The result of such a further analysis is a “profile”
(more detailed and actionable description of the selected topics). The profile writing process
has its own workflow. All status changes are accompanied by optional comments and email
notifications to the concerned users.
DT internal users have further personalization options, e.g. applying own categories and
tags to topics or creating “containers” for topic collections (e.g., all topics relevant for a
specific project). Topics can be forwarded to every DT colleague and the PEACOQ Scouting
Tool has interfaces to multiple systems enabling the utilization of the processed information,
e.g. for idea generation (PEACOQ Gate 0.5) or publication of insights (Foresight Landing
Page), in order to enable access to information and strategic discussions.
3.2.2 Innovation Idea Generation tool PEACOQ Gate 0.5
One overall goal of foresight is to enable early and informed decisions and triggering
organizational responses. Therefore any foresight tool should have a clear interface to follow-
up activities. IT tools can support foresight by making collected data available for such
processes that utilize the gained insights. One area of applying foresight insights is the
definition of new activities (e.g., R&D projects) through ideation and selection of best
suitable alternative approaches (e.g., alternative technologies) .
Research and development (R&D) project management at T-Labs follows a stage gate
approach, where continuation of projects requires passing the defined gates. With their so-
called Gate 0.5 tool T-Labs include ideation in their gate process, ensuring evaluation and
shaping of project ideas at an early stage. The online platform just like the Scouting Tool is a
PEACOQ implementation, but is hosted on the Intranet. Interlinking the two systems has
• Usability: look and feel are the same, the user does not have to learn two
• Accessibility: the same credentials are being used (single-sign-on); no additional
login and password are required for T-Labs employees.
• Workability: projects can be defined based on existing identified and assessed
(technological) opportunities and threats, thus turning insights into action.
• Accountability: the value contribution of foresight as such can be measured
easier when directly linked to follow-up activities .
The gate process responsible at T-Labs explains:
“T-Labs have grown bigger and are now spread across seven different
locations in three different time zones. We are also linked to many stakeholders
across Deutsche Telekom, which need to be involved in decision processes. Our
gate process consists of three gates with different committees deciding about
project proposals and projects passing each. Over time, this process has slowed
down, as bringing together all required stakeholders at the same time and place at
all stages has proven difficult. Decisive comments often have been made only,
when much work has been already spent on shaping the project’s direction. In
order to speed up the process and increase efficiency, we envisioned to bring
stakeholders together at an early stage, allowing for less formal discussions and
shaping of project ideas, thus creating an additional gate for more mature ideas –
In this tool insights from foresight can serve as impulses for new innovation project ideas
or for supporting or challenging existing ideas. The IT system supports the process by
enabling users to (1) track topics that have been collected, assessed and discussed in the
PEACOQ Scouting Tool, (2) transform them into a new idea, or (3) integrating them into
existing ideas on the PEACOQ Gate 0.5 platform. An idea consists of a title, an idea
description, a description of the technological approach, innovative aspects, and comments on
its relevance. Ideas can be further categorized following current innovation fields, and tags
and links can be added. Upon entering a new idea it will initially have the status of a “Draft”.
Idea owners can decide to publish ideas to the status “Idea”, when they feel they would like to
share it. Ideas that are no longer pursued can be moved to the status “Repository”.
After having created a new idea, based on text analysis a recommendation function
suggests related project ideas (avoiding double work or enabling synergies) and related topics
from the PEACOQ Scouting Tool (hinting at potential enablers for an idea. These
recommendations are presented as links in the meta information section of an idea entry. As
another form of recommendation, users can also forward project ideas to colleagues.
Ideas are handled like Wiki entries, allowing idea owners to invite colleagues to their
ideas for collaborative idea development. The history of all changes is logged, creating
versioning for the idea. Ideas can also be commented and rated according to the multiple
assessment criteria of the gate process. Options for filtering and sorting lists of ideas by any
criteria enable decision makers selecting candidates for new projects. Thus, the owner of the
gate process can identify mature ideas for new projects, but also has an overview of the whole
portfolio of existing ideas, which is growing by on average four ideas per week. This is
especially relevant, since ad-hoc solutions to newly arising challenges are frequently in
demand. The continuous dealing with environmental change and reflection of own activities –
but also the preservation of resulting insights in databases – supports being prepared for such
Overall, the introduction of the PEACOQ Gate 0.5 platform achieved that new project
proposals entering gate 1 have already been subject to informal processes of challenging and
shaping the original idea. This has led to less, but more mature proposals (on average two per
week) in the formal gate process (which starts at gate 1), thus lowering the work load for the
gate-committees members and leading to less immature proposals. At the same time it allows
involving a greater number of experts in the process, leading to more participation and more
promising projects. Finally, the created pool of ideas is not necessarily a “deathpool”; it is
rather a knowledge pool from which ideas can re-emerge to address future challenges.
3.2.3 Foresight Landing Page
Foresight insights should enable decision makers to make informed thus better decisions.
A major challenge lies in making information available in a suitable form to the person in
need. Online solutions do not cover every user’s needs and cannot replace face-to-face
interaction, but allow for addressing a large user base with rich content and functionalities for
search, recommendation, and interaction with this content.
Technology and start-up scouting is not the only foresight effort at T-Labs, since their
user-driven innovation approach also reveals valuable consumer insights. Further, T-Labs are
not the only DT unit running foresight activities. Hence, a number of results in the form of
topics, articles, and reports and studies exist within the Deutsche Telekom Group covering the
technology, consumer, competitor, and legal domain. A central reference platform for all
these results is therefore desirable, particularly because it can be expected that looking at
developments and trends from different perspectives enhances the consistency of the future
With their Foresight Landing Page (developed based on Drupal), T-Labs make their
foresight insights available to the whole DT Group and invite other foresighters from the
Group to share their results. The platform through its Intranet website allows hosting and
facilitating strategic discussions around foresight topics. Users can search for information and
find related content through tags and automated recommendation. Watch lists with specified
keywords can be created for receiving Email notification about new content. RSS feeds
enable consumption of the latest content via a newsreader.
Content is composed through full Blog-like articles, a start-up database, PDF reports and
studies, as well as a user-generated chart list of currently buzzing developments and trends.
This crowdsourcing approach – users of the website are encouraged to post their own topics
which they consider relevant developments or trends – complements data gathering by
scouting with the “wisdom of the crowds” , providing additional information and
perspectives. All contents can be discussed, rated, bookmarked, and forwarded to colleagues
and therefore receive additional interpretation from a wider range of perspectives. The
PEACOQ Scouting Tool serves as a content management system (CMS) for T-Labs’ own
Foresight Landing Page content via an interface, while additional content is added by other
contributors via the platform’s own CMS or as direct posts to the website. This process
addresses particularly DT colleagues from outside T-Labs (the website having on average ca.
1.500 unique visitors per month) and fosters a cross-organizational discussion of
developments, trends, and appropriate organizational responses.
Overall, the Foresight Landing Page is recognized as an information portal that is
available to every employee. For T-Labs as the corporate research and innovation unit though
it is also an important tool for creating a dialogue with decision makers across DT. The IT
tools allow thus consensus-building on which topics should get priority in the R&D pipeline.
This in turn is an important input to PEACOQ Gate 0.5 for supporting the gate decision,
linking the foresight insights directly the organizational response.
3.3 Use case Project X
A main driver for setting up foresight processes at T-Labs has been to define own
activities and to create a basis for related discussions with internal stakeholders. While tasks
such as collecting trends and opinions, communication of insights and results, or content
production and management are supported by interlinked IT-based solutions (see Figure 3:
Purposes and interfaces of T-Labs foresight tools, a major element in this regard is idea
management (supported by PEACOQ Gate 0.5), where ideas are shaped making them ready
for the internal gate process. In the following we present one exemplary use case to illustrate
how the three IT tools play together. The case is from a recently finalized project that we call
“Project X” to ensure anonymity.
Figure 3: Purposes and interfaces of T-Labs foresight tools
As a first step, a project team entered their new idea into the PEACOQ Gate 0.5 idea
management tool. Through the connection to the PEACOQ Scouting Tool, the team received
information about related developments and trends. This functionality uses a text analysis of
their idea description to identify matches with topics and start-ups that have previously been
entered in the Scouting Tool. These appear as links in the meta information section of the idea
entry, that lead to the respective entry in the Scouting Tool. The team used the information to
further shape and backup their idea by discussing proactively alternative technological
approaches and best practices of competitors.
Further, the text analysis matched related project ideas (internal ideas) that have
previously been registered in the Gate 0.5 tool. Through these matches the team had been able
to benefit from some of the discussions, which already took place inside these idea entries.
Further, they contacted the owners of some of these ideas and invited them to comment and
collaboratively edit their new idea within the tool. In that way an interest group has been
formed that jointly promoted the idea and created a formal gate proposal.
Initial proposals for Gate 1 require a market analysis backing up the relevance of a
potential activity. With an intention to use existing things rather than developing everything
from scratch, but also to make use of external talents in the process of development, this
market research usually includes a scan of existing products, services, and start-ups. In this
context, an external scout has been identified to support the process and to specifically scout
within the area defined by the project team.
These scouting results have been collected using the PEACOQ Scouting Tool. After
entering the information, these specific topics have been added to a topic collection
(container) in the Scouting Tool labelled “Project X”, which has been created for the purpose.
While all scouted information has also entered the regular foresight workflow of assessment
and selection, the separate container enabled the project team to filter topics relevant for their
specific project. An additional scan of external ideas submitted to the Telekom Innovation
Contest (running at that time using an external, Internet-based PEACOQ implementation)
produced no relevant match in this case.
With their idea having received a lot of feedback and input at an early stage, the project
team has been able to re-define their original idea smoothing out potential showstoppers they
hadn’t foreseen themselves initially. Further, by identifying and involving expert colleagues
in the process they managed not only to shape their idea, but also to gain support for it.
Finally, having had access to intelligence results enabled them to complement their market
research and their search for potential external partners. With their homework being done and
being prepared for questions from the committee, the project proposal passed Gate 1 in the
first attempt without fundamental discussions.
3.4 Lessons learned
The process of designing and implementing IT tools starts with the expectations on
positive value creation. On the downside there are however also effects such as the reduction
of face-to-face communication that might reduce the overall level of interaction and
potentially the level of trust.
To counterbalance the potentially negative effects of the tools we continued to use face-
to-face workshops particularly for occasions where controversial discussions were expected
or where commitment had to be built. It should further be mentioned that participants in the
foresight activities were mostly also working in other roles that would involve meeting with
other foresight participants frequently, thus the trusted relationship could be built and
maintained also through interaction on these other issues.
In addition there are also barriers that are associated with IT tool introduction in general.
A frequent one is the general aversion to “yet another tool”, that build on both the scepticism
that a tool can solve problems and the overload with IT tools, that require their own login and
password, user interfaces, and incompatibilities. To lower this barrier it was aimed to
integrate (e.g., with a single-sign-on and interfaces to other tools, reducing the need to create
redundant entries) where possible. A major success factor here is to respect user preferences
regarding the access to tools. Recently, the wide adaption of Internet-connected mobile
devices (smartphones, tablets) changed communication and information behaviour and at the
same time presented new opportunities for user involvement. The development of mobile
views for both, PEACOQ Scouting Tool and Scouting Landing Page has resulted in an
increase of interaction. The possibility to scout on-the-go and post new topics from a mobile
phone has increased the contribution of topics coming from DT colleagues. The possibility to
access information on the Scouting Landing Page via a page adjusted to the user interface of a
mobile device has increased overall interaction on the site.
Another barrier in the implementation has been security requirement. Particularly large
corporate organizations such as DT have strict requirements regarding security and
compliance of IT tools accessible by a large number of corporate users. Foresight tools can
contain sensitive data concerning both the corporate strategy as well as personal information
of employees. Security requirements as well as regulations regarding privacy and barrier-free
access (e.g., for the visually impaired) need to be considered. An early involvement of the
regulating bodies (in case of T-Labs their own IT department, as well as the corporate Group
Security, Group Privacy, and workers’ council) is imperative for a smooth implementation
and release of tools.
Concerning the use of tools another barrier is the constant change of the organization
itself. While the development of a tool requires time (and financial resources), requirements
and stakeholders may have changed at the time of its release. A flexible design, allowing for
fast re-configuration (e.g., of information structure, categories, workflows, assessment
criteria, user groups, and interfaces to other tools) can reduce the negative impact of this
Another barrier observed at DT is the general issue of different languages. As a
multinational corporation, DT’s corporate language is English. However, with the major part
of its employees being based in Germany acceptance of information provided in English is
not always given. It can discourage colleagues from participating in discussions, and in
consequence limiting their impact. Partly, this barrier can be overcome by Content
Management Systems that allow for multilingual content offerings. While in our case the
amounts of information prevented to provide full content in multiple languages, some
elements such as teasers of selected content as well as newsletters have been provided
bilingual, increasing the reach of information and inviting contributions in other languages
than English. A further possibility to help surmount language barriers is the instant-translation
function that is now offered by many Web browsers.
3.5 Value creation
When considering the value contributions of IT tools a first assessment can be made by
judging their contribution to overcoming the barriers in a generic foresight process that we
have presented in Figure 1.
1. Detecting change: The Scouting Tool allows posting reports on change when
they are still in the stage of a weak signal, as the transaction cost associated with
posting topics is comparatively low. In addition, the integration of the tools allows
guiding the weak signal search by feeding information about the most interesting
innovation areas into the scouting process.
2. Judging change: The Scouting Tool and the Foresight Landing page facilitate
participatory assessment of developments and trends and thus allow involving a
wide range of expertise and perspectives. This can be expected to increase the
likelihood that the relevance of change is perceived.
3. Convincing decision-makers: Bringing open expert discussions and assessments
into the pre-stage of strategy processes and innovation activities create “noise” in
a democratic fashion and can be expected to grab attention of decision-makers.
This early exposure of decision-makers to future related information can be
expected to facilitate the following decision-making process. In addition, the tools
also support the formalized decision making process along the gate-process
(through the Scouting Tool and the Gate 0.5 tool).
4. Planning response: The integrated tools allow maintaining the links from the
final strategic or innovation-management-related decisions to the related
information. That allows the person or unit responsible for the organizational
response to access the rich information that has been collected through scouting,
generated through the feedback processes or inserted through other units in DT.
5. Act: The integrated IT tools also support potentially bridging the gap between the
planned and the enacted response. Through the invitation of a wide range of
employees the likelihood is increased that employees responsible for taking action
might have participated in the discussion about the future-related insight. This can
then be expected to increase the feeling of ownership and thus increase the
motivation and commitment.
Overall we can conclude from this assessment that IT tools can be expected to contribute
to lowering all barriers associated with a generic foresight process. This contribution is
however probably moderated by factors such as corporate culture and communication
tradition (particularly, whether formal or informal communication channels have been
dominant in the past).
In addition, the IT tools reinforce the value contributions that are associated with
foresight activities in general. In the following we want to look particularly at four value
creation dimensions [2, 58, 60, 61]:
• Creating a perception and awareness of environmental change and potential
disruptions coming from it, thus reducing uncertainty
• Enabling the interpretation of change and the use of gained insights for strategic
and innovation management, e.g. for (re-)defining R&D projects
• Facilitating organizational learning and supporting the adaptation of the
organization to external changes
• Influencing others to act and enabling response to change.
In the case of DT the major contributions lie in the tools’ capabilities to involve more
internal and external experts, thus increasing the breadth and depth of discussion and
enhancing the organizational perception. More specifically, external scouts can share their
insights into markets and technologies via the PEACOQ Scouting Tool, while internal experts
and stakeholders share their insights through PEACOQ and the Foresight Landing page.
Interpretation is particularly enhanced through the Foresight Landing Page which serves
as an additional interaction platform. The Foresight Landing Page enables engaging in open
discussions and collaborative assessment of future related information. The communication
capabilities via Blog-like articles, document collections, RSS feeds, mailing lists, etc. create
the desired awareness of change and lay the foundation for an organizational response.
Almost as a by-product the IT tools also support the consolidation of corporate
terminology, because more and more employees refer to the entries in the tools, search and
retrieve information and recommend topics to their peers by using the terminology used in the
tool, or insisting that the terminology should be changed. Such a consolidation of terminology
is particularly valuable in new knowledge domains, where the taxonomy is not settled, yet.
This can be regarded as an important aspect and starting point of organizational learning.
Furthermore, the IT tools can help providing a platform for collaborative defining and
sharpening of important concepts, particularly through wikis and tagging functionalities.
Tagging also helps to avoid information overload by supporting filtering of relevant
information for specific purposes.
Finally, integrating tools that create insight (e.g., PEACOQ Scouting Tool) with tools that
make use of these insights (e.g., for the purpose of idea generation PEACOQ Gate 0.5) the IT
platform suite ensures that foresight insights are being turned into action, i.e. an
organizational response is being triggered.
In addition to supporting the overall value creation from corporate foresight there are
further positive impacts from IT tools, in particular:
• enhanced knowledge management by supporting knowledge capture, creation,
retrieval, combination and usage
• increased transparency, through open information sharing, connecting people to
pieces of information, and storage of data
• increased work productivity for all involved actors: scouts, foresighters, and
• increased communication productivity, reducing the cost, while increasing
information flow between scouts, foresighters, and internal stakeholders.
The knowledge management dimension is the most difficult to assess, as it is generally
difficult to assess the quality and quantity of knowledge. Tentatively however we could
confirm a positive effect, particularly through the database and the social network, acting as
both an always-available knowledge pool for the former and a way to connect to knowledge
quickly and efficiently for the latter.
The connecting of information with the people who have supplied it also increased the
transparency. Further, the life-cycle from perception, interpretation to usage of future signals
becomes increasingly traceable. This can also be expected to have a positive effect on
transparency and in consequence to be positively related to the level of trust towards
The most clear positive impacts can be attributed to the increase in productivity both
related to work and communication. For the scouts the PEACOQ Scouting Tool provides a
lean way of communicating their findings, discussing with their peers and drafting their topic
profiles. Without the tool these tasks would have to be performed on the basis of Email
communication, spread-sheet workflow tracking and documents that are drafted in word-
processing software. The PEACOQ Scouting Tool also supports the workflow of the
foresighters who can categorize, review and select topics. Where the tool however mostly
pays of is through its enhanced collaboration functions with internal stakeholders. Through
the social networking, the tagging and blogging and the wikis it supports a platform for rich
interaction and collaborative knowledge creation.
With this article we hope to contribute to the debate about how different IT tools can be
integrated to form a powerful foresight support system. For describing and discussing the
Deutsche Telekom approach we build on eight years of experience with corporate foresight
and support tools. It should however also be noted that the system design, described in this
article, has been built over time and thus length of the experience with the different parts
Overall, we feel confident that we can confirm a positive impact from the IT tools on
productivity of scouts, foresighters, and internal stakeholders, on lowering the barriers
associated with a generic foresight process as well as a positive impact on the general value
creation from corporate foresight.
When looking back on the successful and unsuccessful changes in the IT tools there are
also four general recommendations that we can put forward for firms that aim to implement
foresight support systems:
• Ensure sufficient integration of internal customers/stakeholders in the
interpretation phase to lay the foundation for the organizational response
• Ensure easy access to the tools, ideally through a single-sign on through the
corporate Intranet and mobile access
• Plan sufficient effort for coaching the users on tool usage and for moderating the
discussion within the tool
• Supplement the tool implementation with sufficient off-line workshops and
trainings to trigger early buy-in and continuously high level of trust between the
5 Future development trajectories
Finally, we would like to share some thoughts on how foresight support systems might
develop in the future.
The first development trajectory relates to open innovation. In the past we have seen an
increasing interest to reduce cost and increase leverage of own R&D activities through
opening up the innovation process [62-67]. Likewise, the foresight activities can potentially
profit from collaborating with others. In our case the collaboration with the European Institute
for Innovation and Technology and its ICT division provides a platform for insight sharing
and cross-validation .
Another trajectory rather relates to a paradigm shift in innovation management at
Deutsche Telekom, but could also be representative for other firms in fast moving
environments. With increasing industry clockspeed and a reduction of predetermination
through shorter development cycles the payoff of R&D becomes increasingly uncertain [68-
70]. This leads many firms to seek partners for risk sharing and joint investing in innovation
opportunities. For that reason Deutsche Telekom is using increasingly a venturing model to
drive R&D in new innovation fields . Foresight insights will thus in the future not only be
used and tailored to Deutsche Telekom innovation fields but also towards internal and
external start-up companies.
A third trajectory relates to the development of capabilities for faster identification of
innovation opportunities and their consecutive planning. The benefit of planning innovation
and creating commitment through roadmapping has been known for many years .
However, more recently roadmapping has been discussed as a way for translating future
opportunities on the market and technology side into innovation projects  that potentially
are even developed and exploited through inter-firm collaboration.
The approach could be extended to also allow IT-based roadmapping, enhancing
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7.1 René Rohrbeck
René Rohrbeck is Associate Professor for Strategy. His research interests are corporate
foresight, 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.
7.2 Nico Thom
Nico Thom is a foresight practitioner at T-Labs spin-off Schaltzeit, “empowering
corporate foresight” at large and medium-sized organizations. His focus is on defining
specific foresight requirements, development of suitable concepts, as well as support in
implementation and operations of methods and tools of (corporate) foresight, including
Nico Thom holds a diploma degree in business administration from Technische
Universität Berlin. From 2006 to 2012 he has been responsible for the foresight activities of
Telekom Innovation Laboratories as well as for the setup of foresight activities at EIT ICT
Labs, an innovation initiative of the European Parliament. Prior to that he worked as a
consultant in the automotive and medical industry.
7.3 Heinrich Arnold
Dr. Heinrich Arnold heads up Innovation and Laboratories at Deutsche Telekom AG with
locations in Germany, Israel, and Silicon Valley. Under his leadership, a number of
significant contributions to products and infrastructures have been created. A number of
businesses have their origins at the Innovation Development organization as well as start-ups,
such as Zimory, Yoochoose, QiSec, Spree, Schaltzeit, MisterX. Prior to this, he was involved
in large-scale organizational and strategic projects.
Dr. Arnold is a lecturer in Innovation Management, the author of the scientific book
„Technology Shocks" on the management of radical technological change, and a member of
the Innovation Leadership Advisory Boards of the School of Engineering at the University of
Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He has been invited to the Young Global, European, and national
Leader Forums of the BMW Quandt Foundation.