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Strategic Foresight activities enable companies to use weak signals to identify opportunities and threats. Research on Strategic Foresight proposes different methods, discusses their implementation and gives recommendations on how to link Strategic Foresight with other functions in an organization. Based on a literature review, we define a generic framework for the management of Strategic Foresight activities on the strategic, tactical and operational level and identify and discuss actors, methods and systems of Strategic Foresight. Building on an in-depth case study of the Deutsche Telekom Laboratories we shed light on the implementation of Strategic Foresight activities. In the discussion we focus on the interaction of methods from Consumer Foresight and Technology Intelligence. Taking an example project, we explore how Strategic Foresight is used on the operational level of innovation management. We conclude that Strategic Foresight can successfully contribute to coping with uncertainty and complexity and can feed the front-end of innovation from the market (customer needs) and technology (realization opportunities) perspective.
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ISPIM-Asia 2007 conference, New Delhi, India – 9th-12th January 2007
Strategic Foresight in multinational enterprises – a
case study on the Deutsche Telekom Laboratories
René Rohrbeck
Deutsche Telekom Laboratories, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, 10587 Berlin,
Germany.
E-mail: rene.rohrbeck@telekom.de
Heinrich M. Arnold
Deutsche Telekom Laboratories, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, 10587 Berlin,
Germany.
E-mail: heinrich.arnold@telekom.de
Jörg Heuer
Deutsche Telekom Laboratories, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, 10587 Berlin,
Germany.
E-mail: joerg.heuer@telekom.de
Abstract: Strategic Foresight activities enable companies to use weak signals
to identify opportunities and threats. Research on Strategic Foresight proposes
different methods, discusses their implementation and gives recommendations
on how to link Strategic Foresight with other functions in an organization.
Based on a literature review, we define a generic framework for the
management of Strategic Foresight activities on the strategic, tactical and
operational level and identify and discuss actors, methods and systems of
Strategic Foresight.
Building on an in-depth case study of the Deutsche Telekom Laboratories we
shed light on the implementation of Strategic Foresight activities. In the
discussion we focus on the interaction of methods from Consumer Foresight
and Technology Intelligence. Taking an example project, we explore how
Strategic Foresight is used on the operational level of innovation management.
We conclude that Strategic Foresight can successfully contribute to coping with
uncertainty and complexity and can feed the front-end of innovation from the
market (customer needs) and technology (realization opportunities) perspective.
Keywords: strategic foresight, consumer foresight, technology foresight,
technology intelligence, market foresight, trend analysis, future studies, future
analysis, telecommunication industry.
Biographical notes: René Rohrbeck is senior researcher at the Deutsche
Telekom Laboratories (T-Labs) and associate researcher at Berlin Technical
University’s Institute for Innovation and Technology Management. At the T-
Labs he also coordinates the Technology Intelligence activities. His research
interests are Strategic Foresight, Technology Scouting, Roadmapping and
University-Industry Collaborations. Before joining the T-Labs, Rohrbeck
worked as a business development manager for a technology consultancy and
two years as a management consultant in the automobile industry.
Strategic Foresight in multinational enterprises 2
Dr. Heinrich Arnold heads the Innovation Development Laboratory of
Deutsche Telekom Laboratories. Prior to this, he was involved in large-scale
organizational and strategic projects at Deutsche Telekom. Before joining
Deutsche Telekom AG, he worked for an International Management
Consultancy Firm and was on the executive board of a German/Chinese
research company. Arnold studied Technical Physics at Munich Technical
University. He has a Master of Science in Engineering from Stanford
University, a Master of Business Research from Ludwig Maximilians
University in Munich and MIT Sloan School of Management and a Ph.D. in
Technology Management. Dr. Arnold is a lecturer in Innovations 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.
Jörg Heuer started his career at Deutsche Telekom working for an engineering
subsidiary where he designed and led more than 30 projects for all divisions of
the Deutsche Telekom group. Currently, Heuer is responsible for Technology
Exploration and the publication of a periodical report on technology
developments for CTO/ CMO level management and innovation departments
of the Deutsche Telekom group. He specializes in AAA (Authentication,
Authorization, Accounting) and is responsible for managing the ‘Overarching
AAA Programme’ of the group’s innovation department. Jörg Heuer holds a
Masters Degree in Computer Science from Berlin Technical University and
worked in research on massively parallel computers and software engineering
at Germany’s National Research Center for Computer Science before
embarking on a career in the industry.
1 Introduction
As new technologies, new services and new customer trends emerged, companies in
many industries had to watch their profits eroding and their entire business models being
threatened. This is by no means a new phenomenon. The industrial revolution substituted
millions of weavers with the mechanical loom, replaced horsepower with steam engines
and made manual work in many places dispensable. In recent years, troubled industries
include photography, which was largely unprepared for the technological discovery of the
digital camera, print media, where for example the publishers of encyclopaedias were
caught off guard by the impact of the Internet or the Wikipedia phenomenon, and
telecommunications, which is faced with the threat of Voice over IP.
To discover threats in time, companies have to use weak signals in their periphery.
Day and Shoemaker use the example of two breweries to illustrate the importance of
weak signals. The first company – Anheuser-Busch – identified the health-living trend
early on and successfully introduced a low-calorie beer, thus capturing 5-7% of the light-
beer market. Its main competitor, Coors, not having understood the potential, was slow to
react to the market shift and did not follow suit until two years later. [1].
ISPIM-Asia 2007 conference, New Delhi, India – 9th-12th January 2007 3
2 Definition
Scientific classification
The research on the future and how to deal with it has evolved over time to include an
increasing number of aspects. A classification of the research fields is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Scientific classification of research on Future Studies
Source: Own figure
In the 1970s, research conducted on the subject was termed Forecasting and focused on
methods for predicting the future with modeling and econometric techniques, mainly
using data from the past [2]. These methods included trend extrapolation, S-curves, trend
curves, and patent and publication analysis.
Foresight broadened the scope of research to incorporate methods that enable
networking for information gathering, assessment and interpretation, and methods that
support decision making [3]. Furthermore, Foresight includes research on the capacity of
organizations to cope with the future [4]. Both Forecasting and Foresight techniques have
been investigated on a company level and on a regional, national and supranational level,
such as economic areas.
In the 1990s, the scope of research was broadened by including the organization and
the processes of the future investigation. The term Strategic Foresight was developed to
refer to research focused on the company level. [5-7]. Today, to a large extent, Future
Analysis has substituted Strategic Foresight as the preferred term [8-11]. In this article we
use the term Strategic Foresight to emphasize the focus on the company level only.
Elements or Strategic Foresight
Strategic Foresight uses weak signals from science and technology and from the political,
socio-cultural and competitive environment. There has been extensive research on future-
related intelligence activities in these specific fields and we would, therefore, like to point
out the main research fields which have been incorporated into Strategic Foresight. These
elements of Strategic Foresight are shown in Figure 2.
Technology Intelligence deals with the identification, assessment and usage of weak
signals and information about emerging technologies and technological
discontinuities [12-14].
Company
level
Regional/ national
and supranational
level
Company
level
Regional/ national
and supranational
level
Using data from the
past to anticipate the
future
Using gathered
informatio n for
decision making
Process and
actors Organization
Future Analysis
Strategic Foresight
Foresight
Forecasting
Strategic Foresight in multinational enterprises 4
Competitive Intelligence deals with the assessment of competitors and the
identification and assessment of products and services in development or already
available in lead markets [15-18].
Political Environment Foresight deals with the identification, assessment and usage
of information on legislation, the political environment and on shifts in the political
landscape [1, 5]. This element is particularly critical in highly regulated industries
such as the infrastructure of the food industry. At first, genetically modified food
appeared to have a great deal of potential. However, the introduction of tight
regulations led to a significant drop in sales.
Consumer Foresight deals with the identification, assessment and anticipation of
consumer needs as well as lifestyle and socio-cultural trends.
Figure 2: Elements of Strategic Foresight
Source: Own figure
Definition of Strategic Foresight
Strategic Foresight deals with the identification, assessment and usage of weak
signals to recognize and give warning about threats and opportunities at an early stage.
Sources of weak signals are the political, socio-cultural and competitive environments as
well as science and technology. Strategic Foresight defines the methods, the actors, the
process and the system needed to enhance the competitive position of a company.
Strategic Foresight can be directed (monitoring, issue driven) or undirected (scanning)
[12, 19].
3 Coordination of market and technology perspective
The four elements of Strategic Foresight can be divided up further into two perspectives.
The perspectives often correspond to the activities of the various actors involved in
Strategic Foresight
Identification, assessment and usage of
information on emerging technologies and
technological discontinuities
Assessment of competitors and identification
and assessment of products and service in
development or available in lead markets
Identification, assessment and anticipation of
consumer needs, lifestyle and socio-cultural
trends
Competitive Intelligence Consumer Foresight
Technology Intelligence Political Environment Foresight
Identification, assessment and usage of
information on legislation, the political
environment and on shifts in political will
ISPIM-Asia 2007 conference, New Delhi, India – 9th-12th January 2007 5
strategic foresight. Therefore, the restructuring of perspectives is helpful when analyzing
the coordination of different activities, actors and methods within the organization.
The two perspectives shown in Figure 3 are the market perspective, which
incorporates the Competitive Intelligence, Consumer Foresight and Political Environment
Foresight elements and the technology perspective, which consists of Technology
Intelligence.
Figure 3: Integration of the two perspectives of Strategic Foresight
Source: Own figure
The two perspectives can be integrated in three different ways. Firstly, by bringing the
different actors together. Secondly, by applying methods designed to combine the data
generated in the two perspectives. And thirdly, by using systems which integrate the
perspectives. These systems can be IT-solutions or organizational systems such as staff
units, which analyze the information generated in the two perspectives and compose an
integrated report.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the expected gains from integrating the two
perspectives. However, there are also barriers to overcome while attempting to do so [20-
25]. In the end, the success of the integration will depend on bringing the actors together
through tailored methods and systems adapted to company specific requirements.
4 Actors
In recent years, the individual actor has become the focal point of innovation
management research. The two research streams have been the Champions of Innovation
and the Promoters of Innovation [26]. This research has shown that the actions of a few
individuals, rather than the innovation system itself, are crucial to the success of
innovations.
The same applies to the Strategic Foresight activities of Deutsche Telekom AG and
their successful implementation in order to give early warning signs and to stimulate
innovation. Figure 4 shows the different Strategic Foresight actors at Deutsche Telekom
AG. The Strategic Foresight activities conducted by these actors are mostly directed by
specific issues, which need to be acted upon. In order to decide upon the course of action,
Strategic Foresight
Market perspective Technology perspective
Integrating elements
Methods
Actors
Competitive Intelligence
Consumer Foresight
Political Environment
Foresight Systems
Technology Intelligence
Strategic Foresight in multinational enterprises 6
information is usually gathered, analyzed and, after a conclusion has been reached, the
data is usually distributed.
On the other hand, there are three units which scan in an undirected way. These units
are:
Product & Service Exploration, which is dedicated to the identification of products
and services available in lead markets,
Customer Exploration, which uses methods such as ICT diaries, socio-cultural
studies and trend analysis to identify latent and emerging customer needs, and
Technology Exploration, which scans for emerging technologies.
All three units publish scanning reports, which are available throughout Deutsche
Telekom AG. The way these reports are disseminated has a strong information-push
character: readers cannot state what information they require or how comprehensive it
should be. There are, however, some information-pull mechanisms in place. Deutsche
Telekom AG business units can request workshops or interviews on the scanning results.
Figure 4: Strategic Foresight Actors at Deutsche Telekom AG
Source: Own figure based on case study
5 Methods
The methods of Strategic Foresight can be differentiated according to the areas in which
they are applied, as shown in Figure 5. A case study of Deutsche Telekom AG and a
literature review in the area of Competitive Intelligence identified the market-oriented
methods [16, 17, 27]. The Deutsche Telekom AG mainly uses an international scouting
network for Technology Intelligence [28, 29]. For this reason, the Technology
Intelligence methods are mainly determined through the literature [13, 30-32]. as the
Deutsche Telekom AG is using mainly an international scouting network for Technology
Market
perspective
Technology
perspective
Cross-functional
Strategic
Operational
Strategic
Tactical
Operational
Innovation
Strategy
Technology and
Platform Strategy
Strategic R&D
projects
Project
Management Technology ExpertProduct Manager
Technology
Exploration
Customer
Exploration
Product & Service
Exploration
ISPIM-Asia 2007 conference, New Delhi, India – 9th-12th January 2007 7
Intelligence [28, 29]. The integrating methods are discussed as a powerful means to
overcome the barriers between market and technology perspective [33] as well as
between strategic, tactical and operational planning [34]. The most commonly used
integrating methods are roadmapping [35-38] and the scenario technique [39-41].
Figure 5: Methods of Strategic Foresight
Source: Own figure based on Rohrbeck, Gemünden (2006) [34]
6 Strategic Foresight for operational innovation management
Case setting
To identify how Strategic Foresight stimulates new innovation activities we analyzed a
Deutsche Telekom Laboratories (T-Labs) project. T-Labs are part of the central
‘Innovation, Research, and Development’ unit of Deutsche Telekom AG. The T-Labs
research and develop new information and communication technologies and services,
allowing the Deutsche Telekom Group to generate new business and expand its existing
operations.
Methodological Background
To identify the distinct activities which led to the successful launch of the project, we
used the four steps for the front end of innovation defined in the barrier paradigm of
Gemünden [42]:
In the idea generation step an individual has to recognize the innovation potential of
their idea.
Customer diaries
Ethnographic Study
Socio-cultural Currents
Customer Scenarios
Focus Topics
Qualitative Survey
Quantitative Survey
Competitor Analysis
Trend Report
Lead-User Analysis
Lead-Market Analysis
Market-oriented methods Technology-oriented methods
Integrating methods
Roadmapping
Scenario Technique
Quality Function
Deployment
Internal Delphi Study
Technological
Competitor Analysis
Technology Scouting
Publication Analysis
Patent Analysis
Conference Analysis
S-Curve Analysis
Delphi Studies
Learning Curve
Option Pricing Models
Simulations
Benchmarking
Strategic Foresight in multinational enterprises 8
In the idea communication step he shares the idea with co-workers, superiors or
external friends or family.
The next step is the concept development where usually the definition of the
expected outcome, the project planning and the budgeting is taking place. Especially
in this phase the contributions of promoters is essential [26].
The final step to successfully incorporating the innovation impulse in the product
development is the project proposal and its acceptance.
To deepen the understanding of the sequence of actions we differentiated them into
market, technology and integrative activities.
Sequence of activities
The sequence of activities that lead to the project’s initiation is shown in Figure 6. In the
case study there were two simultaneous Strategic Foresight activities in the idea
generation step.
Figure 6: Sequence of activities
Source: Own figure based on case study
Firstly, the consumer exploration unit published an opinion paper detailing the way
groups of people get together on the Internet to solve their specific problems, thereby
adding their solution to the portfolio of solutions available on the Internet and eventually
causing a much larger trend (like the world wide web itself, which started as a solution
for researchers at the “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire – (CERN)”).
Secondly, the technology exploration unit issued a report on multi-channel
communication. Different modes of communication such as telephoning, e-mail and text
messaging require very different devices and services, are handled differently and involve
different ways of addressing one’s peers. So this trend was described as asking for more
Market
perspective
Technology
perspective
Cross-functional
Operational
Idea
communication
Concept
development
Project
proposal
Consumer Assessment:
„Communication behavior
in online and offline
communities“
Technology Assessment:
„Application enabling and
delivery environment“
Consumer Exploration:
„Subcultures create
trends“
Joined Wor kshop:
„Facilitate communication
in online and offline
communities“
Technology Exploration:
„Mult i-Channe l
communication”
Idea
generation
Project Proposal:
„Toolkit for 3
rd
party
communities“
1
2
3
4
ISPIM-Asia 2007 conference, New Delhi, India – 9th-12th January 2007 9
than what Unified Messaging Services (UMS) could deliver: the integration of devices,
addressing schemes, communication logic and finally products.
The idea communication step consisted of trend workshops, which are organized
regularly by the technology exploration unit. Participants are innovation strategists,
technology experts and product managers from different business units. During the one-
day event, impulses from technology, customer and market exploration were combined to
identify business requirements and long-term strategic visions.
An analysis of the impulses and the discussion led to the idea of investigating the
potential and feasibility of a service that would “facilitate communication in online and
offline communities”.
Concept development was again divided into two sections: customer analysis and
technology analysis. A sociological and market analysis was conducted in the customer
analysis part. In the technology part, the feasibility was assessed, key enabling
technologies, such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) were identified, and frameworks
such as the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) were analyzed.
The final project proposal was than refined into a “toolkit for 3rd party communities”
that would deliver service building blocks designed to enhance communication within
and between communities.
Outcome of the project
The project’s first prototype was ‘Saturday Night Swarming’, a service enabling party
communities to share photos and video clips and set up joint activities through an
intuitive interface on their mobile phones. The second prototype, ‘Sports Moms’, allows
mothers to co-ordinate sporting activities with household chores and parental duties in
real time.
The exploration of potential business models and sociological patterns of
communication has enabled T-Labs to take a strong position in the definition of
requirements for future services platforms. These requirements are reflected in
standardization work, discussions with vendors and attempts to influence the industry’s
mindset in conferences and talks within and outside the telecommunications industry.
7 Conclusion
Implications for practitioners
Our case study established one possible way to include Strategic Foresight in the front-
end of operational innovation management. In this example, the innovation initiative
came from an impulse originating in internal units which specialize in scanning for
customer needs and emerging technologies. A second way to successfully use Strategic
Foresight in this context would be to enable R&D managers or R&D project leaders to
build up their own foresight capabilities. A third way would be to use external
consultants to scan for impulses.
Regardless of the method chosen, companies must make sure that the front-end of
their new product development is receptive enough to absorb these impulses.
Strategic Foresight in multinational enterprises 10
Suggestions for further research
Much research has been done by scholars into the field of foresight. However, up until
now, no consistent frameworks incorporating actors, methods and systems have been
proposed. One question in particular, which remains unanswered, is how to structure
Strategic Foresight activities in order to maximize a company’s creativity and innovative
capacity.
For this reason, we believe it is important and valuable to identify more successful
cases, broaden the scope of research and incorporate the sophisticated creativity and
collaboration tools emerging today within the Web 2.0 environment. Tools that could be
used include social tagging, automated and collaborative information filtering, agent-
based issue analysis and the usage of virtual worlds, such as second life for consumer
foresight.
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... The survey results regarding input-related research questions reveal that methods to prioritize input factors are lacking, especially for the prioritization of emerging technologies and environmental changes (Figure 4). This is in accordance with actual research activities in the field of strategic foresight, covering technology intelligence and political environment foresight as fundamental elements [44]. Opposed to this, more research results are already in place for the identification and prioritization of customer needs as well as internal service needs. ...
Conference Paper
The service sector is the most important and fastest growing business sector of developed countries nowadays. However, a lack of conceptual foundation for service science and service innovation is identified. This paper aims at closing this gap, indicating important topics for future research in the field of service innovation. A research portfolio, classifying research questions to be addressed, is developed on the basis of a conceptual framework for service innovation research. The portfolio characterizes research topics and challenges regarding "rigor and relevance", thus enhancing the scientific base of service innovation. A three step approach is utilized to generate the portfolio. First, a general service innovation and transformation model is developed. This model is based on general systems theory, following an ITO (input - throughput - output) approach, including a feedback loop as well as environmental aspects. The model outlines relevant aspects for the generation and exploitation of service innovations. Second, related research questions are derived from literature and interviews with experts. The research questions are assigned to corresponding sections of the service innovation transformation model. Third, a wide-spread survey among service researchers is conducted. The survey provides the basis to build the research portfolio, allocating each single research question. Summarizing the findings from the survey and the insights depicted in the research portfolio, specific research challenges to enhance the knowledge base of service innovation are shown. Among other important topics, the results reveal a need for further research regarding strategic foresight, design thinking, technology adaption, and service innovation evaluation.
... En "Strategic Foresight in multinational enterprises -a case study on the Deutsche Telekom Laboratories" (Rohrbeck, R., Arnold H. M. u Heuer, J., 2007) se resalta que las actividades estratégicas de prospectiva permiten a las empresas detectar señales débiles (weak signals) para identificar oportunidades y amenazas. Pero tambien basándose en un estudio de caso en profundidad de los laboratorios de Deutsche Telekom, se ofrecen recomendaciones sobre cómo vincular la prospectiva estratégica con otras funciones en una organización y tomando un proyecto de ejemplo, se explora cómo la prospectiva estratégica se utiliza en el nivel operacional de la gestión de la innovación. ...
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Chapter
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