How to Implement an Environmental Scanning System

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ESS

How to Implement an Environmental Scanning System in Your Organization

By Likeable Environmental Scanning Systems on the Network (Lesson)




Part I

Why You Need an Environmental Scanning System

Introduction:
The purpose of this book is to provide a step by step approach to implementing an
Environmental Scanning System (ESS). This book will start with a basic definition of an
ESS and outline the benefits a company can gain by utilizing an ESS. This book will also
provide information that will help justify the financial considerations when implementing
an ESS. Finally, the goal of the authors is to provide all of the information necessary so
that a reader can design, purchase, and implement and ESS.


1.What is an ESS
An ESS is a tool that scans the environment of a particular industry, collects important
information, and then displays that information in the form of management reports that can
be used to enhance decision-making. More specifically, an ERA III ESS utilizes the
convergence of key technologies in order to provide comprehensive information about the
internal and external business environment. This objective is accomplished using the
Internet/Extranet/Intranet technologies as a base from which links are established to
various databases where data are extracted and loaded into a centralized ESS database.
This data is retrieved by various users via a user-friendly interface utilizing a GUI and
point and click technology. The primary goal of an ESS is to provide good up to date
reliable information that can be used to assist management in decision making and planning
with regards to the organization and its goals.


An ESS is based on hardware and software, but the key ingredient that makes it possible
for an ESS to help an organization to better its decision-making process is people. A
corporate network, within an ESS context, will allow your company to integrate concepts
such as real-time, one-to-one marketing, interactive learning, dynamic strategy planning,
and business simulation among others. An ESS will allow you to be more competitive, more
creative, and more prepared for the new global and digital economy.


II. Why you need one
In order for a company to stay ahead of the competition and at the same time stay up to
date with current trends and technologies, an ESS must be implemented. With the vast
amount of competition out there, management must utilize every tool available to them to
assist in their endeavors in staying on top. An ESS will help management in the early
detection of possible organizational impacts, which can be either threats or
opportunities, and allow them to take proactive steps to ensure that these events will
impact their company in a positive way.


Given the difficulty of making successful decisions that impact the future, an ESS will
reduce the risk involved by providing reliable information. As you are aware, success can
depend on the speed to the market and the ability to make changes that take advantage of
business trends. An ESS will provide this kind of competitive advantage. Most importantly,
companies need an ESS because knowledge is power and knowledge will be gained through the
implementation and use of a quality ESS.


Some specific reasons why you should have an ESS are:

1. Global Access. An ESS, combined with the Internet and some security measures, would
allow anyone with Internet access to ingress to the system and have access to the
information needed at any given time. If wanted, wireless technology could be used to
allow access from PDAs and cellular phones.


2. User Friendly. Anyone who knows how to use an Internet browser (Netscape or MS Internet
Explorer) would be able to access the system, its information and to interact with the
people within the ESS. THIS POINT IS VALID ONLY IF WE AGREE ON SUGGESTING WEB BASED
TECHNOLOGY AS THE BASE FOR THE ESS. Very valid point, it is my opinion that web based
technology is at the heart of an era III ESS

3. Bajo costo. The costs associated with the design and implementation of an ESS are not
only low, but also they can be easily amortized over a 10-year period, making an ESS an
investment with an excellent cost-benefit ratio.

4. Real-Time information.
5. Interactive and permanent training.
6. Vanishing of islands of information.
7. Costs reduction.
8. On-time distribution of critical business information.
9. On-time access to reports and problem inquires.
10. Optimum feed-back mechanism
11. To gain accurate understanding of your organizations strengths and limitations
12. To identify the potential opportunities and threats to an organization implied by trends, events, or situations.
13. To provide a basis for analysis of future investments
14. For detecting important economic, social, technological, environmental trends, situation and events.

The following is a list of some common problems associated with collecting and using
information in the decision-making process that could be resolved with the use of an ESS:


a) Difficulties storing and accessing printed information.
b) Proprietary and incompatible file formats.
c) Expensive, complex and unfriendly visualization tools (interfaces)
d) Expensive information actualization processes.
e) High costs of printing high volumes of information, that soon becomes obsolete.
f) Delays when accessing critical business information.
g) Duplicated information at several departments.
h) Failure to incorporate diverse sources of information and diverse viewpoints
i) Failure to consider both external and internal perspectives
j) Failure to triangulate by using multiple methods
k) Failure to triangulate by viewing data through different "lenses" (e.g., social, economic, ethical, etc.)
l) Failure to consider micro-environment/macro-environment interactions
m) Taking a deficit approach by exploring only needs and constraints without seeing opportunities and assets
n) Being too superficial/global or too narrowly focused
o) Not involving those who can act on the information
p) Promoting unrealistic expectations
q) Lack of decision criteria


Most organizations are attempting to solve these issues by developing isolated
applications to manage documents and group work over their networks. But most of the
solutions they are looking for are already developed and available in the market. In fact,
in many cases these organizations already have some of these solutions at hand. What needs
to be done is to design an effective flow of information, to train users and motivate them
to take full advantage of IT, to re-design some business processes to increase
productivity at every level within the organization.


In conclusion, if you want to be able to collect the information you need and take the
best advantage of it in your decision-making process you must consider implementing an ESS
in your organization.



III. Why you can afford one

Businesses to day cannot afford to go without an ESS! Competition is tough and to stay in
the game companies will need to implement an ESS to keep their edge or gain the advantage.
Swift changes in the environment and the ever-increasing competition require that
management be able to make timely and knowledgeable decisions; an ESS will help accomplish
this. No company can afford to put off the development of such a system if they expect to
succeed. Business today is about being the first and best at what you do and the only way
to be successful is to have knowledge of the external environment available when and where
it is needed. An ESS may be an expensive endeavor depending on how much a company wants
their system to be able to do, but the cost is low when compared with the benefits that
the system will ultimately bring. In this regard, an ESS will have a short pay-back period
and, if used effectively, it will provide ongoing savings and revenue opportunities that
were previously lost.



Part II

How to Implement an Environmental Scanning System

1. Preliminary groundwork- Any organization considering implementing an ESS will need to
cover some preliminary groundwork first. This includes deciding on the commitment level to
the ESS, securing commitment of top-level management, and recruiting people to be part of
the ESS design team. After having completed each of these items then your next step would
be to move onto the evaluation phase

A. Level of commitment- When deciding to implement an ESS a decision needs to be made
as to which level of scanning you will employ: irregular, periodic or continuous. We
highly recommend that you develop a continuous scanning system even though it may be more
costly than the others because it will provide a continuous stream of current information
relevant to your business environment.

B. Secure top-level management commitment- This is a must in order for your project to
be financed and it also helps gain the support of other employees in the organization.
With this level of support and commitment you will be able to quickly develop your project
and acquire needed resources.

C. Creating an ESS Team - Before beginning with the actual design of the ESS you must
first put together an ESS team. This will be the group of people who will be working to
help you set up the project initially and then later in all other stages of development
and deployment of the project. One suggestion would be to gather together various people
from the different departments and seek volunteers to head up the ESS for that department
and later bring in more people to do the scanning and help with the work involved. You
would want to familiarize your ESS team with the business as a whole not just their small
view of the company so that they have a better understanding of how the company functions
because this will aid them in their research or scanning. At this point you will not worry
about training, that will come later, now you are concerned with getting the ball rolling
so to speak.


After you have successfully established your initial ESS design team you will then want to
move onto an evaluation phase.


Evaluation and Design Phase
The evaluation phase is very important to the design of your ESS. During this phase you
will first identify business drivers and requirements, next you will evaluate your current
system and resources already in use, and then you will evaluate your current IT structure.
After these internal evaluations have been done then you will want to move onto an
external evaluation. This is where you will research and see what systems are currently
being used and if there is any software out there that may be helpful in the development
of your system.



I.Step 1: Business Requirements or Business Drivers
In the first step of this evaluation for the ESS, the ESS Team must work to identify the
business requirements or business drivers. This means defining the industry the business
is in and identifying other industries that may have an effect upon it. This can be
accomplished through many different means: Get the Team together for a brainstorming
session, interview top-level people and find out what is business critical to them in the
various departments, send out surveys to the various departments Based on those areas, the
Team must then prioritize and evaluate which types of information are appropriate for
inclusion in the ESS. The company must not forget to look to the future goals and needs of
the organization when discerning the types of information that will be used.


II.Step 2: Evaluating the current systems environment
In evaluating the companies current systems environment, you should first gather together
various people from the different departments and areas in the company and seek ideas; see
what these people are already using, reading or watching to keep themselves up to date in
their fields and ones that they are interested in. From this, move onto the periodicals,
journals, or anything else that the company or departments subscribe to; most can be made
available on-line. Then after taking inventory of the companies current assets of
information a decision needs to be made as to which information sources are aligned with
the companies external environment. After that decision is made, the company or really the
people in charge of organizing the ESS must decide how to organize the data in the ESS.


Some helpful avenues of information that will help you in your evaluation process are as follows:

A. Accessing networks - This would include agencies and organizations, personal
contacts (yours and others). The main purpose of accessing networks is to clarify the
niche of extensions and identify collaborative opportunities. It can be an activity of a
workgroup, staff or advisory groups resulting in a network of contacts.

B. Gathering documentation - This would include collecting reports, plans, program descriptions, etc.
C. Focus groups - These are organized small group discussions. The purpose is to
develop a broad and deep understanding rather than a quantitative summary of the different
aspects of the company. It emphasizes on insights, responses and opinions rather than just
specific facts.

D. Media monitoring - This area involves the commitment of people to monitor their
normal local electronic and print media (TV, radio, newspapers, books, journals, etc.) to
capture items with potential implications for extension.

E. Public and community meetings - This is a town meeting approach to scanning. It
focuses on obtaining input from county or area residents concerning future needs and
directions. It has its own benefits and limitations.

F. Delphi Survey according to definition, it's a technique developed to generate
reliable consensus among people with exceptional knowledge about a particular subject. The
purpose would be - to obtain input from expert individuals concerning problems, needs or
future directions.

G. Visualization processes - Within this area you would incorporate the use of flow
charts, trend diagrams, time lines, etc. to help your ESS team visualize the current and
ongoing activities related to the ESS.


III.Step 3: Evaluating the components necessary to implement an ESS

a. review of an organization's current direction, opportunities
b. analysis of economic, political, technological data pertaining to a particular sector.
c. information gathering from external private and public organization
d. information from existing and potential stakeholders

IV.Step 4: Designing an ESS for your environment

Step 4: Designing an ESS for your environment

Although every company has to design its ESS based on its specific needs, every successful
ESS design has in common an excellent definition and understanding of the following items:


1.Project objectives
2.Specific goals
3.Realistic expectations
4.Clear methodology
5.Disciplined feed-back from users at all levels
6.Constant monitoring mechanisms

This section will help you clarify these items and identify more clearly your company's
needs. Therefore, you will be capable of designing an ESS that best adapts to your
company's reality. If you have questions regarding these issues you should (actually must)
contact the users involved with each one.


a)A decision as to who the primary audience for the scans is and what kinds of information
this audience needs to strengthen its planning and decision-making capability.


At a specific level, as an ESS designer you need to define:

To whom is your ESS directed?
The potential users of your ESS could be all of your employees but the potencial users
could involve some external agents such as business partners, suppliers and even
customers. The main issue here is identify your ESS's potencial users and their profiles.
That way you will be able to know what they expect from the ESS.


How do you expect your potential users use the ESS?
The interaction between the users and an ESS varies constantly, depending upon each one's
functions. Once you define the groups of users that will be using the ESS, you will need
to identify their specific needs and the benefits they can obtain by using the ESS. That
way you will be able to take into consideration the needs from each and every potential
user of your ESS.


What do your potential users need in order to take advantage of the ESS?
Once you know who will be the potential users of your ESS and what their needs are, you
need to know what they will need in order to fulfill those needs. Some people will need to
upgrade their hardware, software or connectivity while other might need training.


b)Resources to scan (journals, magazines, on-line data bases, newspapers key informants,
trade publications, conferences, etc.). To understand and visualize how your company
exchanges information help you identify the obstacles that an ESS will help you overcome.
For that, you need to answer the following questions:


Which ones are your company's internal and external main sources of information?
It is very important for you to list every possible source of information you have used,
planned on using or consider that should be used as a new source. Do not limit your self
to external or internal sources, and keep in mind that sometime the best information comes
from unusual places.


How is information usually distributed among your company?
List whatever means are used such as printed memorandums, regular and cellular telephone,
fax machines, meetings, email, pager, etc. Do some research to find out which means are
most often used and ask your employees what means they think should be used. Keep in mind
new technologies, even if you think they are too complicated and expensive, by the way
they usually are not.


c)People to scan and identify relevant resource articles and prepare written abstracts or scans.

Define who will scan the information and who will write abstracts of printed pieces for
you ESS and how will they interact with their sources will facilitate the process of
adapting their capabilities to your company's needs. Your scanning team has to know about
the subjects they will be doing research on, specially the one who will be writing
abstracts.


Who will be in charge of scanning the information?
There are many ways for you to scan information for your ESS. This could be done by you
and your employees, you could have an outside independent group of people (even students)
do this work, or you could use a consulting firm. Since the scanning process is not a
one-time task, but a constant goal and need, we suggest for you to organize and train
groups of people from within your company to get involved in this process. There might be
some tasks such as typing printed information that your employees will not have the time
to do. In that case outsiders could be of great help. Also, it will be necessary for you
to have a teams doing research and surveys. Outsiders could help you, with guidance from
you, to do this work.


It is very important to consider that some of your ESS information comes from within your
company. Most of this information is probably generated and stored in one or more
computers. Your scanning process must include finfing these internal sources and ways of
accessing this information from your ESS.


How does your scanning team coordinate their work?
Since there will be many people involved in the scanning process it is very important for
you to help them coordinate their work. By doing this you will make sure they do not waste
time scanning the same sources and that they have a standard way of capturing and storing
the information. A good approach would be to divide the work in internal and external, and
each of these groups in specific items. For example, the external group could be split
into social, political, economic, legal, technological and competitive. Furthermore, you
could then divide the external competitive group into specific competitors.


How do you receive and process the scanned information?
Now, you will need to consider how the information is to be stored and processed. We
suggest that you schedule your scanning groups' time in such a way that they store the
information every day. The information should be stored so that each peace has all the
fields that will eventually be used as search criteria. You must define a list of fields
based on your needs, but a good starting point will be the following list:


•Source
•Author(s)
•Date
•Subject(s)
•Department(s)
•Keywords
•Format

Keep in mind that all the information within your ESS will be of use only if it can be
found when needed. So your searching fields play a significant role at achieving your
objectives.


d)People to draw implications from the trends and issues that emerge from the scans, and
people to analyze and prioritize these. Once you have started the scanning process you
will need to analyze your data. First, you will need to find the trends that come from
your information. This job would be best done by people with statistical experience who
can find trends from the data. Second, there will be needed for you and other people who
knows your business to analyse those trends to find out what implication they have in your
company's business. Then, you will need to prioritize these implications depending on the
level of impact they could have for your company.


To get prepared for this tasks, you should answer the following questions:

What do we expect from the collected information?
This answer will help you align your ESS objectives and goals with the data you will
collect. At this point you should create an initial list of your company's priorities so
that you can focus your ESS on those critical business issues.


Who will analyze the collected data?
When answering this question consider your ESS design within a general context that
involves your business strategy. The analysis of your data will be the starting point of
your decision-making process. If the analysis are wrong your decision will be most likely
be wrong. Therefore, your analyzing team must be capable of thinking "out of the box."
They will need to focus on needs an opportunities arising from external factors,
especially social and how technology could help create opportunities given the social
situation.


e)People to take action on items of importance.
An ESS is based on hardware and software, but what makes it possible for an ESS to help an
organization to better its decision-making process is its people. A corporate network,
within an ESS context, will allow your company to integrate concepts such as real-time,
one-to-one marketing, interactive learning, dynamic strategy planning, business
simulation, among others, to allow you to be more competitive, creative, and to be
prepared for the new global and digital economy.


When designing an ESS, both, general and specific goals must be very clear en realistic.
No matter what your goals are you need to define them clearly. Specifically, you should
consider:


How and by whom are decision usually made in your company?
You need to be very honest when approaching this question. Are decision within your
company usually made by hierarchy? By common agreement? Are they made mostly by top
management? You have to start preparing your self and your employees to start making
decisions based on facts, not using facts to justify decisions.


How will decisions be made once your ESS is implemented?
Start working on mechanisms for making decisions based on facts! Each decision made should
take into consideration the level of knowledge and expertise of your employees. Decisions
can not be made based on hierarchy or by agreement. If an expert in a particular subject
is not good at explaining him or her self, it does not mean he or she is not right. You
should develop some forms for you and your employees to give their opinions regarding
critical decisions. These forms should emphasise that you are not asking for an opinion,
but for a recommendation based on facts.


f)A designated site with responsibility for coordinating the system.
The final step in your ESS design process is to define ways to coordinate an monitor the
system. You will need a team, that should include you. The members of this team require a
combination of administrative, planning and technical capabilities. It would be best to
have an interdisciplinary team with complementary skills.


Since an ESS involves every aspect of your company, during the first stages of your ESS
implementation it might be too difficult to cover all the areas. We suggest that you start
by focusing on the most important areas, based on the priorities you have defined. This
approach will help you start taking real advantage of your ESS, and will show to your
employees its benefits in a practical way. Once you have established the use of the ESS in
some areas, it will be easier to move along the rest of the company.


Specifically, you should consider:

How are you going to monitor the progress of your ESS?
ESS tend to evolve with time. For this reason it is very important to design mechanisms
that help you determine the progress achieved and to compare it with the original goals
and expectations. We suggest that you keep track of each of the decisions made using the
ESS. Although it will no be easy to quantify the impact of each and every decision, you
should be able to have a record of the critical business decisions and how the impacted
your company.


How are you going to measure the success of your ESS?
Like in many other cases, the success of your ESS will be measured by the cost-benefit
relationship derived from the investment. You should not expect immediate results. To
adapt your company to a new way of working and making decisions is not possible all of a
sudden. A good way of approaching this issue would be to measure your benefits from the
ESS at the end of each quarter and compare it with the costs associated with the amount
amortized over that period.


You have to consider that some decision are not reflect on you financial statements before
several months, or even years. You will need to measure some qualitative issues when
measuring the success of your ESS.



Implementation Phase
Step 5: Implementation Considerations
After you have successfully completed the design of your system you will move to an
implementation phase. During this phase you will develop a training agenda and program,
you will come up with a process of implementation.


A. Training- You will first need to assess your training budget, which will most likely need to be increased.
1. IT personnel will need to be trained first. This can be accomplished in a variety of
ways, by corporate-university partnerships, in-house technical trainings, etc. After the
IT people are trained upper and middle management need trained. The IT professionals can
facilitate this training and then management and IT can pair together to train the rest
of the employees.

2. Delivery methods may include different Computer Based Training modules like CD Rom, Intranet, etc.

B. Process-Motivate the change by creating readiness and overcoming resistance.
1. Create a Vision by describing the ideology and constructing the imagined future of the technology.
2. Develop political support by identifying key stakeholders and influencing them.
3. Manage the transition by planning the activities, and managing the structures.
4. Sustain momentum by providing resources, developing a support system, developing
new skills, and reinforcing the new behaviors.


C. Implementation team
1. Electronic directory of experts
•Connects together technical experts, intelligence analysts, and users seeking information.
•Allows staff to fill out forms detailing their areas of expertise.
•Allows users enter keywords and get a list of experts
•Spreads the net as widely as possible--the best information can sometimes be found in unexpected places.
•Serves as a broadcast medium for disseminating significant news. Thus, someone who has
just picked up information on a topic (such as a competitor) can use the network to send a
message to everyone who has previously expressed interest in that competitor.



D. Administration
•Market database
Users can find information on products, companies, industries, and geographic areas, as
well as dated product market forecasts prepared by the business units themselves. Data are
gathered and input by employees in the various business units. Updated news from the
database may be routed to users based on keywords they have given in their profiles.

•Financial database
The financial database reconciles standards and conventions, cleaning up and consolidating
the data so that users may retrieve meaningful financial data according to accounts,
companies, ratios or years

•Competitive digest.
Based on published news from the media. Daily reports which include strategic impact
statements prepared by internal experts on the news items.

e.on-going support and enhancements
Competitive analysis group.
Coordinates the scanning that is done by the various business units, initiates the
distribution of intelligence reports from the business units, and responds to information
requests.









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