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Toward an inclusive understanding of technology intelligence: a literature review


Mostafa Safdari Ranjbar, Gholam Reza Tavakoli,
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literature review", Foresight, Vol. 17 Issue: 3, pp.240-256, https://doi.org/10.1108/FS-11-2014-0072
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Toward an inclusive understanding of
technology intelligence: a literature
review
Mostafa Safdari Ranjbar and Gholam Reza Tavakoli

Mostafa Safdari Ranjbar Abstract


is a PhD candidate Purpose – The aim of this paper is to promote the authors’ understanding of technology intelligence by
based at Management responding to two questions: What is technology intelligence? How is it accomplished?
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and Accounting, Allameh Design/methodology/approach – To respond to the two main questions about technology
Tabatabaei University, intelligence in this paper, the authors have studied relevant academic, peer-reviewed journals and
Tehran, Iran. books using the literature databases of Google Scholar, Sciencedirect, Inderscience, Wiley and
Gholam Reza Tavakoli is Emerald Insight. They have used few selection criteria to choose papers and books for inclusion in their
a Strategic Management study.
Consultant based at the Findings – Enhancing the authors’ understanding of the technology intelligence concept by
Department of responding to the two main questions (What is technology intelligence? How is it accomplished?),
Management and classifying the main studies in the field of technology intelligence and several practical and theoretical
Economy, Tarbiat implications are the findings in this paper.
Modares University, Practical implications – A number of practical implications related to technology intelligence
Tehran, Iran. structure, process, methods, tools and players are suggested to managers of organizations and
companies to improve their technology-related planning processes and decision-making.
Originality/value – Despite the considerable level of consensus on the necessity of precise scanning
and monitoring technological changes and trends, there is still limited understanding of the technology
intelligence concept. This paper intends to enhance the authors’ understanding of technology
intelligence by responding to two questions: What is technology intelligence? And how is it
accomplished?
Keywords Tools, Process, Methods, Structure, Players, Technology intelligence
Paper type Literature review

1. Introduction
Scholars’ research has so far produced various reasons for corporations’ failures in
confrontation with radical technological changes. One of the most important reasons has
been the poor and partial process of technology intelligence (Lichtenthaler, 2007).
Although most managers tend to claim that their companies are well keeping pace with the
latest developments in their areas of specialization, they hardly have a systematic
methodology to sift the key elements of technological change out of the general current of
information in their environment. On the other hand, the fast and high availability of
information and technological knowledge is, at first, seen as a benefit for organizations in
the information age. On closer examination, the outcome of this is a big challenge. The
amount of information that is available these days has to be systematically structured
(Schuh et al., 2014).
Furthermore, traditional monitoring processes in most companies tend to be carried out
haphazardly and spontaneously. Meanwhile, there is also a bunch of studies spotting that
Received 20 November 2014
Revised 27 February 2015
in some organizations, a limited set of tools are applied to support strategic planning
Accepted 7 April 2015 (Fleisher, 2006). Whatever the case, in today’s world, such unorganized processes to

PAGE 240 Foresight VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015, pp. 240-256, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1463-6689 DOI 10.1108/FS-11-2014-0072
monitor technological changes and compile technological strategy plan are hardly
sufficient (Patton, 2005).
On the one hand, the quality of the gathered information on the current and future trends
of technology holds fundamental influence on the effectiveness of technology management
in organizations (Iansiti, 2000), and on the other, complexity and dynamicity of
technological developments pose serious setbacks to creating a database of related
technological trends. These necessitate tapping into a systematic approach toward
monitoring technological changes and developments to identify the existing technological
threats and opportunities in the environment (Savioz, 2004; Kerr et al., 2006; Arman and
Foden, 2010).
The past few years have been witnessing an increasing interest of technology-driven
companies in the systematic approach of technology intelligence, and, of course, a lot of
studies are focusing on its various aspects (Lichtenthaler, 2003, 2004a, 2004b,2004c,
2005, 2006, 2007; Savioz and Blum, 2002, Savioz, 2004, 2006; Kerr et al., 2006; Mortara
et al., 2008, 2009; Arman and Foden, 2010, Yoon and Kim, 2012; Park et al., 2013;
Takahashi and Nishigaki, 2013; Schuh et al., 2014; Taghva et al., 2014; Russo and Rizzi,
2014). For instance, a search in Google Scholar on “technology intelligence” provides
approximately 2,340,000 results (papers and books).
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However, there is still limited understanding and applying of technology intelligence in


organizations and companies. That is why effective and efficient applying and
implementing of this concept is still not common in organizations and companies.
Therefore, the current paper intends to enhance our understanding of technology
intelligence by responding to two main questions:
Q1. What is technology intelligence?
Q2. How is it accomplished?
The aforementioned questions, respectively, refer to:
 technology intelligence philosophy, definitions, related concepts, generations and other
aspects; and
 technology intelligence structure, process, methods, tools and players.
Familiarization with the research findings in line with technology intelligence can be of use
for managers of organizations and technology-driven companies as well as for the
researchers who hold a technology management field of interest. In short, the methodology
of writing this paper is explained in Section 2. Then, we address the questions What
(technology intelligence philosophy, definitions, concepts related and generations) in
Section 3 and How (technology intelligence structure, process, methods, tools and players)
in Section 4. In Section 5, a classification of research conducted in the field of technology
intelligence is offered, and at the end, a number of managerial implications and directions
for future research are proposed.

2. Methodology
To respond to the two main questions about technology intelligence in this paper, we have
studied relevant academic, peer-reviewed journals (such as the Technological Forecasting
and Social Change, R&D Management, International Journal of Technology Management,
International Journal of Technology Intelligence and Planning, Journal of Engineering and
Technology Management, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, Research-
Technology Management, Technovation, Research Policy, Competitive Intelligence Review,
Foresight, Expert Systems With Applications and other journals) and books using the
literature databases of Google Scholar, Sciencedirect, Inderscience, Taylor and Francis,
Wiley and Emerald Insight.

VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015 Foresight PAGE 241


We have used the following selection criteria to choose papers and books for inclusion in
our study:
 First, we have selected papers and books which contain the keywords “Technology
Intelligence”, “Technical Intelligence” and “Technological Intelligence”. This phase of
search lead to finding 31 papers and books that explicitly refer to “Technology
Intelligence” and apply “Technology Intelligence” in their titles.
 Second, we have continued to identify further papers and books using the references
sections of the previously retrieved articles. In this way, we have also included papers
and books which treat “Technology Intelligence” as one of the major subjects even if
their title or keywords did not include the term “Technology Intelligence”. These papers
and books mainly refer to some concepts related to technology intelligence, such as
“Technology Forecasting”, “Technology Scouting” and “Technology Monitoring”.
Furthermore, some papers and books are about technology intelligence tools and
methods like “Patent Analysis” and “Tech-Mining”. The number of these paper and
books are 15.
 As a final selection criterion, we have checked whether the papers and books implicitly
discuss related issues to “Technology Intelligence”. This category comprises six
papers and books that mainly focus on the essence and importance of scanning
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“Environmental Changes” and “Technological Transitions”.


Based on the above criteria, we have selected 53 papers and books for inclusion in our
review. Almost all of these (50 cases) are journal and conference papers, published in top
journals in the fields of technology and innovation management and three cases are books
that refer to issues such as “Technology Intelligence”, “Tech-mining” and “Technology
Forecasting”. In terms of the time span, we have focused on papers and books from the
past 30 years. The earliest paper in our sample has been published in 1984, while the latest
one is from 2014. More specifically, there is 1 paper from the 1980s, 12 papers and books
from the 1990s, 31 papers and books from 2000s and 9 papers from 2010 to 2014. In
addition, the other 15 papers and books that were mentioned in our paper are about some
supportive issues and they do not have significant relationship with the core concept of our
paper.

3. Technology intelligence (What?)


In this section, we try to answer this question: What is technology intelligence? Therefore,
we mention to philosophy, definitions, related concepts, generations and other aspects of
the technology intelligence concept.

3.1 Technology intelligence philosophy


The philosophy of technology intelligence is based on the relationship between two main
groups of players in an organization named “Intelligence Users” and “Intelligence Brokers”.
The former includes decision-makers and planners. These inevitably share some gaps in
technological knowledge and also needs for intelligence as the entrance of decision-
making process. There are relationships of both top – down and down – top kind between
consumers and brokers (Kerr et al., 2006).

3.2 Technology intelligence definitions


Diverse definitions of technology intelligence have been presented by researchers, some
of them as follows:
 Technology intelligence refers to activities which, through collection, analysis and
dissemination of relevant and proper information, creates an essential and timely
insight toward technological trends and facts (threats and opportunities) outside an
organization and, thus, supports decision-making and planning processes regarding
technological issues as well as the corporate management (Savioz, 2004).

PAGE 242 Foresight VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015


 To define technology intelligence, it consists of the acquisition and transmission of
technological information as part of the process whereby an organization is informed of
technological threats and opportunities (Kerr et al., 2006).
 The University of Nottingham defines technological intelligence as a set of activities
enabling a company to monitor technological advances which concern its products,
raw materials, processes and markets and to examine its environment to tap into
potential advantages in the course of technological changes (threats or opportunities)
(Arman and Foden, 2010).

3.3 Technology intelligence framework


To support activities involving technology intelligence in a company which would lead to
the initiation of a technology intelligence system, Kerr et al. (2006) advanced a conceptual
three-layer model, each layer concerning a different concept of activity. The top layer is the
“framework level”, which illustrates trivial layers between “consumers” and “brokers” in the
philosophy of technology intelligence. The middle level, which is referred to as the “system
level”, includes operational styles (i.e. mine, trawl, target, scan) required for the efficiency
of a technology intelligence system. The innermost layer is called the “process level”, which
involves an operational cycle to start a technology intelligence system.
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3.4 Concepts related to technology intelligence


Browsing through technology management literature we can observe phrases and
concepts that are either connected with or are part of the concept of technology
intelligence. Some of them are as the following:
 Technology scanning: Involves the process of search for and awareness of brand-new
and untapped technology trends (Lichtenthaler, 2004a; Kerr et al., 2006; Mortara et al.,
2009).
 Technology monitoring: Refers to the constant process of following the latest identified
technology trends to discover gaps and developments of technology (Ashton et al.,
1991; Lichtenthaler, 2004a).
 Technology forecasting: Rises above the mere observation of technological events and
indications, and forecasts probable developments in the technology realm (Porter
et al., 1991; Gerybadze, 1994; Tschirky, 1994; Mishra et al., 2002; Martino, 2003;
Antunes and Canongia, 2006; Bengisu and Nekhili, 2006).
 Technology scouting: Defined as assigning of a number of internal or external people
(as technology scouts) to identification of changes and developments of science and
technology taking place outside an organization (Wolff, 1992; Brenner, 1996; Tibbetts,
1997; Rohrbeck, 2010).
 Tech mining: Involves application of text mining tools in the fields of science and
technology to improve the technology innovation process (Porter and Cunningham,
2005).
 Competitive technical intelligence: Is the term describing the process of collection,
analysis and dissemination of data regarding scientific and technological advances
taking place in a company’s competition field (Ashton and Stacey, 1995; Budd, 2000;
Russo and Rizzi, 2014).

3.5 Technology intelligence generations


Historically, technology intelligence has transformed through three generations
characterized, in turn, by various generations of technology management and R&D (Edler
et al., 2002). Still, the three generations differ in terms of decision-making concentration,
planning horizon and homogeneity between technology strategies and the strategies of an

VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015 Foresight PAGE 243


organization. Table I summarizes the characteristics of technology intelligence throughout
three generations.

3.6 Technology intelligence system


For the various elements of technology intelligence to be discussible, the concept needs to
be considered as a system. A system is defined as “a whole whose components are in
connection and interaction with one another, each holding a function of its own” (Carlsson
et al., 2002; Hekkert et al., 2008; and Ranga and Etzkowitz, 2013). In fact, technology
intelligence consists of some direct activities such as identification of information needs,
collection, analysis, dissemination and application of properly relevant technological
information, which would eventually lead, through an improved process of decision-
making, to value creation for an organization. Still, there are also a number of “Indirect
Activities” used as enablers for direct activities in technology intelligence, which include
technology intelligence management, technology intelligence management mission and
goals, technology intelligence structure and technology intelligence tools (Savioz, 2004).

4. Technology intelligence (How?)


In this section, we try to answer this question: How is technology intelligence accomplished
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in organizations and companies? Therefore, we explain five key dimensions of technology


intelligence:

1. structure;
2. process;
3. methods;
4. tools; and
5. players.

Table I Generations of technology intelligence (Lichtenthaler, 2003)


TI generations Characteristics

First generation Irrelevancy between technology strategy and company strategy


Research in centralized format
Assigning only a particular part of company to planning task
Long-term focus on technology rather than on market
Poor linkage between company-wide long-term technology-oriented planning and short-term market-oriented
planning in business units
Second generation Poor linkage between company strategy and technology strategy
Slightly less centralized R&D
Allocation of resources to R&D through signing deals with business units
Medium-term planning in business units
Project planning and blurred foresight of requirements for business innovation
Poor organizational ability to react to technological changes
Implementation of fundamental long-term innovations
Focus on technology in central R&D coupled with short-term operational focus on R&D in business units
Passive technology intelligence activities induced by top management
Third generation Strong linkage between company-wide technology strategy and strategies followed in business units thanks to
permanent integrated technology and market planning
Long-term planning in business units
Company’s technology planning assuming an inter-business standpoint, besides addressing innovation
requirements in individual businesses
Corporate resources allocated to applied research, inter-business projects and new businesses
Decentralized, participatory and proactive processes of decision-making and planning
Adopting a global approach to R&D
Strategic and operational concentration around technology intelligence leading to integration of technology
and market

PAGE 244 Foresight VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015


4.1 Technology intelligence structure
The technology intelligence structure involves determining how technology intelligence
activities are allocated to individuals and divisions, how these people are organized and
defining relationships and interactions therein (Savioz, 2004). Now we will proceed to the
styles of organizing technology intelligence activities (Lichtenthaler, 2004c).
4.1.1 Styles of organizing technology intelligence. Lichtenthaler introduced three different
structures for technology intelligence activities (Lichtenthaler, 2004c) as:

1. “structural”;
2. “hybrid”; and
3. “informal”.
In a structured organization style, tasks and responsibilities are assigned to positions and
organizational units through a hierarchical order, with full-time specialists of technology
intelligence in these units observing rivals, universities and fledgling companies to track the
latest technological trends. The combinational structure, however, involves projects with
certain and limited terms which are conducted to adapt to particular issues of technology
intelligence. And finally, the informal structure of organization attempts to steer
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independent and spontaneous behaviors of data collection.


4.1.2 Integration of the structure of technology intelligence activities. Decision-making style
and organizational culture are two factors affecting the integration of the structure of
technology intelligence activities. Therefore, the more decentralized the decision-making
style and the more innovation-oriented the organizational culture, the more tendency of an
organization to the multi-node approach as for its structure integration. Conversely, the
more centralized the decision-making style, the more organizational tendency toward the
one-node approach (Lichtenthaler, 2004b). In the following, the multi-node and one-node
approaches are to be further elucidated.
As regards the one-node approach, the technology intelligence process extends in parallel
with the decision-making process to support the top management. Data, having been
collected by intelligence specialists, are supported by project teams and networks, and
then, the information is provided through intelligence specialists for the top management.
In the multi-node approach, however, the technology intelligence processes are integrated
with a decentralized and participatory style of decision-making. Both centralized and
decentralized technology intelligence units take part in the decision-making processes and
coordinate technology intelligence activities on a multi-layer basis. (Lichtenthaler, 2004b).
4.1.3 Technology intelligence organization at the local and international levels. To keep
abreast of technology advances across the world, companies need to have access to
authentic information sources around the globe. That is to say, the more internationally
active are the decision-making research centers of an organization, the more it will
be aligned with technology intelligence in its international R&D units. On the other hand, the
more local an organization’s decision-making R&D units are, the more it is to be aligned
with the local technology intelligence in its research trends (Lichtenthaler, 2004b).
Organizations with international R&D, holding a global responsibility in the fields of special
technological applications, have independent technology intelligence units operating in
certain countries. The strong point of such organizations is that they are able to identify and
assess global trends through their R&D units. On the opposite side, however, to do so, they
tend to bear huge costs, as for the coordination of their R&D units across the world.
Meanwhile, organizations with local R&D scales develop solid coordination between their
listening posts and technology ambassadors through local technology intelligence units.
Listening posts and technology ambassadors are responsible for acquiring the nation’s
specific data. Information needs are defined by a local technology intelligence unit and key
users of intelligence (Lichtenthaler, 2004b).

VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015 Foresight PAGE 245


4.2 Technology intelligence process
A significant number of researchers have been studying the technology intelligence
process (Ashton et al., 1991; Ashton and Stacey, 1995; Kerr et al., 2006; Lichtenthaler,
2007). Most of the previous research focuses on a conceptual description of the various
stages of technology intelligence, involving acquisition, assessment and dissemination
of technological information (Reger, 2001). Jain (1984) argues that the technology
intelligence process involves four separate phases. These are:

1. the primitive phase (where no special effort is made in line with intelligence
acquisition);
2. the situational phase (where there is need for scanning but no formal system whereby
to accomplish it);
3. the situational phase (at which activities are made on an unstructured and unplanned
basis); and
4. the proactive phase (activities become structured and directed toward obtaining
intelligence).
Ashton et al. (1991) assume a step-wise process of intelligence acquisition, including
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collection, analysis, dissemination and application of information. Lichtenthaler (2004a),


elaborating scanning and monitoring as the two key activities in technology intelligence
field, considered active and passive forms for each of them. To him, scanning involves the
identification of technological trends and, therefore, requires extensive knowledge on
technologies, whereas monitoring refers to the constant supervision and observing of
identified technological trends and, hence, entails intensive knowledge on technologies.
Norling et al. (2000) suggest that the technology intelligence process includes planning
and organization, information collection, information analysis and dissemination of findings
for actions like decision-making on technology. Kerr et al. (2006) argue that the technology
intelligence process comprises an operational cycle, which includes six stages, namely:

1. coordination;
2. search;
3. filter;
4. analysis;
5. documentation; and
6. dissemination.
While Savioz (2004) considers it to be including identification of information needs, info
collection, analysis, dissemination and diffusion of intelligence.
Lichtenthaler (2007) focuses on the three coordination styles of technology intelligence,
namely:

1. hierarchical;
2. hybrid; and
3. participatory.
The hierarchical technology intelligence process leads quickly to generally accurate
decisions concerning the direction of technological change and required R&D projects.
But, there are overvaluations and undervaluations concerning timing and the size of
technology investments because the middle management is not included into the
assessments. On the other hand, the participatory technology intelligence process leads to
a discussion of the trend among relevant groups, but the discussion is not managed well
and often ends up in intense conflicts. The lack of communication routines to the top

PAGE 246 Foresight VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015


management and the missing formal resource allocation process for radical innovations
cause suboptimal and slow decisions. Finally, the hybrid technology intelligence process
leads to comparatively quick and optimal decisions due to clearly defined communication
routines and a participatory assessment process, which is coordinated by technology
intelligence specialists and includes the middle management.

4.3 Technology intelligence methods


As well as people and the organizational structure of the technology intelligence system,
methods required play crucial part in the advancement of the execution process. As a
matter of fact, to confront technological threats and tap into related opportunities, the
technology intelligence system demands its respective efficient methods and tools like
what Ashton and Stacey (1995), Reger (2001), Savioz (2004) and Lichtenthaler (2006)
suggest. Savioz and Blum (2002) have contributed to the development of the issue by
presenting a new concept named the opportunity landscape, which provides decision-
makers with the technological information to be able to forecast and properly react to future
advances. Shehabuddeen and Probert (2004) have revised current technology
management tools and processes which may support technology intelligence. Yet,
technology intelligence methods based on TRIZ, such as Delphi, morphology analysis,
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systems theory and relationship tree have been suggested by Schuh and Grawatsch
(2003).
A number of technology intelligence methods include (Lichtenthaler, 2005) publication
frequency analysis, publication citation analysis, quantitative conference analysis, patent
frequency analysis, patent citation analysis, S-curve analysis, benchmarking studies,
portfolio analysis, Delphi studies, experts panel, flexible expert interview, technology
roadmap, product technology roadmap, product roadmap, learning curve, simulation,
scenario analysis and quality function development (QFD). The definition and explanation
of some of the aforementioned methods are presented below.
4.3.1 Publication analysis. Publication analysis is an approach to identify research groups
in a particular research field. By using this method, we can identify and classify clusters of
authors to represent research groups and access to two types of outcomes:

1. actual research groups; and


2. potential research groups.
The former enables us to define research groups beyond the organizational structure. The
latter may be used to identify potential partners for collaboration (Calero et al., 2006).
4.3.2 Patent analysis. Patent analysis can help a company identify patents that may not be
of current value because they are not related to its core technology, but may be of interest
to other companies (Breitzman and Mogee, 2002). The patent analysis has also served as
a basis for analyzing a firm’s policy with regard to research, development, estimation of
technological strengths and weaknesses of competitors and exploitation of foreign markets
(Abraham and Moitra, 2001).
4.3.3 S-curve analysis. The technology S-curve is a useful framework describing the
substitution of new for old technologies at the industry level. The technology S-curve has
become a centerpiece in thinking about technology strategy. It represents an inductively
derived theory of potential for technological improvement, which suggests that the
magnitude of improvement in the performance of a product or process occurring in a given
period of time or resulting from a given amount of engineering effort differs as technologies
become more mature (Christensen, 1992).
4.3.4 Benchmarking studies. Benchmarking studies is the art of finding out, in a perfectly
legal and aboveboard way, how others do something better than you do, so you can imitate
and perhaps improve upon their techniques (Drew, 1997). Camp (1989) calls it “the search
for industry best practices that lead to superior performance”.

VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015 Foresight PAGE 247


4.3.5 Portfolio analysis. Portfolio analysis is about making strategic choices, that is which
markets, products and technologies our business will invest in. It is about resource
allocation, that is how you will spend your scarce engineering, R&D and marketing
resources. It focuses on project selection, that is on which new product or development
projects you choose from the many opportunities face. Furthermore, it deals with balance,
that is having the right balance between numbers of projects you do and the resources or
capabilities you have available (Cooper et al., 1999).
4.3.6 Delphi studies. Delphi may be characterized as a method for structuring a group
communication process so that the process is effective in allowing a group of individuals,
as a whole, to deal with a complex problem (Linstone et al., 1975). To accomplish this
“structured communication” there is provided:
 some feedback of individual contributions of information and knowledge;
 some assessment of the group judgment or view;
 some opportunity for individuals to revise views; and
 some degree of anonymity for the individual responses (Okoli and Pawlowski, 2004).
4.3.7 Technology roadmap. Technology roadmap is a structured means for exploring and
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communicating the relationships between evolving and developing markets, products and
technologies over time (Phaal et al., 2004).
4.3.8 Simulation. Simulation uses various representations to model some aspect of an
uncertain world, with the model being formed as a piece of computer software. This is then
used to aid decision-making (O’Keefe, 1986).
4.3.9 Scenario analysis. Scenario analysis is not aimed at obtaining forecasts, but
advocates the creation of alternative images of the future development of external
environment. In doing so, scenarios highlight crucial uncertainties, with an impact on the
strategic decisions managers have to make (Postma and Liebl, 2006).
4.3.10 Quality function development. QFD converts user demands into substitute quality
characteristics, determines the design quality of the finished good and systematically
deploys this quality into component quality, individual part quality and process elements
and their relationships (Akao and Mazur, 2003).
Companies need to apply proper intelligence technology methods, followed by the
respective evaluation procedures. Still, method adoption and the evaluation procedure are
influenced by a number of situational factors, which are as follows: (Lichtenthaler, 2005):
 Functions: Functional expectations from methods are influential in adopting a certain
method and the way it would be assessed. There are two methodological functions
distinguishable, namely, information generation and learning. The former, in turn, can
be carried out through three methods, namely, extrapolative, explorative and
normative. Learning, however, comes in two individual and organizational forms.
 Uncertainty: In the period of uncertainty, the objectives of assessment of future
technology progresses tend to change, as under uncertain circumstances, it would be
difficult to forecast a number of parameters. In high uncertainty, companies usually
tend to exploit methods which incorporate the uncertain conditions.
 Industry type: The pace at which technological changes are occurring and the nature
of different industries have an impact on the choice of methods. For example, methods
applied by knowledge-driven industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry, are
different from those used by market-driven ones, such as communications, and mature
ones, like the automobile industry.
 Decision-making style: The choice of the method of technology intelligence is very
much affected by the decision-making style, that is some companies trust in formal and

PAGE 248 Foresight VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015


complex planning, while others tend to apply planning of simpler and less official
format.
 Corporate culture: Formal and control-driven corporate culture would lead to the
application of methods with high accuracy and precision, whereas informal culture and
interactive and participatory management calls for qualitative methods.
 Time, personnel and financial restrictions: The technology intelligence method choice
is much influenced by time (schedule), personnel (experts and pundits) and finance
(cost – benefit analysis) restrictions.

4.4 Technology intelligence tools


In recent years, information and communication technology (ICT) has had massively
increasing employment in intelligence technology (IT). Although, IT is able to play a crucial
part in various stages of technology intelligence, such as data gathering, data analysis and
dissemination of technology intelligence, it must be borne in mind that it cannot be a
substitute for human thinking and judgment (Savioz, 2004). Based on the study by Russo
and Rizzi (2014), three factors could enhance the managerial utilization of technology
intelligence:
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1. capability to exploit huge volumes of available information;


2. ways to do it very quickly; and
3. informative representations that help to discover emerging technologies.
Technology intelligence tools have various advantages over the expert-oriented approach,
which include (Yoon, 2008):
 the ability to analyze bulks of data which are hard for human factor to analysis;
 the ability to produce high volumes of useful information which humans are unable to
produce; for instance, technology intelligence tools can illustrate relations between
technology and corporations and examine technology attributes through statistical
analyses; and
 the ability to support decision-making processes using relevant data, including
assessment and technology forecasting.
For empowerment and facilitation of the technology intelligence process on one hand and
reinforcement of open innovation on the other, there has been an increasing number of
innovation brokers such as Internet-based technology transmission centers which enlist
technologies available for selling or purchasing license, or those which apply for new
innovations as solutions to organizations’ technological issues. To be able to identify a large
number of technological options among foreign innovations and technologies, it is
necessary to analyze a bulky measure of data and information which can be helpfully done
through the ICT (Zhu and Porter, 2002). This still relies on proper methods of the ICT,
data-mining and text-mining analyses.
In addition to software programs developed for technology intelligence, there are
numerous databases such as Thomson-ISI where academic research data are collected
and made available to researchers. Also, technological innovations in patent databases
like USPTO, WIPO, JPO and EPO are available. Moreover, there are various tools such as
Google Alerts, Dialog, LexisNexis and Twitter Alerts, available to track companies’
technological advances (Veugelers et al., 2010).
Generally speaking, technology intelligence systems are essential elements to planning
technological progress and the compilation of technology strategies. However, although
these systems provide calculation support for technological analyses, expert intervention
which may be costly or even unavailable is still required. Techpioneer, for instance, has
been introduced as a tool with the aim of suggesting final and applicable information to

VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015 Foresight PAGE 249


identify technological opportunities (Yoon, 2008). Also, Karvonen and Kassi (2011) used
patent analysis for analyzing technological convergence. Meanwhile, TrendPerceptor is
another software system which uses the property – function approach to spot patent-
oriented technological trends (Yoon and Kim, 2012). Moreover, Park et al. (2013) point to
the patent intelligence system as a tool for technology strategy planning. They introduce
patent intelligence as transforming the contents found in patents into technical, business
and legal insights as a key factor to creating and obtaining competitive advantage in a
technological competitive environment (Park et al., 2013).

4.5 Technology intelligence players


People of various expertise at multiple organizational levels have decisive roles in how
successful technology intelligence may be as they are often involved in a diversity of
activities, including data gathering, analysis and dissemination across the organization.
This is why the issue of players in technology intelligence system has been much of an
important subject for a wide range of researchers under topics like “Technology Scouters”
(McDonald and Richardson, 1997; Wolff, 1992; Rohrbeck, 2010), “Intelligence Users” and
“Intelligence Brokers” (Kerr et al., 2006), “Technology Ambassadors”, “Listening Posts”,
“External Experts” and “Technology Intelligence Specialists” (Lichtenthaler, 2004a,
2004b,2004c). Likewise, a number of others stress the importance of monitoring
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technological changes (Nelson and Winter, 1982; Garud and Rappa, 1994).
Mortara et al. (2009) presented a toolbox for technology intelligence to examine different
modes of technology intelligence system, that is mine, trawl, target and scan, introduce
players active in each style which follows:
 In the “Mine” mode, data searchers know that the data have been acquired by the
organization and they know where they can be found. Knowledge management
activities and skills are of paramount importance in this style; therefore, the main
players here are knowledge managers, experts and knowledge analyst.
 In the “Trawl” mode, searching to acquire intelligence from internal resources is the
case when data are stored in people’s memories rather than explicitly organized. This
style is applied to tap into latent knowledge resources. Such knowledge is usually
obtained through making use of interpersonal links (internal social networks). Major
players in this style include knowledge brokers, internal gatekeepers and members of
internal social networks.
 The “Target” mode is applied when a technology identified beyond the territories of a
company is to be examined. This mainly calls for people with intense knowledge on
identified technologies. Major players with this style are targeting coordinators, external
gatekeepers, technical experts and technical specialist analyst.
 The “Scan” mode is applied to acquire external information in relation to technologies
which have not been already identified. The main players of this approach are
scanning coordinators, external gatekeepers, members of external social networks,
members of technology listening posts and non-specialist people.

5. Conclusion
Technology globalization and high rate of technological changes intensify risks which
technology-based companies may face. To be able to make efficient and effective
decisions in the technology field, there has to be acquaintance about changes of product,
materials, processes and business technologies. Responding to technological changes
and the reduction of related risks can, to a very large extent, be achieved using an efficient
technology intelligence system, which is equipped with an early alarming apparatus and
can assess potentials of new technological advances. In this section, a classification of
research conducted in the field of technology intelligence is offered, and, at the end, a
number of managerial implications and directions for future researches are proposed.

PAGE 250 Foresight VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015


5.1 A classification of main studies in the field of technology intelligence
As previously mentioned, technology intelligence has increasingly been a very frequent
topic with researchers and managers, each through a different approach, over the past few
years. Therefore, it seems that getting familiarized with their findings and standpoints would
enhance our understanding about the issue of technology intelligence and its dimensions.
To do so, Table II classifies the main studies in this regard.
Finally, there can be presented two categories of suggestions:

1. managerial suggestions for managers of technology-based organizations and


companies, active in the industries with high rates of technology change, which intend

Table II A classification of main studies in the realm of technology intelligence


Main subjects Researchers Subjects

Technology intelligence (philosophy, Brockhoff (1991) Competitor technology intelligence


definitions, concepts related, Ashton and Stacey (1995) Identification of technological threats and opportunities
generations and other aspects) Brenner (1996) Technology scouting, technology intelligence and
competitive intelligence
Ashton and Klavans (1997) Keeping abreast with science and technology
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developments
Lichtenthaler (2003) Different generations of technology intelligence
Savioz (2004) Technology intelligence system
Kerr et al. (2006) Conceptual model of technology intelligence
Savioz (2006) Technology intelligent systems in large, medium and
fledging companies
Rohrbeck (2010) The concept of technology scouting
Technology intelligence structure Lichtenthaler (2004b) Organization and integration of technology intelligence
activities and organization of international technology
intelligence
Lichtenthaler (2004c) Various organizing styles of technology intelligence
Technology intelligence process Ashton et al. (1991) Technology intelligence process
Lichtenthaler (2004a) Technology scanning and monitoring process
Lichtenthaler (2006) Stages of technology intelligence process
Lichtenthaler (2007) Different process styles of technology intelligence
Arman and Foden (2010) Designing technology intelligence process
Technology intelligence methods Gerybadze (1994) Technology forecast as means for organizational
intelligence
Norling et al. (2000) Process of competitive technology intelligence
Lichtenthaler (2005) Methods applied in technology intelligence process
Antunes and Canongia (2006) Technological foresight and technological scanning for
identifying priorities and opportunities
Russo and Rizzi (2014) Proposing a function-oriented method for competitive
technological intelligence and technology forecasting
Technology intelligence tools Schuh and Grawatsch (2003) TRIZ-centered intelligence technology
Porter and Cunningham (2005) Tools for tech mining
Yoon (2008) Introducing software to identify technological
opportunities
Mortara et al. (2009) Technology intelligence toolbox (tools)
Veugelers et al. (2010) Relation between technology intelligence and open
innovation
Karvonen and Kassi (2011) Patent analysis for analyzing technological convergence
Yoon and Kim (2012) Introduction of software tools to identify technology
trends based on patents
Park et al. (2013) Introduction of a software tool for technology strategic
planning
Technology intelligence players Mortara et al. (2009) Technology intelligence toolbox (players)
Other research Mortara et al. (2008) Implementation of technology intelligence systems
Takahashi and Nishigaki (2013) Technology intelligence-based new product development
Schuh et al. (2014) Identification of requirements for focused crawlers in
technology intelligence
Taghva et al. (2014) Proposing a conceptual model for university – industry
knowledge transfer through technology intelligence
cycles and social networks

VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015 Foresight PAGE 251


to improve their tech-related planning processes and decision-making through timely
identification of technological trends and awareness of environmental threats and
opportunities; and
2. guidelines for researchers and those interested in studies in the field of technology
intelligence.

5.2 Managerial and practical implications


A number of managerial implications are as the follows:
 In view of the different generations of technology intelligence suggested by
Lichtenthaler (2003), managers are advised to make endeavors to implement third-
generation technology intelligence (which interconnects technology strategy and
business strategy, decision-making processes and participatory planning and
coordinates technology planning and market in different time periods, etc.), which is
aligned with the third-generation technology management.
 Considering the philosophy of technology intelligence (Kerr et al., 2006), managers
should define procedures and mechanisms required to establish communication
between intelligence users and intelligence brokers. Also, they are advised to exactly
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identify data needs of intelligence users and facilitate boosting of spontaneous


behaviors aimed at identification of technological trends through intelligence brokers.
 Managers should also rightly distinguish between the different system styles of mine,
trawl, target and scan proposed by Ker et al. (2006) and use proper means and
individuals for each of the styles (Mortara et al., 2009).
 Missions and objectives of the technology intelligence system should be precisely
determined in an organization because each of the objectives, such as decision-
making improvement in the technology field (Savioz, 2004), identification of
technological threats and opportunities (Arman and Foden, 2010), facilitation and
boosting of open innovation (Veugelers et al., 2010) and enhancement of technological
learning, rests on observing a number of specific requirements and using some certain
mechanisms.
 They can choose the proper structure for the system of technology intelligence in their
companies considering various factors effective on the structure of technology
intelligence system such as company’s culture, technology life cycle, company’s main
structure, innovation strategy of the company, decision-making style and the industry
involved (Savioz, 2004) and understanding the characteristics, strengths and
weaknesses of intelligence organizing styles (structured, compositional and informal)
(Lichtenthaler, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c).
 In case the nature of the industry and related activities have made international
technology intelligence indispensible, managers are advised to follow mechanisms
suggested for international technology intelligence such as international R&D units,
technology ambassadors, listening posts and dispatching teams to international
conferences and exhibitions (Lichtenthaler, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c).
 To adopt proper methods of data collection and analysis, managers are also advised
to consider issues like functions expected from methods, the level of uncertainty, time
horizon, industry and technology change rate, company’s culture and restraints of time,
human resources and finance (Lichtenthaler, 2005).
 Considering the key role of ICT infrastructures and tools which have much been
emphasized by researchers (Yoon, 2008; Veugelers et al., 2010; Yoon and Kim, 2012;
Park et al., 2013), mangers are suggested to take advantage of Internet and intranet
infrastructures and tools (software systems and databases).

PAGE 252 Foresight VOL. 17 NO. 3 2015


5.3 Theoretical implications and directions for future research
Also, there are a number of implications for future research as follows:
 One of the very significant research subjects that have not been paid due attention to
is: How to design a model to measure the maturity level of technology intelligence
systems in companies and organizations? Studies are recommended in this regard.
 Much of the studies carried out in line with technology intelligence addresses tech-
based production companies and organizations (Lichtenthaler, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c,
2006, 2007; Arman and Foden, 2010), while similar studies in companies and
organizations in the service sector seem to be equally important.
 In line with the styles of organizing technology intelligence, it is recommended to carry
out a study aimed at choosing a proper structure (Lichtenthaler, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c)
for the technology intelligence system based on the effective factors involved (Savioz,
2004).
 Identification and prioritization of challenges and barriers to the design and
implementation of the technology intelligence system in companies and organizations
is recommended.
Also, it is recommended to research on the methods which are possible to be used in
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the process of technology intelligence (Lichtenthaler, 2005), as it is not exactly clear


which methods are to be applied in every stage of the technology intelligence process.
With that said, the exact location of methods along the process is recommended as a
research subject.

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About the authors


Mostafa Safdari Ranjbar is a PhD candidate in technology management at the Department
of Management and Accounting in Allameh Tabatabaei University. He received his BS and
MS in industrial engineering in 2010 and 2012, respectively, from Amirkabir University of
Technology. His research interests include technology intelligence, open innovation and
strategic technology management. Mostafa Safdari Ranjbar is the corresponding author
and can be contacted at: safdariranjbar921@atu.ac.ir
Gholam Reza Tavakoli is a strategic management consultant for public organizations and
private companies. He received his BS in commercial management from the Department of
Management and Accounting (Oil Company). He also received his MS and PhD, both in
Marketing and Management, from Tarbiat Modares University. His research interests
include strategic management and change management.

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