section provides more detail on the role of technology planning
in overall technology management. It examines the role of
planning for different levels of organization and the separate
facets of technology planning that may be adopted. By setting
the right kind of plans in place, the rest of technology management
has a greater likelihood of falling into place.
benefits of technology development to economic development
have been widely recognized: however, it is not always true
that investments in technology always provide benefits at
the national economy level. How to make the correct choice
of technologies and programs to pursue is a critical matter
in setting government level policy.
have to face similar considerations: whether they are supported
by governments, by industries or by a combination of both,
they have to provide something that could not be provided
by industry for itself directly. They are in effect middlemen
in the technology business and they have to justify the price
they charge for their product. Institutions may be research
establishments or universities: each have potential benefits
to offer, but they need to understand where they can contribute
and where they cannot exploit their particular capabilities.
is also important at this level to understand that technology
is a worldwide opportunity and presents worldwide competition.
It has been demonstrated that in economic terms import substitution
does not lead to rapid economic development: the better model
is to find those technologies which add substantial value
to the commodities produced within the economy in question.
This is the necessary world focus.
engage in research and in the application of technology because
it offers them a financial benefit, either in the short term
or the long term. Research organization often have as much
focus on training as they do on result production, and they
frequently serve as sources of information. This leads to
differences: commercial research tends to focus on need, whilst
institutional and academic research focuses more on opportunity.
Whilst an exclusive focus on the short-term would not be beneficial
to the overall health of a business, neither can the company
afford to put all its investments in technology into the long
term future. To meet both requirements simultaneously the
corporation will adopt a balanced strategy which allocates
appropriate parts of its technology investment to short, medium
and long term goals.
creation strategy is a subset of the overall technology strategy.
Once the overall strategic goals have been established the
possibility of meeting these through technology creation is
considered. The alternative of technology acquisition should
always be considered in this context.
key issues are what are the key technology areas for the corporation
i.e. where has technology leadership been established, or
where might it be established? This combines with the understanding
obtained from the higher level strategy and addresses factors
such as what are the exact requirements for competitive advantage,
what are existing cost structures and where might technology
offer a benefit, and what is the position of the external
change in two ways: first by incremental improvements and
then by breakthroughs. After a breakthrough there is a period
of successive incremental changes which after a period start
to show a plateauing effect, so that each successive improvement
offers a diminishing benefit.
foresight addresses this problem by trying to anticipate when
a technology will enter its sunset state and no further incremental
improvements will offer a significant return, and will endeavour
to bring about the conditions under which a replacement technology
will emerge. It may be found that a product depends on a series
of technologies rather than a single technology. Replacement
of a key technology may well have a ripple effect which entails
change or replacement of subsidiary technologies.
is the technology in its lifecycle, what are the changes occurring
to it, and what are the potential successors? The key information
to be determined is changes in performance, reliability and
cost. When this is known product development can proceed more
confidently on the assumption that certain inputs will be
available at a given price at a planned future time.
technology acquisition requires as much if not more planning
than technology creation: this is because effectively timescales
get compressed but still the same number of considerations
have to be applied.
first stage is to understand and identify exactly what the
target technology is. It must be understood what level the
technology is at: is it a base technology or an applied technology.
Acquiring a base technology may mean entering into an extended
relationship with the technology supplier and the implications
of this need to be considered. Acquiring an application may
mean that the recipient will not have the depth to move the
technology further, or be able to address issues that arise
with the technology in use.
start-ups evolve from a technology base: the issues that need
to be addressed are whether this offers enough to make a viable
company, or whether the technology should be sold to an existing
player in the market.
first assessment is whether the technology has enough impact
either on the market, whether this is through cost reduction
or performance enhancement, or on the internal cost structures
of the company. The higher the degree of novelty the harder
this is to assess.
the technology offers enough benefit and the market is plausible
then the company as a technology developer and technology
applier has to be evaluated.
creation is R&D. The complete creation cycle, from start
of investigation to completed product is lengthy: it varies
in different disciplines but typically 5 or 6 years should
be considered from basic research to product or service creation.
If the cycle starts at the applied research or experimental
product development level then it will be significantly shorter,
subject to any learning cycles.
skills are needed? Both R&D and Management.
execute a project successfully there must be technical skills
and management capability which can address the specific needs
of R&D. Part of the project planning process is the assessment
of technology competence of the group proposing to undertake
the project. Gaps will be identified if they exist. If the
group has substantial prior experience in the same field then
the risk of the project is substantially diminished and the
probability of project estimates being accurate is substantially
How beneficial to the corporate plan?
only creates value for a business if it addresses the problems
that the business has and is closely linked to the company's
overall strategy. At the operational level it is the linkage
of R&D to marketing and production that needs to be examined
to see that the right technology is being created and that
it is reaching the place where it is needed.
varies from joining a consortium to jointly fund long term
fundamental research to partnerships with one other company
which may be a supplier, a competitor, or a customer. In any
case the questions address whether the extra resources or
the sharing of scarce resources make sense, and whether non-exclusivity
is a risk that can reasonably be borne.
R&D is a multilevel topic. At the highest level there
are issues about managerial process and reporting. What are
the reasonable ways of demonstrating the progress of R&D
and the expected outcomes? The requirements vary from the
assessment of actual benefits realized, to recognition of
intermediate outputs that can act as surrogates for the long
term, ultimate outputs of R&D programs and projects.
manager who looks after R&D resources will be interested
in R&D efficiency i.e. are those resources being as productive
as they might be? Ordino has produced a refined way of measuring
efficiency in R&D departments.
management is the most fundamental level of R&D management,
and one which is crucial: the task is often assigned to technical
resources who do not necessarily have the complete set of
will assist R&D managers at any level by providing a mentoring
function. This may vary from periodic discussions of issues
that arise, to looking over the shoulder and taking the larger
view. At project reviews a second opinion can be provided
either as part of a review meeting or from a review of papers
so that privacy can be maintained.
introduction of a new technology to an organization requires
a careful plan to make sure that anticipated benefits are
obtained. The match of capabilities of the new technology
to the expectations of the organization is the first stage
in this, the installation of the technology follows, and the
process completes with the elimination of the old way of performing
the upgraded task.
requirement is often associated with the introduction of the
new technology and is also an important part of technology
transfer. The training requirements can usually be determined
easily, but there is also a need to capture the experience
of those trained so that repositories of frequently asked
questions and similar mechanisms can be used to support the
new trainees as they perform their tasks.
is usually a precursor of technology acquisition and requires
an assessment of all aspects of the technology including performance,
support requirements, extensibility and adaptability, and
total cost of installation and operation. This provides the
objective information which can then be used to determine
whether an acquisition is economically justified.
technology acquisition process starts with the assessment
described above and then proceeds to develop the infrastructure
which will be required to support it. This includes training
support, maintenance requirements and changes that may flow
from the new technology.
Communication and Marketing
is a broadly based activity which may focus on ways of presenting
the work of an R&D group to a wider public so as to gain
support for it, or to prepare materials that can be used in
the marketing of a technology based product, or of the technology
planning process for R&D occurs at two levels, the program
and the project. The program plans define the high level and
the criteria for the projects and the mix of projects that
will be undertaken.
plans will define milestones and review processes as well
as the anticipated way in which the goal of the project will
assessments that need to be undertaken are whether the program
plans accurately meet the goals of the organization and define
the project selection process in sufficient detail, and whether
project plans provide realistic detail and estimation of timescales
and resources needed to complete them.
of performance and usability of technology: Benefit Assessment
a project has completed by meeting its goals the question
is whether it provides a good enough margin over what it is
intended to replace, the incumbent technology, and whether
it can practically be put into use. R&D passes through
a series of prototype stages which move from demonstration
of principle with the laboratory prototype, to demonstrable
use in the commercial prototype, to demonstrable production
capability with the production prototype. The determination
that one of these levels has been met usually requires an
assessment by an independent body to ensure objectivity.
projects are harder to evaluate than other development projects.
This is because of the fundamental uncertainties being addressed
regarding whether something can be done at all, or what is
the best way of doing it. Milestones can be set but it is
hard to ensure whether they have been fully met or not. A
milestone implies a black or white decision, but in practice
there is a greyness associated with the choice.
What happened in this project?
sometimes hit barriers and progress towards a milestone is
no longer apparent. At this point the R&D Manager has
a hard decision: is the project dead, or does it need refocusing?
An external assessment takes some of the difficult human dynamics
away from such a decision, particularly if the refocusing
solution requires taking the project to a new group of researchers.
a technology has been developed there are occasions when it
is important to assess its value, either because it is being
sold, or because it is being used in a start-up company and
represents a part of the assets of that business. Valuation
is not a simple economic process: some consideration has to
be given to alternatives technologies. It frequently occurs
that whilst a technology is being developed to achieve a specific
goal, an alternative way of doing the same thing will also
emerge from an unrelated source.