Foresight Tools as a Key Success Factor
Key Success Factors of a Foresight Program
December 17, 2018, Bruno Jacobsen, Irmeli Hirvensalo
Organizations should involve their people in creating a vision that is shared by everybody. Great foresight tools invite employees to participate in, and get inspired by, foresight work. Technology alone doesn't ensure participation. But easy-to-use tools certainly help in fostering engagement, especially if people are scattered around.
This article is based on our ebook Key Success Factors of a Foresight Program. Get it for free: Key Success Factors of a Foresight Program (ebook).
Foresight Tools as a Key Success Factor
While engaged in foresight activities, organizations quickly realize the need for tools. They help them collect, process, store, and deliver future-related information content.
Similarly to market intelligence programs, many of the tools and techniques in foresight work include analysis questionnaires, information collection templates, and a wide range of analysis frameworks.
However, in the 21st century, the primary tool supporting organizations run a high-quality foresight program should be digital. The ideal is a software that supports the activity at the production end (information collection and processing), and at the receiving end (accessing and utilizing the content).
Given that most companies are looking at improving their foresight game through the use of powerful digital tools, we'll focus this chapter on those. In specific, what does good foresight software look like?
Tools for storing and distributing foresight content
A foresight tool should provide users with an interface containing previously-screened and organized information. This content can come from internal or external sources. The best foresight tools have been specifically designed to support the whole foresight process, bringing it structure and allowing for engagement. It should:
Make it possible to easily select and study key trends that will have an impact on the organization;
Engage teams. Basic knowledge about possible future developments is one thing, making that useful needs more - it needs teamwork.
Assess key opportunities and risks together
Draw conclusions and make educated decisions
Software - the tangible centerpiece of a foresight program
The digital foresight tool is one of the most tangible elements of a foresight program. As such, it serves as the natural centerpiece of a foresight program, even though people do most of the value-adding work.
Unlike other key success factors, such as foresight orientation or process, a digital foresight tool has a concrete look and feel. This makes it a great vehicle for foresight deliverables. Indeed, for the entire foresight program.
No single foresight tool will contain all the information decision-makers may want at their fingertips at all times. That's just a fact. But a great tool allows people to know where to start looking. A foresight program as a whole becomes exponentially more efficient when a good tool is used.
It's not just knowing where to find information, though. When leaders gain continuous exposure to information relevant to the organization's future, decision-making improves. Digital foresight tools today have the capability to send alerts about developments in areas of interest. This allows users to make better-educated decisions.
A good software tool will also help maintain the continuity of foresight activity, even if the "producers" or the users of the foresight deliverables change. In organizations, people and processes often change. Leadership does too. These often take tacit knowledge away with them. With a good tool, at least the explicit knowledge remains to be built upon.
Finally, a great piece of foresight software facilitates the gradual build-up of foresight orientation (KSF number 1) within the organization. It does this by enabling a two-way flow of information among the users of the foresight deliverables. The "wisdom of the crowds" applies here, in that no single team will be able to deliver all relevant business information. But together, all teams can.
It's important to reinforce that no digital tool will do everything for an organization. But they surely help facilitate the process. Once future radars are in place, organizations start to function on a whole new level of future awareness. Its strategy and actions become not only guided, but inspired by future foresight.
Futures Platform provides easy-to-use, high-quality software to discover trends, conduct foresight activities, reach conclusions about the future, and deliver great results. Have a look at some of our free radars: Futures Platform Free Radars.
Ideal features in a foresight software tool
There are a variety of technical features and functionalities that are essential to a good tool. Below, we show a list we compiled based on those features that organizations and users have found most valuable. When considering software to facilitate foresight, one should keep these in mind.
Content management features:
• Storing content in a database and adding metadata
• Categorization of content (taxonomy)
• Searching and indexing
• Usage monitoring and statistics Data sourcing and input features:
• Web crawling or monitoring
• RSS feed management
• Input through a web interface (for instance to enable internal trend observations)
• Input through a mobile interface
• Integration with external data sources (e.g. API that enables importing data from other sources)
Security and user rights management:
• Secure authentication and authorization
• Encrypted data storage and/or transfer
• Granular access rights of users
• Single sign-on to save the user from the trouble of logging in separately to the foresight tool
Dissemination (”push” from the foresight team to the users):
• Automated email alerts to the users
• Integration of external user interfaces (API, XML, RSS, SharePoint)
• Self-service access (“pull” by the foresight users)
• Sophisticated search tools
• Fully functional mobile interface
Collaboration and engagement:
• Commenting and rating of content items
• Discussion forums and/or threads
• User groups and facilitation of networking and co-creation of content
Another perspective to take here relates to whom exactly the interest groups are. In this, there are three distinct groups of stakeholders as it relates to the foresight software:
•The foresight lead is most interested in internal marketing and branding of the foresight activity, usage statistics, managing data sourcing, and making sure that the content will reach the users in an optimal way.
• The analysts and/or part-time contributors need to consider how to best make available the content to the end users, manage the content in the system, and collaborate among the contributor team and with the end users.
• The foresight users will appreciate features that make the tool easy and engaging to use and to collaborate with the foresight team and other users.
On top of that, many organizations are also looking to add features to their foresight tools that are similar to many already used by social media platforms. The reason being that increasing collaboration and knowledge sharing are essential tenets of the foresight activity.
Bringing structure to future-oriented content
The future is uncertain for everyone, yet it can be structured under broad and narrower topics. This brings us back to the taxonomy discussed in conjunction with Foresight Deliverables; It makes sense for an organization to map out the relevant megatrends and their sub-trends to bring structure to the continuous foresight work. If there’s software to help in the process, even better.
Oftentimes, ‘future’ is seen as a chaotic and abstract concept that’s exciting and intimidating at the same time. Any tools that help people assign labels, descriptions, probabilities and interpretations to potential future developments will be helpful in producing and communicating future-oriented content deliverables to the organization.
A future-oriented ‘navigation software’ can serve as a component to a wider content management software, or it may be a standalone tool that supports the foresight work specifically and nothing else.
If you are looking for a comprehensive tool that helps you do foresight and make futures plan fast and easily, try our Futures Platform Free Trial and collaborate with your team to make your future-proof plans.