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					Environmental Scanning and Higher Education




                    By Pat Artz




         Prepared for Professor Sue Sampson

      CIS 620 Management Information Systems

                  Fall Term 2002

                 October 10, 2002




                    Page 1 of 17
                                              Table of Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 3

Definitions....................................................................................................................................... 4

   Strategic Planning ....................................................................................................................... 4
   Environmental Scanning ............................................................................................................. 4

Environmental Scanning in the Business World ............................................................................ 5

   Four Scanning Strategies ............................................................................................................ 5
   Perceived Uncertainty ................................................................................................................. 5
   Competitive Intelligence ............................................................................................................. 6

Environmental Scanning in the Academic World .......................................................................... 7

   Why Scan? .................................................................................................................................. 7
   Learning Organizations............................................................................................................... 7
   Scanning as a Four-Step Process ................................................................................................ 8
   Trends to Scan ............................................................................................................................ 9
   Environmental Scanning at the University of Missouri System ................................................. 9
   Environmental Scanning at Ole Miss ....................................................................................... 10

Environmental Scanning at the Center for Information Technology, Bellevue University ......... 11

   General Attitudes Toward Scanning ......................................................................................... 11
   Sources Being Scanned ............................................................................................................. 11
   Interview with Director Creagan .............................................................................................. 12

Conclusions and Recommendations ............................................................................................. 14

   Conclusions ............................................................................................................................... 14
   Recommendations ..................................................................................................................... 15

Bibliography ................................................................................................................................. 16




                                                                Page 2 of 17
Introduction

          Environmental scanning is a tool used by strategic planners in the business and academic

worlds. However, these terms often meet with a blank stare when presented to people outside of

senior management. What is strategic planning? What is environmental scanning? How do

businesses and universities use these tools? Is environmental scanning a tool that can be used

more effectively at universities? These questions will be investigated, with specific attention on

the role of environmental scanning at the Center for Information Technology at Bellevue

University.

          First, this paper will provide background information about strategic planning and the

role of environmental scanning. Second, this paper will examine environmental scanning as

business executives use it. Third, this paper will highlight the potential for environmental

scanning in the academic world and investigate several examples of environmental scanning

efforts at universities. Fourth, this paper will examine environmental scanning efforts and

successes at the Center for Information Technology. Finally, some conclusions and

recommendations will be offered to make even better use of environmental scanning at this

center.

          This paper will be submitted to Professor Sue Sampson to fulfill a research requirement

for the CIS 620 course. Additionally, the paper will be submitted to Dan Creagan, the Director

of the Center for Information Technology as part of the process of continuous improvement at

the center.




                                             Page 3 of 17
                                         Definitions

Strategic Planning

       Strategic planning is focused on the future. Strategic planners examine the objectives of

an organization, examine the resources available, and then make fundamental decisions about

those objectives and resources in response to a dynamic environment. Strategic planners are

disciplined in their approach as they gather information, test assumptions, and anticipate the

future. A typical thought for a strategic thinker would be, “Are we doing the right thing?”

       The resulting strategic plan is a set of decisions about what to do, the reasons for doing it,

and the way that the organization will do it. The plan may have to adapt to changes along the

way, and probably will. The strategic decisions are revisited as the environment changes and the

organization responds to those changes (What is strategic planning?).


Environmental Scanning

       Environmental scanning is a tool used by strategic planners. When an organization scans

the environment, it looks for external trends and events important to the institution, and then

identifies threats and opportunities that those trends and events may present.

       Strategic decisions must be made today, but environmental scanning is oriented toward

the future. The goal is to alert management and staff to trends that are on the horizon and may

affect the organization in the future. The information from environmental scanning is

incorporated in the next round of strategic planning (Morrison, 1992).




                                           Page 4 of 17
             Environmental Scanning in the Business World

Four Scanning Strategies

         Businesses conduct environmental scanning in a variety of ways, but studies have shown

that the various approaches can be grouped into four general strategies. The first is called the

defender strategy. Businesses that scan the environment defensively usually have a limited

product line and need to be as efficient as possible. Innovation is not a high priority – efficiency

rules all.

         The second strategy is called the prospector strategy. If a company has a broad product

line and values innovation and new opportunities, then this company will scan the environment

for new prospects.

         The third strategy is the analyzer. If a company has some product lines that are stable

while other products are more variable, then the environment must be scanned in a more

analytical way to discern opportunities for efficiency from opportunities for innovation.

         The fourth strategy is reactive. If a company lacks a systematic way to scan the

environment, then it will continually be reacting to external trends and events. The company

scrambles to keep up and is continually surprised by environmental pressures (Hagen & Amin,

1995).


Perceived Uncertainty

         One overriding factor in any environmental scanning strategy is the amount of perceived

uncertainty in the environment. Is the environment complex and rapidly changing? Are the

changes difficult to identify and track? Is the rate of change so fast that predictions are difficult?



                                            Page 5 of 17
If the answers to these questions are yes, then companies are less likely to engage in systematic

scanning of the environment. Some companies report great success as a result of environmental

scanning, while others report great disappointment. The perceived level of uncertainty in the

environment plays a key role in the effectiveness of scanning activities.

       Business executives from high performing firms report higher levels of environmental

scanning than executives from low performing firms. Executives typically reported that as much

as 25% of their time is spent scanning the external environment. Scanning is an important

activity for businesses, and it is especially effective at firms with lower levels of perceived

uncertainty in their environments (Boyd & Fulk, 1996).


Competitive Intelligence

       Competitive intelligence is closely related to environmental scanning. Businesses often

establish an intelligence need, collect data, analyze the data, communicate the finished

intelligence, and then take action. The definitions of strategic planning and environmental

scanning often overlap with competitive intelligence, especially in technology-oriented

businesses. Technology changes rapidly, and developments that are on the horizon often come

to market very quickly. If a firm gathers data on the new technologies appearing on the horizon,

then this could be called either competitive intelligence or environmental scanning. The

distinction seems to be that competitive intelligence focuses on upcoming decisions while

environmental scanning is more future-oriented (McGonagle & Vella, 2002).




                                            Page 6 of 17
           Environmental Scanning in the Academic World

Why Scan?

       American universities and schools were created in the industrial age to serve the needs of

the industrial society. These schools served the needs of the industrial age well, but the world

has changed considerably in recent decades. In general, universities continue to look to the past

for guidance and planning rather than looking to the future. Most universities lack an emphasis

on strategic planning and environmental scanning. As a result, universities tend to be either

static or oriented toward crisis management. If a university wants to stay relevant in the post-

industrial age, and if a university wants to move beyond crisis management, then appropriate

tools to employ are strategic planning and environmental scanning Slaughter, n.d.).


Learning Organizations

       Currently, the model being advocated by strategic planners is called the learning

organization. The desired characteristics of a learning organization are in response to repeated

failures in strategic planning. In the past, organizations often engaged in strategic planning as a

once-a-year formal planning session with senior managers, but this idea often lead to failure.

The rest of the organization usually did not understand the plan presented by senior managers or

did not understand how to implement it. In another model, planners tried to involve middle

managers more and focus on implementing the strategic plan, but short-range obstacles often

interfered with the long-range plans, and the entire process stalled. In yet another model,

companies focused on readiness for change. Unfortunately, most organizations continued to fail,




                                           Page 7 of 17
often because the reward systems and cultures of the organizations favored the status quo rather

than dynamic change.

       Now, organizations want to be learning organizations, which means a focus on constant

readiness, continuous planning, improvised implementation, and action learning. Of these

characteristics, perhaps action learning is the only one without obvious meaning. Action

learning strives to evaluate change efforts as a routine course of action rather than waiting for an

end-of-the-year report (Rowden, 2001).


Scanning as a Four-Step Process

       Environmental scanning is a four-step process. First, people within an organization scan

the external environment for threats and opportunities. Then, the threats and opportunities are

ranked according to the likelihood that they will occur and the degree of impact they might have

on the organization. Then, forecasts are made about the trends and events that might pose threats

or present opportunities. Finally, these forecasts are monitored to see if the forecasts are

accurate and if the threats and opportunities actually present themselves. It is a continuous cycle

of scanning/evaluation/forecasting/monitoring, which reinforces the primary characteristics of a

learning organization (Morrison, Renfro, & Boucher, 1984).

       There is not a magic formula or secret recipe for scanning the environment effectively.

Each university can establish its own goals, methods, and structure. In general, an organization

will search for information resources, select the resources to scan, identify criteria by which to

scan, do the actual scanning, and then decide on appropriate actions to take, if any. James L.

Morrison is an often-cited source for information about environmental scanning at the university

level. His article entitled “Futures Research and the Strategic Planning Process: Implications for

Higher Education” provides a complete framework for implementing environmental scanning,


                                            Page 8 of 17
with detailed explanations on possible courses of action. It is beyond the scope of this paper to

describe the steps involved in implementing environmental scanning at a university. However,

readers can see the attached bibliography for complete information on how to access Morrison’s

full article.


Trends to Scan

        What should a university scan for? The external environment is extremely complex, and

the task is daunting. Where should a university begin?

        Robert Walker summarizes some recent findings on his web page called “14 Trends of

Environmental Scanning.” His list includes the following trends:

        1.      Leadership that can manage change, risk, and diversity
        2.      Value and Return on Investment
        3.      Responsiveness to clients/customers
        4.      Technology that links people and fosters community
        5.      Change as an ongoing concern rather than a neatly planned event
        6.      Identifying revenue sources
        7.      Generational issues between levels of employees
        8.      Securing a quality workforce
        9.      Outsourcing
        10.     Making boards of directors more diverse and responsive
        11.     New competitors, and alliances with unexpected new partners
        12.     Consolidations and mergers
        13.     Globalization
        14.     Image building (Walker, n.d.)



Environmental Scanning at the University of Missouri System

        Sometimes it is helpful to see the results of an actual environmental scan in order to

appreciate the process. The University of Missouri recently updated something they call EnScan

Perspectives. The findings of the university reveal that eight trends are being tracked by the

university system presently, with each trend presenting either a threat to or an opportunity for the



                                           Page 9 of 17
system. The fourteen trends outlined by Walker in the section above can be seen in several of

the trends being tracked by the University of Missouri.

       The eight trends being tracked at the University of Missouri are:

       1.       Financial conditions in the State of Missouri
       2.       The implementation of new technologies in the administrative systems and
                procedures of the university.
       3.       The Missouri Coordinated Board for Higher Education, which makes strategic
                plans for higher education in Missouri
       4.       The graying of the faculty the recruitment of new faculty members
       5.       Distance education
       6.       E-Commerce
       7.       Intellectual property in the information age
       8.       Future technologies (EnScan Perspectives: Environmental Scanning Update 2001-
                2002)


Environmental Scanning at Ole Miss

       The environmental scanners at the University of Mississippi framed their scanning as an

effort to locate information on eight issues. Once again, the fourteen trends that Walker

identified as important can be seen in the trends being tracked at Ole Miss. The eight trends at

Ole Miss are:

       1.       Challenges posed by competitors in the higher education market
       2.       Student preparedness and expectations
       3.       Opportunities for external funding
       4.       Partnering with other entities
       5.       Attitudes of the public toward higher education
       6.       Employment outlooks in Mississippi and the USA
       7.       Sources for student financial aid
       8.       Demand for off-campus and online courses and programs (Ole Miss 2010
                Environmental Assessment Task Force, n.d.).




                                          Page 10 of 17
      Environmental Scanning at the Center for Information
               Technology, Bellevue University
General Attitudes Toward Scanning

       Professor Sue McDaniel offered to be interviewed for this paper. According to

McDaniel, the professors in the center value the importance of scanning the external

environment for trends and events that may affect the center. In particular, the center is involved

in several training initiatives in the corporate world that are directly related to the willingness of

the center to adapt quickly to market trends in the technology world.

       The center has several traditional degree programs. According to McDaniel, these degree

programs are evaluated periodically to make sure that they stay current. New courses are

pondered and existing courses are modified as needed. The corporate training programs are

modified almost continuously, while the traditional degrees are modified periodically. There is a

balancing act in the traditional degrees between the stability necessary for students to complete a

degree program versus the rapidly changing world of technology. Professors in the center press

forward with innovations that the market demands as much as possible while still maintaining

the stability necessary for students as they complete a sequence of courses leading to a degree.


Sources Being Scanned

       One of the first steps in environmental scanning is to identify the sources to be scanned.

In a quick oral survey, the professors in the Center for Information Technology at Bellevue

University were asked to list the newspapers, magazines, and journals that they scan on a regular

basis. Six of the seven professors were available for the survey, and they listed these sources,

which are not in any particular order:



                                            Page 11 of 17
       1.      Technology Today
       2.      People
       3.      The Tech Republic
       4.      InfoWorld
       5.      Microsoft Certified Partner Magazine
       6.      Air Force Association Magazine
       7.      Microsoft Certified Partner email bulletins
       8.      Women In Technology Industries newsletter
       9.      PC World
       10.     Ebusiness Weekly
       11.     Java Development Journal
       12.     Interface Architect
       13.     Syllabus
       14.     CNN Business Report
       15.     Deans and Provosts
       16.     ComputerWorld
       17.     EduCause
       18.     EduPage
       19.     The Omaha World-Herald
       20.     The New York Times email bulletin
       21.     Circuit Celler
       22.     Harvard Business Review
       23.     Journal of the American Association for Higher Education

The list of sources being scanned reveals that technology is well-represented in the list, with

business and education also figuring prominently.


Interview with Director Creagan

       An email interview with Dan Creagan, Director of the Center for Information

Technology, provides further information on environmental scanning at the center. Creagan

listed several additional sources of information, including Gartner Group reports and CompTIA,

which is a non-profit organization specializing in entry-level technical certifications. The main

topic being scanned when reviewing the Gartner Group reports and the CompTIA web site is

market trends that might impact the curriculum offerings at the center.




                                           Page 12 of 17
       Creagan also highlighted the role of the Advisory Board, which consists of senior

executives in the Omaha metropolitan area’s technology companies. The board meets annually

to examine the degree programs at the center, review past progress, and plan for the future.

       In addition, Creagan pointed out the university has a professional growth program that

assists in keeping professors current in their fields. Professors can use university funds to attend

conferences and workshops, hear the latest in their fields, and then report the information to their

colleagues.

       Finally, Creagan pointed out that all of this information is then coordinated with the

short, medium, and long-range planning processes of the university. A Project Planning

Committee, composed of senior executives at the university, meets regularly to review and

coordinate the various initiatives and projects throughout the university.




                                           Page 13 of 17
                    Conclusions and Recommendations

Conclusions

        This paper presented an overall picture of strategic planning and environmental scanning.

Then, the paper investigated the general role of environmental scanning in the business and

academic worlds. Key trends in environmental scanning were listed, and examples of results

from two universities were highlighted.

        Then, this paper investigated environmental scanning at the Center for Information

Technology at Bellevue University. The professors were surveyed about the sources of

information that they scan regularly, Professor McDaniel was interviewed about general attitudes

toward environmental scanning at the center, and Director Creagan was interviewed via email

about environmental scanning.

        Several conclusions can be made as the goals and methods of environmental scanning are

compared to the current practices of environmental scanning at the center.

   1.      The professors read a range of sources in technical, business, and education areas.
   2.      The center uses regularly scheduled meetings of an advisory board and a planning
           committee to help plan and coordinate strategic planning and environmental
           scanning.
   3.      Professors are encouraged to look to the future when planning curriculum.
   4.      Professors are encouraged to keep their skills current.

        Scanning at the center falls into the analyzer mode as described earlier in this paper. The

traditional degrees are relatively stable, while other opportunities in corporate training are much

more dynamic. Innovation and efficiency are valued in all of the degrees programs, but there is

room for more innovation in the corporate training area, and attitudes toward scanning reflect

that difference.




                                           Page 14 of 17
Recommendations

       The Center for Information Technology is doing an excellent job of informally scanning

the environment by reading various magazines, newspapers, and journals. This scanning is non-

directed at this point in time, and the process might be improved by identifying specific key

trends and events for focused scanning and reporting. Walker’s fourteen trends of environmental

scanning might be a good place to start if the center desires a more systematic scanning effort.

       The center is making excellent use of the Advisory Board and Project Planning

Committee. It is admirable that a small organization such as this center engages in scanning

efforts similar to larger institutions such as the University of Mississippi and the University of

Missouri. However, the board and committee meet formally and occasionally. The center could

move to more of a learning organization approach by seeking input from the board and

committee more frequently, or establishing scanning efforts to supplement board and committee.

Competitive intelligence is closely related to environmental scanning, and effort to gather

competitive intelligence more systematically might provide an edge.

       Most importantly, the center should celebrate its successes in planning and scanning.

The director and the professors are focused on the future and are willing to revise curriculum

based on timely inputs from external sources. This achievement should not be underestimated.

A focus on the future is the key to success in environmental scanning. Universities are often

rooted in the past rather than looking to the future. In this case, people are looking to the future,

and the Center for Information Technology at Bellevue University should be recognized for its

successes in environmental scanning!




                                           Page 15 of 17
Bibliography
Boyd, B.K. & Fulk, J. (1996). Executive Scanning and Perceived Uncertainty: A

       Multidimensional Model. Journal of Management, Vol. 22, No. 1, 1-21.

EnScan Perspectives: Environmental Scanning Update 2001-2002 (2001). University of Missouri

       System. Retrieved October 8, 2002, from

       http://www.system.missouri.edu/urel/SP2001ES.html

Hagen, A.F. & Amin, S.G. (1995). Corporate Executives and Environmental Scanning

       Activities: An Empirical Investigation. S.A.M. Advanced Management Journal, Spring

       1995, 41-47.

McGonagle, J.J. & Vella, C.M. (2002). A case for competitive intelligence. Information

       Management Journal, July/August 2002, Vol. 36, Issue 4, 35-40. Retrieved October 4,

       2002, from ProQuest Direct.

Morrison, J. L. (1992). Environmental scanning. In M. A. Whitely, J. D. Porter, and R. H.

       Fenske (Eds.), A primer for new institutional researchers (pp. 86-99). Tallahassee,

       Florida: The Association for Institutional Research. Retrieved on October 8, 2002, from

       http://horizon.unc.edu/courses/papers/enviroscan/

Morrison, J.L., Renfro, W.L., & Boucher, W.I. (1984). Futures Research and the Strategic

       Planning Process: Implications for Higher Education. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education

       Research Reports. Retrieved October 4, 2002, from

       http://horizon.unc.edu/projects/seminars/futuresresearch/

Ole Miss 2010 Environmental Assessment Task Force (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2002, from

       http://www.olemiss.edu/projects/umplan/envassessmentdraftreport.htm




                                         Page 16 of 17
Rowden, R.W. (2001). The learning organization and strategic change. S.A.M. Advanced

       Management Journal, Summer 2001, Vol. 66, Issue 3, 11-16. Retrieved October 4, 2002,

       from ProQuest Direct.

Slaughter, R.A. (n.d.). Why Schools Should be Scanning the Future and Using Futures Tools.

       Auburn Horizon. Retrieved October 4, 2002, from

       http://www.auburn.edu/administration/horizon/futurestools.html

Walker, R.W. (n.d.). The 14 Trends of Environmental Scanning: A Road Map for Charting the

       Future. The Management Center. Retrieved October 8, 2002, from

       http://www.tmcenter.org/quarterly/4_trends.html

What is strategic planning? (n.d.). Retrieved on October 8, 2002, from

       http://www.nonprofits.org/npofaq/03/22.html




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