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Environmental Scanning | Trend & Tech Scouting

How To Identify Relevant Trends And Technologies For Your Organization

How To Identify Relevant Trends And Technologies For Your Organization

Preparing for the future requires organizations to carefully consider Where to Play, How to Win, and What to Execute. To identify Where to Play successfully, leaders need to understand both the threats and opportunities which new developments, legislation, technologies, and consumer expectations present.


Understanding trends and emerging technologies is essential to discover growth opportunities in today’s rapidly changing world. While all trends and emerging technologies are important, some are more relevant than others.

Decision-makers and innovation architects know that a firm understanding of emerging and changing environments is the foundation of future-fit adjustments. But with vast amounts of information feeding into the business environment today, how do teams identify relevant trends that drive competitive advantage through innovation?

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How to Move from Environmental Scanning to Actionable Insights?

Environmental scanning systematically searches for signals of change, which can be recognized from a wide variety of sources. This process is fundamental to identifying where your organization needs to position its purpose, process, product, and people for the highest impact. However, to move from weak signal scanning to meaningful data clusters—the precursors of relevant and impactful trends—requires evaluation processes rooted in qualitative and quantitative methods. 

Gathering information during the environmental scanning process can be accelerated through automated processes and the use of artificial intelligence. A high volume of data can be assessed using machine intelligence which can relieve manual labor demands and free up human capacity for qualitative and intuitive analysis. From large pools of data that have already been tagged and categorized through automation, the sensemaking process uses a combination of machine and human intelligence to group and evaluate data. 

Evaluation and quantifying processes are necessary to help teams identify the most relevant directions of change. Relevancy must consider external factors as well as respective organizational variables. Applying a rating and evaluation system to these variables should include both qualitative and quantitative data points alongside collaborative inter-division expertise to yield the most robust results. 

Infographic showing how technological trends & emerging technology relevance depend on internal & external factors

What Are Trend and Technology Ratings?

Rating tools may be used to assess weak signals, inspirations, or clusters of data that indicate a trend. Rating criteria can similarly be used to rank emerging technologies against relevance and prominence within an industry or for a particular organization.

Using review and rating tools that incorporate both quantitative and qualitative data as well as internal organizational knowledge assists teams in guarding against internal biases. Quantitative and qualitative rating criteria also ensure that trends and technologies are ranked and evaluated consistently and from a holistic perspective. 

Trends and technologies may share some of the same rating criteria. Although due to their differing forces on the market (i.e., trends = pull; technologies = push), it may be necessary to consider their ratings separately. A trend gains its relevance from measuring how pervasive and impactful its influence has become. While a technology is evaluated by its complexity and how far it has been developed. 

Ratings have to consider predefined data sets, and organizations must determine which criteria to use when evaluating. Time periods, industry or geography penetration, sustainability criteria, and immediate as well as periphery environment impact are all important criteria to help narrow down individual trends and technology relevancy. 


Consider who in the organization would be best suited to rate which criteria. Another way to consider rating roles is to identify who would be best suited to rate at which stage of the sensemaking process.

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Each trend and emerging technology in the ITONICS Showroom is presented with ratings that indicate penetration, scope, and adoption metrics. Understanding what these ratings mean and how they are derived helps organizations focus their attention and identify Where to Play.

Our team of analysts uses advanced queries and the ITONICS Insights tool to collect relevant information from quantifiable historical and present data. This is supported by qualitative research to statistically derive the ratings.

ITONICS has assigned ratings based on the following predefined criteria:


  • Scope
  • Potential Impact
  • Time to Market Impact
  • Adoption Stage

Emerging Technologies:

  • Scope
  • Potential Impact
  • Complexity
  • Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 

Discover how ITONICS derives these ratings:

Infographic showing how ITONICS assigns ratings for various trends and emerging technologies


Teams can best understand what each trend and emerging technology might mean for their business by conducting an internal exercise to collaboratively evaluate each element based on unique industry- and company-specific parameters. 

ITONICS has provided the following internal rating criteria for organizations to consider:


  • Business Relevance: How relevant is this element to your business?
  • Strategic Fit: How well does this element fit into your organization’s overall strategy?
  • Need for Action: How important is it that your organization take action with regard to this element?

Emerging Technologies:

  • Technology Attractiveness: How high is the potential value of the technology?
  • Internal Know-How: How much internal know-how does your business possess with regard to this element?
  • Need for Action: How important is it that your organization take action with regard to this element?

The ratings above are pre-set in the ITONICS Showroom. However, organizations can tailor rating criteria to align with their own set of needs and workflows. 

Different elements may also call for different types of rating criteria. For instance, teams can collaboratively evaluate their concepts, prototypes, solutions, or capabilities by setting up their own ratings.

Common rating criteria include:



Possible Scale

Novelty How novel is the idea? New to Business Unit, New to Company, New to Business, New to Industry, New to World
Customer Demand How pressing is the solution for customers? Basic Improvement, Performance Improvement, Excitement Improvement (cf. Kano Model)
Customer Validation How satisfied are the test users? Analysis of survey results with customers
Cost-Benefit Ratio How much benefit results out of the costs? ROI: 0-1%, 1-2%, 3-5%, 6-10%, 11-20%, >20%
Team Strength How capable is the team to bring the innovation to operation? Very Limited to Very Strong wrt. required skills

Internal evaluation of trends, emerging technologies, and other elements is an important exercise throughout innovation management. When undertaken in the environmental scanning stage, it helps empower teams with the consensus needed to ensure strategic relevance, strengthen buy-in, and act decisively.

There are generally two approaches to attributing internal rating responsibilities: community and expert. The community approach invites all members of a group, typically all employees, to rate; this is often appropriate for idea evaluation based on general criteria. The expert approach limits rating to a dedicated group of people who apply their expertise in either a certain subject matter or in foresight strategy; this is often appropriate for trend or technology evaluation based on specific criteria.

Depending on the approach and objectives, the evaluation process can occur continuously or on a targeted basis. Organizations or teams can send invites or run workshops to collect targeted ratings for the purpose of annual or quarterly portfolio updates. This ensures organizations keep their environmental scanning activities aligned to their strategic goals. 


The ability to easily compare and filter trends and emerging technologies allows organizations to focus their attention and identify the elements that are most relevant to their strategic goals. By understanding what the ITONICS Ratings convey and undertaking a process of internal rating, organizations can determine what variables metrics to prioritize. 

A radar can then be set up with different views based on a specific rating criterion and scores. For instance, if an organization wants to view only those emerging technologies that it has collaboratively rated with a high Need for Action, the radar can be set to this view. Additionally, users can save this view as a filter that can be shared and used for future decision-making. 


The interactive radar can visualize all elements based on their evaluation. This overview helps you to interpret your business situation and deduce possible next steps.

Also read: Why And How To Use A Trend Radar

How to rate an Element on the ITONICS Software?
When multiple Users rate an Element, do you show the average Rating?
How can I remove my Rating of an Element?

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