» What is technology management?
Technology Management is the bridge between science/engineering and business/management. Succinctly put, in a commercial world, it’s how you make money out of technology. For other organizations, it is how to make technology work best for you.
Technology has many different meanings to many different people. I am not an IT (information technology) expert, however as a technology manager, I can appreciate that IT could have significant impact on the efficiency of many organisations today. There are many different types of technology – product technology is the science which is embedded within different products and services. Production technology tends to be the equipment – machinery or computer systems – which puts the products or services together. Application technology is the end use of a particular product or service. To take an example from my work: the product technology could be a mechanical engineer’s specific technical knowledge on a consulting problem relating to a wind turbine generator coupling. The production technology could be the computer this engineer uses to write up his report. The application technology would then be the wind turbine generator coupling his knowledge, embedded in the report, is being applied to.
If this hasn’t helped, or if you are unsure how technology management may be able to benefit you – please get in touch with me and I’ll try to address your specific query.
» What benefits will I get?
As an independent consultant, I can offer a neutral perspective that presents factual information for debate and review. As a facilitator, I am used to working with people at all levels within an organisation to ensure that everyone gets their say, and all viewpoints are taken into account in an efficient manner. Working with The Technology Manager should:
• Save you time
• Optimise your resources
• Get information you did not have access to originally
• Provide a new perspective.
» What is technical facilitation?
Technical facilitation refers to enabling a process involving scientific or engineering analysis to come to an effective conclusion, whereby value is generated not only in the outcome, but through the process itself. Examples of ‘processes’ can be as simple as a meeting where several viewpoints need to be taken into account or as complex as multi-disciplinary international research and development projects. An independent facilitator in these processes can add value by ensuring that different viewpoints are aired in a neutral forum, and that the process stays focused on the intended agenda in a timely manner. If there are interesting and potentially useful ideas generated which are not strictly relevant to the original agenda, then these should be captured by the facilitator for later use by the organisation, at a more suitable time. The term ‘technical facilitation’ cannot be precisely defined as an expert facilitator must adapt to the circumstances of each process – each group will have different dynamics, and each ‘event’ will require flexibility to ensure the optimal outcome. Facilitators must know when to be directive and when to let a group move forward by themselves, when to let discussion continue on a topic and when it is necessary to curtail activities in the interests of meeting the objective within a particular timeframe. There are many tools and techniques available for facilitators, and through experience, facilitators know which ones to employ at any particular time to achieve the best results.
» What is project management?
A project is a time-bound activity with a specific objective. Usually it is complex enough to comprise several tasks, which are less complex activities that must be co-ordinated to ensure the successful completion of the whole project. Project management is the planning, organising and monitoring of execution of these tasks so that activities are accomplished by a defined timeframe, to a specified quality and within a particular budget. Most projects involve more than one individual, and therefore effective communication is a key part of project management to ensure that not only the project team, but also the project sponsor are kept informed and understand what is required from them and when.
» What is data mining?
Data mining is term used to describe gathering of information, facts and statistics from many different sources on particular topics, and analysing this information to present it in a format which adds value for the end user. This can be by producing summaries or graphical representations, or by clustering related information into different units.
» What is industry/technology trends analysis?
Industry sectors consist of related organisations, and over time, these organisations will show various trends in their behaviour and in their reactions to external environments. Various segmentations are available for industry sectors, such as the Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community and Standard Industrial Classification (or SIC codes). Technologies relate generally to scientific and engineering activities and products, and their use and impact will be different in different industries, and one technology many be used in many ways within one industry sector. Analysis of the trends brings together historical information, expert opinion on the different subject areas and forecasts of future scenarios. It can be used for background information prior to technology roadmap exercises, input into strategic planning exercises or product portfolio decisions.
» What is market research?
Market research involves selection of a particular market area and gathering information relating to perceptions, opinions and behaviours within that market area. Often it is used to define needs, or understand consumer/customer wants in order to ensure that new product development will be in line with market expectations. It can also be used retrospectively to understand reactions to products and services. There are many methods available within market research including: desk-based activities, online, face-to-face or written surveys, focus groups and customer panels.
» What is a brainstorm?
Brainstorms, idea generation sessions, thought showers – these are all processes for encouraging creativity, and usually group involvement. They can be used for problem solving or innovation. The specific problem or focus of the brainstorm is made known to all those present at the start of the activity and an open atmosphere should be created whereby all can contribute thoughts and suggestions in a constructive, non-judgmental manner. At the start of the brainstorm, all ideas should be presented and made known to all participants, without censure. Once a quantity of ideas has been generated, the brainstorm must focus on the objective to select the most promising for addressing the original issue, and there are various selection procedures, including voting, ranking, discussion, to achieve this. It may be that the brainstorm itself generates new objectives as, done properly, it should encourage creativity.
» What is a technology roadmap?
A roadmap describes how elements will change over a period of time. By linking together various elements, the roadmap can show what activities need to be carried out in the short- and medium-term in order to reach a longer-term objective. For technology roadmaps, the timeframe involved varies according to the type of technology being discussed. Technologies to support mobile communications will generally have shorter timeframes on roadmaps than technologies to support nuclear power generation. Elements of technology roadmaps typically include:
• The external market/industry or environment
• Products or services
• Infrastructure or resources.
For specific organisations, a roadmap will lead to matching a company’s in-house resources with commercial opportunities, and ensure a focus on key areas for development. For greatest effectiveness, the roadmap must be seen as a live document, which is updated regularly as part of a process, rather than documentation generated by a one-off event.
» What is a design review?
Within new product development, whether the product is a good or a service, it can be useful to stop periodically through the development process and review activities and progress to date and the plans for continued development. A review is typically carried out by a cross-functional product team to ensure that the different departmental objectives are being met. The review can cover areas such as functionality, performance against specified targets, compliance with industry standards or legislation, and aspects such as manufacturability. Typically organisations use reviews as part of their stage-gate new product introduction process, with reviews scheduled through the intended development process. Often the review is facilitated by someone outside the immediate product team to remove ‘group think’ and provide objective input. This can be an internal facilitator not involved with the product development or an external reviewer. Some organisations with novel technologies or technical aspects which are particularly critical to quality use external experts in these technology areas as part of the design review process.
» What is meant by technology strategy?
A technology strategy describes how an organisation plans to ensure best value from technical assets.
These assets could be:
• production technology – computers and IT equipment in an office or automated manufacturing lines,
• product technology – electronics within a toy or internet-based skills courses, or
• application technology - e-commerce within a retail organisation or technical consultancy services.
Organisations can have simple strategies such as ‘technology leaders’ or ‘technology followers’, or more complex, bespoke strategies dependent on their own markets and environments. An organisation’s strategy can be used to define the organisation, give a sense of focus and direction for the employees and motivate individuals to establish a more entrepreneurial climate.
There are many aspects within technology strategy including scanning the environment for existing and future technologies, understanding and selecting which of these technologies are relevant for your organisation, ensuring that your organisational structure best reflects your core competencies and allows you to generate value from technology opportunities, having an effective exploitation and protection mechanism where necessary.