How good scouting can beat good R&D: The Cisco vs. Lucent example

Cisco recognized early on that technology scouting would be a vital competency in order to compete against Lucent. Lucent inherited a powerhouse R&D department from Bell Labs in the AT&T breakup, making it impossible for Cisco to compete relying solely on internal resources. Instead, Cisco looked externally, partnering or investing in startups to acquire the necessary technology. Check out this article to learn more about how Cisco does it.

Systematic scouting

The Cisco Technology Radar is Cisco’s systematic approach to technology scouting. This presentation by Cisco provides an overview of their Technology Radar and some concrete examples.

The goals of the program, as explained in the presentation, are:

  1. Early identification of novel technologies and technological trends
  2. To enable informed strategic decision-making
  3. To stimulate innovation

According to the Cisco Blog, the Cisco Technology Radar is based on information from scouts, who can be anyone in the organization located anywhere in the world. In fact, Cisco says that “all Cisco employees can become technology scouts by leveraging their expertise, or their strong social network to get firsthand information.” Next, the submissions are reviewed by a panel of experts. The most interesting opportunities are sent on for deeper analysis by a scout. Finally, the submissions are reviewed by technical leaders and directors to determine each technology’s relevance for Cisco. A finished radar, disseminated every quarter, looks like this:

Cisco Technology Radar

Key technology scouting best practices

In their presentation, Cisco writes that their radar has taken best practices from several industries, including automotive, IT and pharma. Indeed, from our experience, many of the practices highlighted by Cisco are technology scouting best practices that should be adopted across industries. Below are a few of the most important.

Align efforts with strategy

By ensuring that your technology scouting efforts are aligned with strategy, you maximize the impact and value of your efforts. To do this, companies should create clear need briefs that are carefully aligned with strategy. These briefs are created, carefully refined and then disseminated to the appropriate audience, whether that’s only a few, selected scouts, the entire company or the general public. Throughout the tech scouting process, expert panels convene to discuss needs, opportunities and corporate strategy.

Synchronize your team

The best programs keep all of their team members in sync and on the same page. For example, when a scout finds an interesting opportunity, he is able to check if anyone from his company has already interacted with that company, technology or proposal. This eliminates duplicate efforts and increases efficiency. Further, it’s critical that the team’s knowledge is maintained, even as individual members come and go.

Analyze the context

To make the best decision regarding an opportunity, a complete understanding of the context is vital. Decision-makers need information related not only the opportunity, but also to internal solutions, related external solutions, the competitive landscape, market potential, etc. Achieving this requires insights from and collaboration with experts from across the company.

 

Using software to enhance technology scouting

Software plays a vital role in successfully leveraging these best practices by supporting the coordination, analysis, documentation and dissemination of information. In essence, with an expert tech scouting software solution, need briefs are efficiently created, tweaked for strategic alignment and distributed to the appropriate audience. All employees, whatever their location, can contribute their own unique insight and knowledge. Rather than spending enormous amounts of time and money trying to gather experts in the same place, they meet virtually whenever necessary.

Using standard workflows, opportunities are quickly but thoroughly developed, allowing them to sufficiently mature before a decision is made. Employees easily collaborate together by commenting on technologies, asking for expertise, assigning tasks or transferring responsibility. All of this leads up to the go/no-go decision. Because all data is kept in the same secure workspace, decision-makers have a 360° view on all technology scouting activities. Further, graphic reports help tease out information that might not have been obvious otherwise.

Throughout the process, the software platform serves as a corporate memory, tracking all interactions with external technologies, companies or contacts and maintaining key intelligence such as documents, emails, insights, relationship history, etc. Now, no matter who comes or goes, the intelligence is kept secure and accessible.

Want to learn more about technology scouting best practices and how software can help? Check out the latest Inova Webinar, Unlocking Value: The Innovation Key – Technology Scouting.

 

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