Why Technology Surveillance Tools Are Not Enough for Tech Watch

Published on 07 Sep, 2017

When technology evolves at a breakneck pace, it is necessary for dynamic organizations to track the innovations and technological developments affecting their area of business, and be aware of the opportunities — and threats — coming their way.

New technologies can either open doors of opportunities or prove to be a disruptive force for modern day businesses. A successful technology watching exercise not only helps companies identify new innovations and technology trends, but also chart out future strategies based on the insights gathered.

As a practice, Technology Watching is not very new; many R&D departments already collect large amounts of information and manage it using a variety of software, at times even error-prone spreadsheets. Many companies, these days, rely on technology surveillance tools to monitor new developments. These tools can help gather general and specific data from various sources and can help in dealing with a large volume of information. Such Technology Watch tools are often seen as a way to save time, money, and resources. In fact, many companies rely solely on tools to track every piece of information about what’s happening in their chosen technology domains. No wonder that technology surveillance tools are much sought-after to stay ahead of market movements and competition. The common perception is that they are superior to people in terms of tech information scouting.

But are they really better and sufficient?

Some think that they are, and some operate as if these tools are all they need.

The reality, however, is that tools cannot do critical analysis, draw insights, or replace common sense. In other words, these technology surveillance tools are still rather limited in their ability to ascertain which information is the most critical in the organization’s context.

See Also: Why Tech Watch Should Be a Part of Your Competitive Intelligence (CI) Strategy

Hard as it may be to accept, a lot of information on scientific research and new innovations is offline, and tools do not cover all sources. Tools can only gather information within their scope and reach, which may not include information which has not yet been digitized.

While the technology surveillance tools do have their merits, if you’re thinking about using such tools, you should consider their limitations as well.

Limitations of Technology Surveillance Tools 

  1. Tools don’t analyze, think, or add context or perspective to the information gathered. We still need to rely on human intelligence in order to understand the meaning and implications of what the tools find. Over-reliance on the tool’s capabilities and results may be counterproductive.
  2. More often than not, the developers of such tools are not from your domain or have never been involved in technology surveillance themselves. Sometimes the tools even exclude important information fields required for a comprehensive Technology Watch exercise.
  3. There is no “one size fits all” tool. While each tool by itself may involve considerable cost investment, implementation time and training to set up, using multiple tools can only multiply your problems. By opting for just one tool, you may miss out on critical information or information sources. The users of the tool may not even realize or remember that there may be more (sometimes better) sources that are not included within the scope of the tool, and therefore, may not reach out to find them. Such tools may also not be the best choice for a one-off project, as the cost and efforts required to implement the tool may not be feasible for a one time project.
  4. The selection process requires considerable time to investigate and research which tool is the best for your company, and given your constraints, you may have to eventually settle for less than you had hoped for.
  5. Many of these tools are too complicated for the average Joe, which could make the retrieval and analysis of information more difficult than required for decision making.
  6. The tools may not be as successful as expected for the users who are not very comfortable with technology. Intimidated by the tool, they may not even bother to seek information readily available to them.

As mentioned before, technology surveillance tools are not without merits, and there are some very compelling reasons that make them a valuable component of a Technology Watch solution. Such tools are good for collecting a variety of information by category to help you access details on your specific area of interest. Such tools can help you get more organized about fact finding and help you answer frequently asked questions about new and emerging technology relevant to your business.

The information on which business decisions should be made is often widely spread and more complex than what the tools can find. Therefore, the “intelligence” found using these tools is, by its inherent nature, limited. And this is where human intervention becomes necessary – to make sense of the data.

Use these tools for what they are best, gathering and organizing information, and narrowing the breadth of information collected. Such tools should be used to supplement human intelligence and analysis rather than aim to replace it.

It is important to continuously monitor the technological developments in your domain in order to assess the broader impact of disruptive technologies and emerging innovations on your business. Tech Watch in your industry as a part of your Competitive Intelligence strategy can help you react to technology changes promptly, as well as identify new opportunities to improve your company's competitiveness.