Environmental scanning is an approach an organization uses to monitor its external environment including types of strategic external information shared and acted upon within the organization. A review of the literature revealed that it has traditionally been used by corporations to inform strategic planning and management's decision making process. An important outcome of the literature review was a distillation of factors portrayed as a general model for environmental scanning.
Using this general model as a basis, the study focused on environmental scanning functionality in four large systems integration (SI) firms based in the Washington, DC area. Twenty-four senior executive in these firms were interviewed to identify the influence of environmental scanning on their business development function. External factors such as customers, competition, technology, financial markets, government, social, industry research, knowledge, market, suppliers and more were examined. Senior executive interviews were structured as mini-case studies to reveal outcomes of environmental scanning functionality in their firms. These mini-cases were correlated across the four firms to identify patterns of system formality, market orientation, information technology, market turbulence, boundary spanning, and business development. A grounded theory approach was used to reveal and identify patterns and relationships among these factors.
The study found that while environmental scanning in SI firms is performed in an ad hoc and informal manner, it still contributes to business development performance. The study also revealed that these SI firms monitor the same external information areas and overlook another set of external information areas. It was observed that these SI firms, without exception, did not rely on theoretical constructs from the management literature to create their environmental scanning systems. Analysis of interview data showed that the organization structure of these SI firms deterred information sharing due to the competitive nature of internal business units. It was also found that because of the degree of competitiveness among internal business units, there was little commitment to share external information. It was noted that due to the weaknesses these SI firms have in their marketing function, they were less likely to fully exploit an environmental scanning system.
The findings from this study provide a basis for reconfiguring the general environmental scanning model distilled from the literature and offer a path for the creation of an environmental scanning roadmap designed to improve business development performance. Environmental scanning dimensions of frequency, scope, formality, and obstacles are addressed in this work. A series of propositions about the ability of environmental scanning to improve business development performance considered: integration of business development's boundary spanning role into an environmental scanning system; the influence of customer focus for SI firms' environmental scanning requirements; and, the influence of internal cultures on the functionality of environmental scanning systems.
Keywords. environmental scanning, business development, systems integration, market orientation, boundary spanning