Traditionally, management of technology was handled in a very linear, mechanistic way. Innovation moved from science to technology and design and then to production (Gregory, 1995). As there are now greater technological advancements, companies need to gain a competitive advantage in the market (Phaal, Farrukh & Probert, 2001). To do this, organisations need to establish ways to manage this technology and effectively link it with their business strategy. Gregory (1995) proposed and tested a management framework that involved a process approach to managing the technology. This, he says, will make explicit the organisation’s operations, meet customer’s needs and will allow the involvement of stakeholders. The five generic processes included identification, selection, acquisition, exploitation and protection. These were drawn from work ‘clusters’ namely competence and capability, research and development management, innovation, organisational learning and new product introduction. The processes are going to be explained further below.
1. Identification is the process of being cognizant with technologies which are or will be beneficial or important to the business. It is about understanding the options that are available to a company. It therefore provides a pre-selection framework which involve certain key activities companies can undertake so as to be aware of potentially useful technologies. They include:
a. Routinely scanning the market for currently available technologies or ones showing promising signs. Organisations might also generate their own technologies which can then be seized internally and made use of.
b. Through internal and external networking, attending conferences, collaboration on projects with universities, companies can create a wider research and development body to involve many people and disciplines.
c. Also, the companies can manage information through use of databases found within or outside the company tailored to the company’s needs.
2. Selection mainly involves choosing technologies that the organisation should support. This is a critical process as a lot of resources can go to waste if the wrong technology is selected thus limiting the company’s future options. Companies have their own business and technology strategy which is then used as a guiding principle to determine which portion of technology that will be relevant or important to the company and therefore should be selected. The following can be done to aid in selection:
a. Competence analysis – based on the companies knowledge and skills, they can determine which technologies that can be of ‘best fit’ and can be used seamlessly to perform the company’s business activities.
b. Product trajectories – here the company looks at how much they can advance certain technological developments so that they can manage it feasibly.
3. Acquisition involves taking in of the selected technologies through suitable means and firmly fixing or assimilating them within the organisation. The acquisition can either be internal, external or a collaboration of the two:
a. Internally, companies can undertake their own conventional research and development of a technology so that it fits the needs of the firm. or create knowledge through experience, a process known as organisational learning, which can then be used to develop a technology. Internal development is chosen when the technology needs to fit very well with the organisation’s products hence necessitating a high degree of control over the development (Mortara & Ford, 2012).
b. However, companies may not have the resources such as money, expertise and time to develop the technologies internally hence they can opt to acquire it externally. The company gives its specifications to the individual or organisation possessing the technology to develop it the required level of maturity before acquisition.
c. Co-development can be done with external partners. Joint ventures and partnerships are common avenues for acquisition of technology. Its difficult however to manage the relationship hence may require an investment of time and resources. These have additional benefits such as tapping into new markets and reaching a greater customer base. Companies could also purchase the entire business possessing the technology the company requires.
4. In order for the company to benefit from the technology, they would either need to transform the technology they have acquired into products that can be used to generate the maximum possible profits or discern their value through sale or joint venture. This process is referred to as exploitation. Further, companies can adopt other concepts such as technology fusion which involves combining a number of core technologies and transforming them into new products. Kodama (1992) defines it as a strategy of technology that “blends incremental technical improvement from several previously separate fields of technology to create products that revolutionise markets” which then leads to a creation of “new markets and new growth opportunities”. Lastly, companies would need to come up with maintenance mechanisms that ensure the preservation of its technologies to avoid them becoming outdated or poached by other companies.
5. Protection involves securing and preserving the knowledge and expertise found in products and processes owned by a certain company. Protection is normally done through legal routes such as patenting. Companies could go an extra mile to enhance their products so that they have embedded features which increase their security so as to protect their knowledge. An example is….. However, sometimes companies may want to tap into different markets and in order to do this, they may have to make their products compatible with products from another companies so as to distribute their expertise. They would therefore need to make their technologies manifest. Companies look to intellectual property rights to facilitate the required level of security. They are much more stringent, especially in the developing world.
Since 1995 however, there have been numerous advancements and changes that would affect how companies would manage technology. The internet for instance has created an exceptional platform where companies can easily track down up and coming technologies through