Jack R. Meredith and Samuel J. Mantel, Jr.
University of Cincinnati
Forecasting is hard, particularly of the future. [Anonymous]
Forecasting is like trying to drive a car blindfolded and following directions given by a person who is looking out the back window. [Anonymous]
Technology is the application of science or art. All projects rest on a technological base. They are concerned with using science and art to accomplish some goals. Indeed, most projects rest on a base formed by many technologies. When a project is initiated, decisions must be made about which of the relevant and available technologies to employ. At times, a choice must be made between beginning the project immediately, using currently available technologies, or delaying the project in order to adopt a superior technology that is expected but is not currently available.
In addition to technological choices made for the project itself, it may be necessary to forecast the technologies with which our technological choices and our project results will interact. Our systems must be reasonably compatible with those in the environment that do or will exist across their expected life.
Both reasons for forecasting technology go beyond the obvious need to plan for the technological future. Such planning may or may not be the subject of a special project. For many organizations, technological planning is an ongoing function of management. But whether planning is done as a routine or on a project basis, technological forecasting is required.
We define technological forecasting as the process of predicting the future characteristics and timing of technology. When possible, the prediction will be quantified, made through a specific logic, and will estimate the timing and degree of change in technological parameters, attributes, and capabilities.
As with idea generation, few project managers are engaged with projects at the point in the life cycle at which technological forecasting is normally done. Decisions made at this point, early in the life cycle, influence the subsequent course of the project. Whether implicit or explicit, the decision not to engage in technological forecasting assumes a static technological future. This is a false assumption, but in some cases the assumption is not damaging, We urge project managers, senior managers, and policymakers to make conscious decisions about engaging in technological forecasting, and we urge project managers to study and understand the importance of this process on project management.
We begin by discussing the nature of technological forecasting, its history, and how it has been used. We then survey the major techniques currently in use. Last, we consider how to choose an appropriate forecasting method, the limits of each method, and the general future of technological forecasting. Some of these models require an understanding of basic statistics to employ them, but not to comprehend their use and role.
CHARACTERISTICS, HISTORY, AND IMPORTANCE OF TECHNOLOGICAL FORECASTING
Note that in the definition, technological forecasting is aimed at predicting future technological capabilities, attributes, and parameters. It is not an attempt to predict how things will be done. Nor is technological forecasting oriented toward profitability. That is, a technological capability or attribute can be forecast to be available at some time in the future, although society may not necessarily want or need the capability.
Consider the process of technological innovation. Many factors influence the progress and direction of technology. For example, science, organizational policy, organization structure, chance, need, and funding all play major roles in determining what technologies are likely to be available to us in the future.
Governmental decisions to support some...
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