The tech scouts we work with have shared their deepest fears and past blunders. Here’s some strategies to avoid the same fate:
1. Flat Data in a 3D World
You might think you’re on top of your information because it’s in a spreadsheet, but a 2008 study found that that 88% of spreadsheets have errors . The time you spend updating spreadsheets and fixing errors is better spent on sourcing new technologies and evaluating the right opportunities. Also, the more data you have and the more of the world you are trying to represent, the more un-manageable your spreadsheet becomes. Rows are created to capture work that is “out of the norm”. Columns are added to “preserve” information this is not represented on other records.
You cannot make quality decisions without accurate data for reporting. Adopting tools built for tech scouting reduces data errors at the outset. When you can seamlessly import opportunities, you get the original spellings of companies and people, and similar information is all logged in exactly the same manner for comparisons later.
Tech scouting systems are designed to reveal relationships that might be hard to see, like all conversations your team has with a company, regardless of the opportunities that folks discussed or the specific person they met.
Organize and access to all of your data and reduce time hunting through spreadsheets and email.
2. Déjà vu? – Repeating Work You (or Your Team) Has Done Before
Although intriguing solutions may come to you every day many technologies that sound right may not be suitable for your business case. When you can easily refer back to the details of what’s already been explored, you can quickly see what has been done and why the solution did not progress.
On the flip side, many technologies come along “too early”, or need further development before they can be successfully incorporated into products. It can be challenging to keep track of all of the opportunities that are not ready for prime time today, but could be tomorrow’s “right answer”. Make sure you can designate future dates to revisit an opportunity later on.
Track every interaction with external partners to capture the details in the event that you or your team may need to pick up the project at a later time. Include a follow-up date for every conversation, to remind yourself of when you wanted to check back in on the work. Leverage software that will alert you about the opportunities you wanted to revisit.
3. Lost in the Forest (without a Map)
Action items tend to fall through the cracks without defined processes or team coordination. In some cases, opportunities may be missed, in others the same opportunity may be worked on multiple times by different teams. In a tech scouting webcast with Dow AgroSciences, Licensing Leader, Vahid Aidun explained, “We were successful because we had a process in place and a very specific list and communicated that list broadly.”
Define stage-gates and assign responsibilities to evaluate opportunities consistently and efficiently. Shared practices make it easier to find past evaluations and provide transparency for your team about due diligence or negotiations currently underway.
Triage opportunities quickly and with the same benchmarks. As your technologies move through your stage-gate process, assign tasks to your teammates’ calendars. Shared visualizations give the team top sight over how many items are in process and when a project may move to the next stage.
 Panko, Raymond “What We Know About Spreadsheet Errors” Journal of End User Computing Volume 10, No 2, 2008, 15-21