A New Method for Triaging New Technologies

February 21, 2017

External technology evaluation processes vary greatly across organizations based on the internal needs, industry trends, and corporate strategy. However, organizations that have a high throughput of technologies in their evaluation process find that maintaining a detailed structure allows them to accelerate their innovation activities and expand their technology pipelines.

Creating and maintaining a standardized evaluation process helps teams improve their early-stage triage activities, as best practices allow them to quickly identify promising opportunities and discard ones with little potential. A promising development in the evaluation processes is the technology development envelope (TDE). The TDE process combines the Delphi method for obtaining strategic technology information from key industry experts with an analytic hierarchic process to evaluate the impact of a technology on firm objectives.

The TDE process focuses on creating an objective measure on a 1-100 numerical scale based on the values of:

  1. Value according to the company’s objective
  2. Relative priority of the criteria
  3. Relative importance of factor with respect to criterion

Technology Roadmapping

Technology mapping emerged as a nuanced approach to strategically planning how technologies can integrate into an organization’s business strategy and product development roadmaps. First emerging at Motorola, it became the standard for managing the lifecycle of product innovation.

Technology mapping is, in its basic form, fairly straightforward. Technologies are mapped with a long-term view of development to emphasize how a technology fits within the linear development of the product and organizational objectives. Although straightforward, this approach to roadmapping is fairly rigid and does not account for the changing realities of markets and business needs. As such, project managers frequently find it difficult to maintain and update roadmaps based on internal and external factors. Another common complaint is that although helpful in visualizing technological changes in a product, it doesn’t offer much in terms of operational detail in enabling change. Roadmaps are themselves problematic in that they rely on the underlying assumptions that were made at the beginning of the roadmap, even though those assumptions can frequently change.

AHP and TDE framework

The TDE framework serves to alleviate the flaws in technology roadmapping by marrying technologies to organizational strategy. This is done so that managers can fully understand how a technology fits within the current product development cycle and how it creates a foundation for further innovation. A TDE is created by enabling technologies with the highest value to be integrated into a product development process within the timeframe where it offers an organization the greatest benefit.

Strategic information on the technology is obtained and then converted into an objective measure of the value that a technology confers to an organization. By creating a numerical value that can be easily digested, decisions about technology implementation can be made quickly and more accurately. The values are identified through the Delphi method and the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP); Delphi method is a framework for identifying and cataloging strategic information on a technology directly from experts while the AHP is the process by which the impact on a technology is assessed.

By combining rational and irrational information about a technology for decision-makers, a comprehensive decision about the viability of a technology can be made. The AHP functions effectively by breaking down a problem into a subset of smaller problems that must be approached systematically for a solution to emerge.

Within the TDE framework, the smaller subset problems serve to add qualification to the value of a technology, with re-evaluations occurring every time there is a change to the base assumptions of a technology roadmap. Technologies are evaluated based on the desirability of the measures, factored by the relative importance of the factors and their priority in terms of organizational objectives.

The end result of this process is a single numerical score that categorizes value of a technology and by which a judgement of its merits can be made.

Mathematical Model

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 12.48.09 PM.png

Technology value of technology (n) determined according to a company’s objective

wkRelative priority of criterion (k) with respect to the company objective

fjk,kRelative importance of factor (jk) with respect to criterion (k)

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 12.48.23 PM.png:Relative importance of factor (jk) with respect to the objective

Tn,jk,k: Performance and physical characteristics of technology (n) along with factor (jk)for criterion (k)

V(tn,jk,k): Desirability value of the performance and physical characteristics of technology (n)along factor (jk) for criterion (k).


By using this framework, organizations can easily identify how each technology benefits the organizations objectives. By using a 1-100 scale, key decision makers are able to make an objective judgement on the value of a technology and how it conforms to the organization’s business and technology goals.

See how ThermoFisher approaches technology scouting


Gerdsri, N., & Kocaoglu, D. F. (2007). Applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) to build a strategic framework for technology roadmapping. Mathematical and Computer Modelling,46(7-8), 1071-1080. doi:10.1016/j.mcm.2007.03.015



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