Monday, July 25, 2005

Environmental Scanning, Pt. 4

What happens when the Environmental Scan is done? Well, before you get there, you may find yourself asking, "how do I know it's done?" And this is because of the nature of scanning...changes, trends, events do not slow down or stop just because you're got to finish your work.

I have to say that we knew we were done because we had a deadline! A deadline has a salutory effect on the endless gathering of information. And when your audience is your Board--as it was in our case--turning in a tossed-together document is not an option.

Which brings me to a point that will be made by almost every article on this process makes (I say almost because I've not read all possible articles--all the ones I've read do make this point): an environmental scan has to be an actionable document which means it has to be part of a bigger planning process.

One thing we remind audiences when we do scanny presentations is that--despite its popularityin Libraryland--our scan was written as an internal document, as an aid to the business planning process. The scan split into two--my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl. Darryl 1 Scan became a very public document and happily gives speeches, presentations and interviews. Darry 2 Scan stayed in the building and was used by OCLC senior management, the OCLC Board and OCLC Members Council as a resource for several kinds of planning sessions.

I am asked often when we're updating or doing a new scan. Updating...nope, not doing that--at least in print. In presentations, we include new information about the original trends as well as significant trends that developed since we did the scan research. But we just do not have the bandwidth to update the print scan continually. As for a new scan....perhaps. If we do another scan as part of OCLC's business planning cycle, we would likely do another next year. If we did another scan only as a report to our membership, it might be further away than rationale (and you can tell me I am wrong) is that the landscapes we scanned have not changed in any deep way yet. It's more like extensions of the trends we highlighted.

We are perhaps on the verge of some really far reaching changes to the "infosphere" and if that's so, a new scan may be a good idea.

Many of the changes and extensions to existing OCLC services and the introduction of new services in the past year are a result of the planning process of which the scan was part. The drive to move information about collections and libraries out onto the open web is very much in spirit with one of the major themes in the scan: that all of Libraryland needs to be out where users/searchers/finders are. Our colleague Lorcan Dempsey blogs about aspects of this challenge quite often...and always more eloquently than I do.

Perhaps this helps all those people who've commented that we did not provide a good summary "to do" list understand that environmental scanning is not (usually) the place in the planning cycle where "to do" lists or the "should" statements are set out. The task of translating the information in a scan into tangible, actionable items is the task of whatever team or individual has the responsibility and authority to do so.

So, to summarize: there is no template for a scan, and there are no required landscapes. It is important to pick landscapes that are relevant to your community and are big enough to reveal significant trends. Scanning is no place for the microscope or myopia. It's also not for the faint of heart or the people who want things to stay the same.

Ok, enough about this I think.

Here's some resources (just a few...the post is long enough already). And remember the OCLC Scan has a large bibliography and many of the items in it are web-accessible.

Aguilar, F.J. Scanning the Business Environment, New York, NY, Macmillan: 1967. (this might be the first book on scanning)

Sager, Don. "Environmental Scanning and the Public Library," Public Libraries. 38(5), p.283-238: 1999.

Rehm, Robert et al, Futures that Work: Using search conferences to revitalize companies, communities and organizations. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society, 2002.

Costa, Jorge. "An Empirically-based Review of the Concept of Environmental Scanning." International Journal of Hospitality Management. 7(7), p.4-9: 1995.

Albright, Kendra S. "Environmental Scanning: Radar for success." Information Management Journal. 38(3), p.38-45: May/June 2004.

Clare, Don and Ron Nyhan. "A Grand Scan Plan." Association Management. p.73-77: January 2001.

Abels, Eileen. "Hot Topics: Environmental scanning." Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science. 28(3), p.16-17: Feb/Mar 2002.

Choo, Chun Wei. "The Art of Scanning the Environment." Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science. 25(3), p.21-24: Feb/Mar 1999.

Imperato, Nicholas and Oren Harari. Jumping the Curve. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass: 1994.

And you're all'll find lots of other resources when you start looking, now you know the notes to sing.

Happy scanning.

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