CONCLUSIONS

First, the research provides a number of interesting indicators of the state of technological scanning practices in small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses. The descriptive results concerning the objectives of the sample firms and the information sought highlight the multidimensional nature of TECHSCAN activities in SMBs. The generally accepted view (Martinet and Ribault, 1989) that TECHSCAN is concerned with scientific and technical elements, products, processes and information systems only partly reflects the true behaviour of small businesses. Our analysis of scanning activity organization confirms the central role of the owner-manager (Fann and Smeltzer, 1989) and the somewhat informal nature of the activities themselves (Raymond and Lesca, 1995). Nevertheless, a non-negligeable percentage of firms use relatively formal methods and include scanning in their strategic management. Factorial analysis was used to classify information sources in a way that goes beyond classical distinctions (personal versus impersonal, written versus oral, formal versus informal: Brusch, 1992; Johnson and Kuehn, 1987), leading to a functional interpretation of their use. Four TECHSCAN configurations were identified, reflecting four separate levels of development. Development seems to take place cyclically, on an upward spiral, with different levels of emphasis on scanning in the different groups. However, our configurations did not enable us to confirm the theory proposed by Jain (1984), who said that scanning develops in four phases. Finally, the factors found to have the most impact on TECHSCAN activities in the sample firms were strategy, uncertainty and environmental turbulence, R&D potential, amount of technology owned, level of education of managers. the presence of information networks and management involvement in the networks.

Despite these generally positive results, the research nevertheless has some limits. The first is the sample’s limited representativity. The results cannot therefore be generalized to all small and medium-sized businesses. The low response rate was basically due to the length of the questionnaire. The irrelevance for TECHSCAN practices of factors such as the size of the firm and the professional experience of managers were unexpected. In addition, we did not consider the psychological profile of the managers, which has already been found to be a major explanatory factor in the use of information sources (Welsch and Young, 1982).

Finally, the results provide some useful insights for future research and the implementation of TECHSCAN systems. The PLS results suggest, in light of the total variance explained by the constructs, that future research should focus on the use of information sources and the organization of scanning. These two dimensions refer implicitly to the concept of absorption capacity (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990), used in particular to explain why some firms innovate more than others. It would also be useful to study the influence of factors such as strategy, environment, R&D activities, technology, managers and information networks in more depth. On a more practical level, the multidimensional nature of TECHSCAN practices suggest that a multidisciplinary team should be formed since it has to cope with different but complementary issues: technological, financial, marketing, etc. The predominance of informal activities does not justify the exclusion of formal scanning methods. Our results also suggest that scanning activities should be managed by someone who is accepted by the other members of the organization and who has real decision-making power. The TECHSCAN team’s task should closely reflect the strategic choices and core technological competences of the firm. Finally, the cyclic nature of scanning development suggests that the scanning team should work on a part-time basis only, since activities are discontinued periodically.

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Last Updated 1/15/97 by Geoff Goldman & Dennis Valencia

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