Envorinmental Scanning

In our content area, you will find technical terms that explain the topic of foresight and general terms from future studies, trend management and various methods.
Envorinmental Scanning

Recognizing Innovation Opportunities & Risks Through Environmental Scanning 

Environment scanning in a nutshell 

Environmental scanning serves as a systematic approach within innovation management to assess both the internal and external corporate landscapes. By identifying emerging trends, technologies, and signals early, it aids organizations in recognizing potential opportunities and risks, ensuring a proactive stance in market and innovation strategies. 

Methods of environment scanning  

Environmental scanning, also known as environment analysis, is a vital strategic activity that organizations undertake to analyze their external environment. This process helps in identifying opportunities and assessing risks, facilitating informed decision-making and the development of long-term objectives. Various methods exist for conducting environmental scanning, among which: 


PESTEL analysis is a method that analyzes the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal factors that can influence the business environment. These factors provide a comprehensive overview of macroeconomic conditions.  
PESTEL stands for the abbreviation of relevant data sources: political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, environmental and legal factors on which the environment scanning activities in this analysis are focused. In addition, the environments Mobility (M), Cyber (C) and Values (V) can also be considered.” -> should read. In addition, the Milität (M), Cyber (C) and Values (V) environments can also be considered.  


The SWOT analysis focuses on an organisation’s internal strengths and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and threats. By identifying these factors, strategies can be developed that exploit the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.  
SWOT stands for the abbreviation of the objects of investigation: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.


Scenario planning involves the creation of several hypothetical scenarios to examine various possible developments in an organization’s environment. This helps to prepare for different future scenarios.  

These environment scanning methods can be used individually or in combination to create a comprehensive picture of an organization’s external environment. The results of these analyses serve as a basis for strategic decisions and the development of long-term business plans.  

Environment analysis in the innovation process: why is environment scanning important for companies?  

Environment scanning is important for companies because it enables them to recognize opportunities in the market and respond to them by developing innovative ideas. At the same time, it helps identify risks early and develop strategies to minimize potential problems. This adaptability and focus on customer needs enables companies to achieve long-term competitive advantages and successfully shape their innovation strategies. 
Environment scanning is crucial for companies in the innovation process for various reasons:  

  • Early detection of risks
  • Identification of opportunities  
  • Targeted resource calculation  
  • Competitive advantage  
  • Adaptability  
  • Customer orientation  
  • Long-term strategic orientation  

In summary, environment scanning is embedded in a company’s innovation process to ensure that innovations are not developed in isolation but in line with changing market and environmental conditions. This plays an essential role in the company and its environment and helps to increase competitiveness, minimize risks and ensure long-term success.  

Early detection of risks 

In addition to opportunities, environment scanning also makes it possible to identify risks and threats. These can be competition-related risks, regulatory challenges, economic uncertainties or technological obstacles. By identifying these risks early, companies can develop strategies to counter them and minimize the potential impact on their innovation projects.  

Identifying market opportunities  

A thorough analysis of the environment enables companies to identify opportunities in the market. This can include new trends, changing customer needs, technological advances or regulatory changes. By recognizing these opportunities, companies can develop innovative ideas that target current and future needs.  

Application: Gaining information on trends and technologies through scanning and scouting  

Companies obtain information on trends and technologies through scanning and scouting by monitoring external sources such as market studies, industry publications and conferences to track current developments. They also often network with industry experts to gain valuable insights and first-hand information. This information gathering enables companies to react to emerging trends and technologies early, strengthening their ability to innovate and giving them a competitive edge.  

The role of digitalization in environment scanning  

Digitalization plays a crucial role in environment scanning as it facilitates access to information and data sources. Companies can use digital tools such as search engines, social media analysis and big data analytics to gather relevant information about market trends, competitive activity and customer behavior in real time. This digitalization helps to analyse the environment faster and more precisely, enabling companies to react more quickly to changes and make informed decisions.  

Data-driven analyses: artificial intelligence and machine learning  

Data-driven analytics, especially with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), enable companies to analyze large amounts of data to identify patterns, trends and relevant insights into their external environment. ChatGPT and similar AI-based tools can help companies automate data analysis and generate accurate reports, leading to informed strategic decisions based on up-to-date and comprehensive information.  

Challenges and limitations of environment scanning  

Digitalization has revolutionized environmental scanning by providing access to large amounts of data and real-time information, enabling companies to track trends and developments more accurately. Nevertheless, there are challenges and limitations to consider concerning data quality and the complexity of the analysis. The quality of available data can vary and requires careful validation to draw accurate conclusions, while processing and interpreting complex data analysis requires expertise and resources to gain valuable insights.  

Frequently asked questions and answers  

Environment scanning in the context of strategic management refers to the process by which companies systematically analyze their external environment to identify opportunities and risks and expand the product portfolio. This includes examining political, economic, social, technological, ecological and legal factors that influence the business environment. The aim is to make well-founded strategic decisions and successfully achieve long-term corporate goals. Therefore, environmental scanning also plays an essential role in companies’ innovation management.  

The frequency of an environment scan depends on various factors, including the industry in which the company operates, the speed of change in the environment and the strategic objectives. In fast-moving industries, a regular environment analysis may be required every few months, while in stable environments, an annual or even less frequent review may be sufficient. Therefore, it makes sense for companies to hire extra employees for the innovation management department, who can regularly scan for signals, look for innovations and perform deep dives. Ultimately, environment scanning should be a continuous process that adapts to the specific needs and dynamics of the organization to ensure optimal business decisions.  

Environment scanning in practice, plays a central role in innovation development but also in trend management in companies, as it enables companies to understand the external conditions and trends that influence innovation potential. By identifying environmental opportunities and risks, companies can target their innovation strategies and deploy resources more effectively. In addition, environment scanning promotes a customer-oriented innovation culture by helping companies better understand their target groups’ changing needs and expectations and offer innovative solutions. 


  • Conway, M.: A thinking futures refrence guide. Foresight: an introduction. Melbourne 2015 (http://thinkingfutures.net)
  • Hines, A., & Bishop, P. J. (Eds.). (2006). Thinking about the future: Guidelines for strategic foresight. Washington, DC: Social Technologiesnn
  • Müller, A. W. (2008). Strategic Foresight-Prozesse strategischer Trend-und Zukunftsforschung in Unternehmen.
  • Voros, J. (2001). Reframing environmental scanning: an integral approach. foresight, 3(6), 533-551.
  • Burmeister, K., & Schulz-Montag, B. (2009). Corporate foresight. Zukunftsforschung und Zukunftsgestaltung, 277-292.
  • Sutherland, W. J., & Woodroof, H. J. (2009). The need for environmental horizon scanning. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24(10), 523-527
  • Fahey, L., King, W. R., & Narayanan, V. K. (1981). Environmental scanning and forecasting in strategic planning—The state of the art. Long Range Planning, 14(1), 32-39.