Magazine article Management Review

Managing Technology for a Competitive Edge: An AMA Survey

Magazine article Management Review

Managing Technology for a Competitive Edge: An AMA Survey

Article excerpt


As many industries continue to lose markets to foreign competitors, new strategic issues are emerging: How do companies regain a competitive lead through technological innovation? And how do firms effectively manage technology to maintain that lead?

To find out how our membership is responding to these challenges, AMA surveyed 150 council members in the general management, research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and packaging areas. Council members are executives who meet twice a year to discuss current issues in their fields and also serve as advisers to AMA.

What factors spur technological innovation and the development of technology-related inventions for business exploitation? As seen in Table I on page 50, motivators to innovate are largely a result of reactions to competitive pressures and top-down pressures (22 percent each), followed closely by bottom-up pressures (20 percent), and proactive planning and strategic planning (16 percent each). A scant 4 percent of council members said innovation results from haphazard, ad hoc, or unknown sources.

While we do not know the extent to which senior managers are truly taking day-to-day responsibility for innovation, these responses do support the premise that senior executives consider managing technological innovation necessary and important. Despite a slim margin, the results also run contrary to the traditional theory that technology issues are most often brought to the attention of senior management through "bottom-up pressures."

Furthermore, while the vice-president or director of research and development was most often identified as the source from which new technologies are brought to the attention of policy-level decision makers (32 percent), Table II on page 50 shows the next most-often-noted source is the vice-president or director of marketing (18 percent). This again shows that competitive pressures require different groups within the organization to work together to identify needs and solutions in the area of technological innovation.

Furthermore, council members' views mirror the exact reasons why a cross-disciplinary field like management of technology (MOT) is emerging: It is born of an industry's need and competitive pressures. MOT links engineering, science, and management disciplines to plan, develop, and implement technological capabilities that can shape and accomplish the strategic and operational objectives of an organization, according to a 1987 report by the National Research Council's (NRC) taskforce on the management of technology. NRC members are drawn from the councils of The National Academy of Sciences, The National Academy of Engineering, and The Institute of Medicine.

Thus, technology management does not apply only to manufacturers or to so-called high-technology companies but has become a necessary discipline for every organization, large or small, that develops, markets, or uses technology. "Managing innovation is not just an R&D function; it's everybody's job," according to Michael Tushman, professor and director of the Center for Studies in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business.



Nevertheless, insufficient education and management training in this area may be halting progress in technological innovation. As shown in Table III (page 51), 54 percent of the council members said they think their companies need additional education in the management of technology. …

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