Application of future scenario thinking for the development of products / services right now

An essay for the course id4215, topic 1.4, January 2008 Thatcher Ross Peskens 1094645 Master DfI – Delft University of Technology

In this essay two approaches to using scenario thinking to develop new products and services are briefly discussed, and an example case is given to illustrate how product / service design is done using scenario thinking. The process is then evaluated and it shows that future scenario thinking is effective in generating new ideas and transforming these ideas in practical design recommendations.

Product design, service design, scenario thinking, umbrella approach, backcasting, future mapping, localized information, internet

While scenario thinking has been frequently used as a tool for making strategic business decisions [1] [2] [3] (scenario planning) it can also be used for product / service design and marketing. This essay will give an introduction to scenario thinking for product design and give an example of how scenario thinking has been used to develop an internet service.
About future scenario making for BTP/S

Figure 1

1. 2. 3.

To develop a breakthrough product or service we need a slightly different approach. Normally driving factors are identified, scenarios are developed based on these driving factors and then the driving factors are monitored to see if one of the future scenarios is actually unfolding, so that a suitable decision can be made. Remco van der Lugt proposes [4] that from these scenarios insights should be generated and they in turn should be combined into a future map (a visual summary of insights). This future map then later on should provide the rich user information to develop products with. See also Figure 1. The idea is that the future map provides the inspiration for the design team. However, although this future map can provide a good source of inspiration it can be argued that because of the great number of steps after identifying the driving forces the map is neither reliable nor complete.
According to Noori et al [5] developing a breakthrough product / service (BTP/S) can be achieved trough an umbrella approach. This approach consists of three primary components:

scenario analysis to define how the future might look and limit the range of uncertainty; backcasting to determine how each future could evolve from and relate to the present; and continuous environmental monitoring to discover which future is actually unfolding.

Scenario analysis here assumes that the scenario‟s represent a plausible and desirable future end state. The scenarios should provide goals the company wishes to achieve. Backcasting is identifying the factors that might indicate one or more of these futures unfolding. This gives you a number of insights. And then continuous environmental monitoring of these insights can, among other things, improve managing and timing of new product introduction. In order to make decisions now one can look at the insights that currently expose current developments. When there is sufficient confidence in the insights development can begin, based on these insights.

To illustrate the use of scenario thinking for product / service development a case is used where future 1

scenario making has been used in an attempt to service design.
Description of existing service (context)

At home / office internet use still increases. More and more applications are web-based and the main point of use stays at the PC. Open source. Many companies decide to offer their code open source, this helps development while at the same time does not rule out a commercial business model. Others do not offer source code, but do use open standards and encourage applications to communicate. Closed source. As soon as one market-player has more than enough share it can more or less force the rest to just also use it (Microsoft / Google).
Scenario making

The current context is a web resource for college students in the Netherlands. Basically it is a website using the Wikipedia‟s [6] wikiMedia software, which enables any visitor to enter or correct information. The goal of this web resource is to provide local useful information for all college students, and teachers in a particular city. This means information like for example „where to buy a secondhand bicycle‟, „how to print from a faculty computer‟ and „what sport organizations are there‟. The information is particularly useful to people who are relatively new to the university and the city. Because of its target-group oriented approach it helps to find otherwise difficult to find information. In a broader sense the context may be defined as „providing localized information where information can be stored and shared‟
Goal of scenario thinking exercise

On the basis of these drivers three scenario‟s were developed, summarized here:
1) Personal, mobile closed source information

The goal of this scenario thinking exercise was to see what the future context and role of sites like these might be. An extra incentive to do this exercise was a design competition “ben jij beter dan microsoft?”, December 2007. The goal of this competition was described as: “Come up with and prototype a creative online service. Mash-ups, services, 2.0, gadgets, widgets, online, mobile, etc. are keywords.”
Techniques Identification of driving forces

In this internet people can afford and are willing to pay (either in currency or through advertising) for others to gather information for them. People are highly individual and are subscribed with their mobile device to a piece of „their internet‟. „Their internet‟ on the backside is powered by grabbing information from other parts of the internet through application programming interfaces (API‟s) like RSS feeds. 2) Mass home open collaboration In this internet people enjoy sharing information, A large part of the internet happens in the diverse communities. People are used to helping other people with questions and finding information. Open information is collected on wiki sites. People will join a community, they give something to the community and the community gives something back. 3) Mass mobile closed source People are much dependant on their local mobile information. People will use their mobile device to put many things (like what is up now, what there are doing now) on the internet, because of marketing they will be using proprietary systems to collaborate in. Because so much information is updated very often people can easily rely on this information, for all their daily activities. Because of marketing people will use proprietary systems.
Generating insights

First current and possible future driving factors were identified. See Figure 2. These factors are major trends in the internet, they concern the underlying technology and the use of internet.

Figure 2

Personal space is the „my own page‟ web well known now through hives, myspace, facebook and similar community sites. Mass collaboration is the „together it is worth the effort‟ attitude in projects like wikipedia, but also the hundreds and thousands of fora where questions are patiently answered. Mobile is the intenet everywhere with HDSPA, UMTS and WIFI, although slowly, the dutch are using it more and more.

From these scenarios a number of insights were generated.      People are willing to contribute People want to help others (fora) Many people want to join a community („to belong‟) People are looking for localized information People are looking for current content (what is up now?)


Websites become more communicative with others (API‟s)

Creating the product

While working on this project a number of the insights could already be identified. For example collaboration for current local information is already emerging through Google maps and Google calendar. And mass collaboration through community sites with asking questions has also started through projects like Wikia search [7]. From these insights a future product vision has been made. This future product vision is basically the draft product concept.
Future product vision Figure 3 Evaluation

The CampusWiki concept „providing localized information where information can be stored and shared‟ should be developed into an „information site of the future‟ The information site of the future will be bundling, or channeling the tremendous amount of information scattered over the internet in sites like personal blogs and fora. Because of ease of operation it will attract putting in information and having information will attract more information. Because internet will become available everywhere the demand for localized information on tom-tom kind of products and mobile devices will become big, and the information site of the future will be able to provide this information. To prevent information becoming over-redundant programs will become more and more communicative (with other programs). API‟s and standards will be developed for this. Large information generators will provide a consistent API, and small information providers (individual contributors) will use available information hosting. See Figure 3.

What worked very well is coming up with a good future product vision. By combining the different insights, seeing which similarities there are, and at the same time looking at signals that at are already present real possibilities could be found. Also what worked very well was making design decisions using this future vision. Not every part of the future vision can already be made or implemented, but it gives a good guidance to which direction it should go, some design decisions can be made now. The approach here shows how from scenario insights visions and products can be developed. The example uses developed scenario insights to recognize current factors. No intermediate future map is used and the use of such a future maps seems unnecessary because the drivers need to be monitored and evaluated, and not the future product vision for example. It therefore simply shows that making a future map is not always the best method.

From this future vision a number of design implications can be derived that can be developed, starting now. Some results can be applied to a next version of the CampusWiki. Like for example: open communication through API‟s, acquisition of calendars (grabbing google calendars and publishing local events) and making a question-answer model. Furthermore what can be supported is providing the editor community to behave like a community. Provide discussion pages, let people personalize their space and give them „their internet space‟.

Tessaleno Devezas, David LePoire, Joa˜o C.O. Matias, Abílio M.P. Silva Energy scenarios: Toward a new energy paradigm

L. Wilkinson How to Build Scenarios. Context and Conceptualization reader p 199- 208

Wilson - From Scenario Thinking to Strategic Action 1999

Remco van der Lugt – ID4215 lecture future mapping december 2007

Hamid Noori, Hugh Munro, Gene Deszca, and Brenda McWilliams – Developing the „right‟ breakthrough product/service: an umbrella methodology – Part A 1999

Wikipedia, The




Wikia search. A search engine where people can write a mini article about the topic searched.