What is Environmental Scanning? Definition and 11 Techniques [Explained]

What is Environmental Scanning?

Environmental scanning is the process of gathering, monitoring, evaluating, recording, and disseminating information from internal and external environments. It is the process of monitoring changes and developments in internal as well as external environments that may influence the activities of the organization. It is the act of anticipating and interpreting changes in environmental factors.

Every organization has an internal and an external environment in which variables may affect organizational decisions. To cope with the changing business environment it is necessary for the manager to continuously monitors the environmental factors.

As an open system, organizational performance is affected by the change in the environment. The environment is dynamic in nature and changes according to time. The changing environment creates both threats and opportunities for the firm. It is responsible for the manager to capitalize on the opportunities and digest the possible threats created by the environment.

Environmental scanning is the screening of a large amount of information to anticipate and interpret changes in the environment – Robbins and Coulter.

Journal reports market surveys, expert opinions, employee feedback, etc. are the means of accumulating information about trends that a manager can utilize. Based on the requirement, the top-level manager in support of subordinates may involve in environmental scanning and make a decision that is adoptable in changing environment.

Techniques of Environmental Scanning

A manager can apply various methods of environmental scanning to collect environmental data. Following are the important environmental scanning methods,

  • Executive opinion method
  • Expert opinion method
  • Extrapolation method
  • Intuitive reasoning
  • Scenario building
  • Cross impact matrix
  • Morphological analysis
  • Delphi technique
  • Survey method
  • Brainstorming
  • Historical analogy

Let’s describe individually those environmental scanning methods,

Related: Environmental Analysis: Definition, Process, Tools, And Importance

Executive Opinion Method

It is also called the executive judgment method. Under this, the climate is projected based on the opinion and views of top executives. A panel is formed consisting of these executives.

Expert Opinion Method

Under this method, environment forecasting has based on the opinion of outside experts or specialists. The experts have better knowledge about market conditions and customer tastes and preferences. This met is similar to the executive opinion method. However, it uses external experts.

Extrapolation Method

Under this method, based on records and information, the future situation is estimated. The management assumes that the same types of events will happen in the coming year as the previous year. Time series, regression analysis, trend analysis, and forecasting techniques are used in this method.

Intuitive Reasoning

Intuitive reasoning is the just opposite of the extrapolation method of environmental scanning. Here the manager estimates the future situation by ignoring or without considering past events. The manager estimates the future situation based on his ideas and logic. It is a type of intellectual guesswork where the manager assumes the future without any biases.

Related: What Is a Manager? Definition, Types, Roles, Skills.

Scenario Building

Here a scenario is built for the estimation of different probable events and their outcomes are assumed. For example, units of electricity in the country can be estimated based on their consumption for household and business purposes.

Cross Impact Matrix

Under this, two conflicting trends of the environment are studied to see their potential impact on each other. A Cross impact matrix is employed to evaluate the internal consistency of the estimates.

Morphological Analysis

Here all the possible alternatives to achieve organizational goals are studied and evaluated. Fundamentally, it is practiced to forecast technological changes and their impression on the business.

Delphi Technique

This method is an extension of the expert opinion method. It means establishing a panel of experts and interviewing each member of the panel about the likely environmental trend. Later, the responses are summarized and returned to the members for assessment. This process continues till an acceptable consensus is achieved.

Survey Method

To anticipate the environmental information a field survey is conducted. Customers, experts, suppliers, leaders, competitors, etc, and opinions are collected and analyzed based on which the future is forecast. In surveys, both quantitive and qualitative information is collected.


Here at first, a group is formed, the new ideas are gathered through group discussion. They are formed to resolve new problems that will occur in the future. All members share their ideas, view, creativity, and experience, in a group and they conclude mutual consent.

Related: What is Group Decision-Making?

Historical Analogy

Under this, the environmental trends are analyzed with the help of other trends that are parallel
to the historical trend. For example, today’s economic situation of a developing country can be forecasted by making a comparison with an economic situation of a developed country in a similar developing stage of the past.

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