Exploring e-government futures through the application of scenario planning



Cairns G, Wright G, Bradfield R, van der Heijden K & Burt G (2004) Exploring e-government futures through the application of scenario planning. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 71 (3), pp. 217-238.

In this paper, we examine the impact of information and communications technologies (ICT) on government departments/agencies and the contribution of external agents to change and development programs. We present empirical evidence of externally facilitated change to mindsets and patterns of behavior within local government through use of a scenario planning-based approach. Our aim was to facilitate the organizational actors' conduct of investigation of the ‘limits of the possible' for a range of plausible futures and determination of strategic responses to these. Participants used their own current knowledge and understanding as a basis for development, with the introduction of external ‘expertise' to challenge their thinking and to expand their understanding. Following this, we facilitated the participants' elucidation of key uncertainties on the future, exploration of the relationships between them and possible outcomes. The participants then constructed scenarios that outlined four possible and plausible futures. These held explicit meaning for the participants, enabled them to identify implications of each possible future in relation to structure and service requirements and informed analysis of current structure, service, etc. We compare and contrast the process and outcomes of our scenario-planning intervention (based on intuitive logics) with both those of other futures methodologies (decision analysis, Delphi and environmental scanning) and with other scenario methodologies (trend-impact analysis and cross-impact analysis). We argue that the external facilitation of internal generation of knowledge, understanding and meaning, and of exploration of the limits of the possible for the future, is a valuable tool for comprehending strategic choices. We conclude that our scenario approach, utilizing intuitive logics, enables organizational actors to make sense of the complexities and ambiguities that they face and so facilitates strategic change.

e-govemment; scenarios; futures; change; complexity

Technological Forecasting and Social Change: Volume 71, Issue 3

Publication date31/03/2004

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Professor George Burt

Professor George Burt

Emeritus Professor, Management, Work and Organisation