Change and the management thereof has become an integral part of management. To survive and prosper in the future, organisations have to understand the internal and external forces of the constantly changing world in which they operate. One example of the implications of change is the role of the communication practitioner that evolved from that of a technician to a strategist during recent decades. The communication practitioner has to realise that research is an effective tool to prove the value of the communication function. This study explores the use of environmental scanning as a strategic tool for an organisation to obtain a competitive edge. Knowledge management and the measurement of relationships in communication are closely related to environmental scanning. Environmental scanning is a process by which an organisation learns about events and trends in the internal and external environment. It helps establishes relationships between these trends and considers the main implications for problem identification and decision making. Any scientific research should be done against a theoretical framework. The systems theory and the information gap theory provide the theoretical framework for this study. Empirical research was conducted amongst the principals, marketing directors; information technology directors and scenario planners of all universities, technikons and registered private universities in South Africa. A total response rate of 58.7% was realised. A major finding was that, although most universities and technikons conduct environmental scanning and rate it as very important, there is no formalised, strategically aligned effort to integrate the findings with the strategic direction of the institution. The impact of environmental scanning on the respondents’ institutions is rated as significant to very significant. A revised model of environmental scanning was subsequently proposed. This model can also serve as a basis for future research and development. In spite of the different ways in which environmental scanning is conducted and applied, it has potential as a strategic tool - specifically to improve the role and contribution of the communication practitioner in the realisation of organisational goals.
Dissertation (DPhil)--University of Pretoria, 2004.