In my experience most people and organizations fail to perform this task in a
way. They omit something important that causes their net assessment
to be faulty -- sometimes catastrophic. We try to avoid doing that by defining as best
we can, in advance, the criteria
that could matter. If it turns out that some of these
criteria ultimately prove to be unimportant, so what? At least we'll have the
confidence that comes with having covered all the bases. The most common criteria
are listed here.
Understand the technology's fundamental characteristics. What's it like? Is
it revolutionary, evolutionary, or a minor tweak on an existing method? Is it hard to
understand? Will its complexity be invisible to the user? The greater its obvious
complexity, the more difficult will be its adoption -- but the more dramatic might be its
commercial impact in the long run. And here's the wild card: Could you add your own
ideas or combine it with another technology that might greatly enhance its value in the
target application? That's a nice outcome, and it's especially rewarding if the
technology in question is sourced outside your firm.
Judge all the attributes. What are all (not some of) the attributes that matter in
the intended application? How does the technology measure up in every case? What
user benefits and limitations will result? Demonstrating world-beating performance on
one measure is not enough; poor performance on a single important measure can
doom the new method. (I believe this is the most common cause of new-tech failure
in the market.)
Understand the competitive landscape. Not market competition; technology
competition. What other methods are available or potentially imminent . Have you
really scoured all the potential sources: company intelligence, clinical literature,
scientific literature, patent literature? Analyzing all this stuff is not easy and often not
quick; it requires a very open mind and some technical savvy to imagine what might
be possible. In each case reach an objective judgement whether your technology is
better or deficient in some important way. Imagine each competitive method in the
hands of your most powerful competitor. Can you still win?
Realistically judge development status. Is the technology at the idea stage, a
feasibility demonstration, a working prototype, a manufactured product, or what?
Obviously, its value grows substantially at each milestone. Does credible evidence
exist demonstrating performance on all important measures? If not, what will it take
to develop that evidence? Who will do that, and when will it be done? Meanwhile, who
will bear the risk of failure?
Consider and respect intellectual property. This doesn't require elaboration.
You know it's important to assess your likely IP position in the technology realm of
interest from both defensive and offensive points of view. Without IP protection of
some kind you're probably dead in the water.
Getting from here to there. How far is this new method from the market? What
steps will need to be taken? Who will take those steps; how long will it take; how
much will it cost? Will it all be worth it? While you cannot expect to develop accurate
answers to all these questions during technology assessment, surely you should come
up with your best, educated guesses. It's quite remarkable how often the answer to
the "is it worth it" question quickly becomes obvious -- one way or the other. One
more thing: Is the technology applicable beyond your field of interest? If so, consider
out-licensing or partnering to increase its ultimate value.
Apply the right expertise. Finally -- here comes the commercial -- you cannot
always handle this job yourself. Some outside resources can be critical (if the
technology is sourced from outside) or helpful (if you developed the method in your
own shop) to achieving an objective, reliable result. Line up some experts who know
the territory and the right means. And, good luck!