The methodology of Deutsche Post DHL's Delphi study
The Delphi method was developed in the early sixties by the RAND Corporation (Research ANd Development). This U.S. think tank first used the Delphi method during the Cold War in the 1950s to enable analysts to chart the likely course of military developments.
Experts from all around the world
To find answers to the complex questions posed by the Delphi study "Delivering Tomorrow - Customer Needs in 2020 and Beyond," it was necessary to bring together experts from the fields of theory and practice. The process started with discussions on possible developments for the year 2020. These were led by a chosen group of specialists (theorists and practitioners including CEOs from prestigious international companies and scholars from the fields of economics, futurology, and logistics).
The resulting developments were consolidated into a comprehensive questionnaire and presented to 900 industry experts (selected Group clients) for evaluation. The panel of industry experts included practitioners from an extremely diverse range of industrial sectors and branches. The study's participants come from all over the world, ensuring a global perspective to the various topics. Most of them live and work in Europe. More than a quarter of them hold executive or senior management positions, which means that the study is based on assessments by top managers with many years of corporate experience and an international background.
Future trends in four stages
In accordance with the Delphi methodology, the study "Delivering Tomorrow - Customer Needs in 2020 and Beyond" was implemented in several steps in order to obtain the most precise and well-balanced representation of customers' needs in the year 2020. Following intensive discussions with our specialists from June through August 2008, the results were consolidated into a total of 81 theses on the future (step 1) and presented to the industry experts for evaluation (step 2).
During September and October 2008, these experts assessed the likelihood of each particular development occurring, as well as a possible time frame for its occurrence - either by 2015, 2020, or after 2020. In a second round of questions, held in November 2008, the participating industry experts were once again presented with 20 theses that had been particularly divisive during the first round of voting (step 3).
At this stage, they had a chance to reconsider their evaluations, against the background of the general survey results and their own personal assessments, and change them if they felt it was necessary. In the final round in January 2009, the combined results from both rounds of questions were presented to selected specialists for in-depth discussion. The specialists were asked, during interviews, to make a qualitative evaluation of the figures (step 4). The results of these discussions and interviews were also incorporated into various future scenarios.
This multistep approach, combined with the specialists' expertise and the industry experts' practical experience, makes it possible to produce a balanced and comprehensive assessment of future challenges and opportunities. Like pieces of a mosaic, the various experts' opinions can be put together to create a diversified picture of global trends, customer expectations, and underlying economic conditions over the next ten years and beyond. The current study is groundbreaking both in its comprehensive combination of theoretical and practical knowledge and in its global orientation.