STEEP forces help structure information about external environments for data-gathering.
SOCIAL TECHNOLOGICAL ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICAL
A tool for structuring thinking and key categories to make sure you do not overlook any is the well-known STEEP analysis. The STEEP analysis is a logical and effective way to begin.
Social Forces - population trends are clear social forces. Cultural diversity is another social force that will be a significant driver over the next half century. Literacy, population migration, and emerging societies can also be considered social forces.
Technological Forces - advances such as multimedia, the Internet, various mobile technologies, alternate fuel sources, and music format are just a few of all the possible technological drivers of our time. Web 2.0 technologies such as Second Life, Facebook, Twitter, and others are popular, though their true contributions to organizational efficiency are yet to be determined.
Economic Forces - the growing economies of China and India are likely to continue to influence other economies around the globe. Other economic forces include fluctuating currency exchange rates, changing interest rates, taxes, fees, and costs of doing business.
Environmental Forces - global climate change, storm activity in various parts of the world, and the limits of physical and geographic space in some countries are all examples of environmental forces that will have an impact on business and society in the future.
Political Forces - governmental transitions in countries like China and India have led to outsourcing trends that have altered and will continue to alter the global economy. Policies and plans of national leaders also shape global perceptions.
Scenarios generally ask what happens if forecasts are wrong, and a STEEP analysis will undoubtedly turn up forecasts. During this phase, it is useful to understand what the forecasts are saying; and in the next phase, the project turns toward asking what if they are wrong. These forces and forecasts should be treated with skepticism, but they clearly contain information about the industry.
(Taken from page 105 of Scenario Planning in Organizations)