Competitive intelligence (CI), the purposeful and coordinated monitoring of your business competitors, can be an important difference between delivering a product or service that is viable or not. In this series of blog posts, I will describe some of the barriers that we have seen in working with dozens of clients in several industry verticals. In this post I will set the stage and define what I mean by competitive intelligence and a typical process to conduct CI.
The competitive Intelligence process is typically depicted as a cycle. In the strategy phase, a CI provider determines what information is needed by the business and devises a plan to acquire that information. In the collection phase, the CI provider is tasked with gathering relevant information from various sources, external and internal, human and published, primary and secondary. Once the information has been gathered (ideally, while it is being gathered), the analysis phase begins. Here the CI provider uses their own expertise (or calls on others with particular expertise in the area in question) to help extract meaning from the raw information that has been gathered and put it into a story that clearly indicates the impact to the business. Once the information has been interpreted the dissemination phase begins. In this phase the information is delivered to the decision makers in an easily digestible form, ideally with the impact clearly indicated. The business decision makers act on the information. This action phase often results in a change in strategy or at least a revisiting of strategy with a change in tactics. The cycle starts over again. This process can range from a formal documented process involving multiple departments within the business to an ad hoc effort involving two or three people sharing information at a meeting depending on the industry and the business.
CI in Practice
A survey of competitive intelligence managers by Frost and Sullivan from 2012 and studies by SCIP and Fuld & Company give a quick snapshot of the industry albeit from different time periods. In a recent webinar we took a quick, if unscientific, poll of the attendees about their CI activities. The following chart revealed the wide disparity in the make up of most CI ‘programs’ and revealed that over half the attendees conduct competitive intelligence on a part time irregular basis or not at all.
Competitive Intelligence can be a large, variable, and complex undertaking with many barriers to overcome. Is it any wonder that people who don’t do this on a regular basis encounter some barriers to success? The subsequent posts will talk about these barriers and give solutions for overcoming them. Hopefully, the examples and tips on how to overcome it will be useful to you.
View our webinar on Competitive Intelligence.