In 1997, Kahaner developed the concept of the Competitive Intelligence Cycle. This basic concept derives from government agency intelligence gathering operations (eg CIA).

Planning and directing

The CI cycle begins with establishing intelligence requirements. It is important to prioritize information needs and set appropriate schedules/reporting periods. This phase requires a detailed understanding of what business decisions are being made and how the information will be used. When prioritizing information it is important to distinguish between targeted intelligence gathered to achieve a specific objective and awareness intelligence gathering general information that will be filtered to create a general picture of the competitive environment. Targeted intelligence is used to solve specific problems, while awareness intelligence is designed to continuously monitor the competitive environment. The planning process is concerned with achieving the right balance between the two.


A collection strategy is now developed based on established intelligence requirements. Pollard advocates translating key intelligence requirements into more specific key intelligence questions, then identifying and monitoring intelligence indicators. These intelligence indicators are recognizable signals that are likely to precede the actions of a particular adversary.


Analytics is concerned with converting raw data into useful information. The process includes evaluation, classification, combination and synthesis. Once the information is processed, informed judgments can be established regarding the competitors' intentions. The classification phase may include tagging the data:

(a) Primary – facts directly from the source (eg interviews, annual reports, promotional materials etc.)

(b) Secondary - reported by third parties (eg newspaper commentaries, books and analyst reports).

Data can be prioritized in terms of importance. Triangulation can be used to confirm findings when necessary. This involves cross checking items against multiple sources. The CIA provides the following guidelines regarding the classification of data or information:

Fact: Verifiable information is something known to exist or to have happened.

Information: Research on intelligence issues, the content of reports, and analytical reflections that help analysts assess the likelihood of something being factual, thereby reducing uncertainty.

Direct Information: Information that can, as a rule, be considered factual due to the nature of the sources, direct access to information and immediately verifiable content.

Indirect Information: Information that may or may not be factual, doubt reflects some sources of questionable reliability, lack of direct access to information, and complex content.

Sourcing: Depicting the manner in which information was obtained to help evaluate potential factual content. History teaches us the importance of classification and evaluation. Most political, military, and commercial intelligence failures have resulted not from inadequate information collection, but from poor evaluation of available information.

Many analytical tools/techniques exist to facilitate management decision making and such techniques provide vehicles for predicting competitive intent. Common techniques included are as follows:

SWOT/Portfolio Analysis: Classic SWOT or portfolio analysis (eg Boston Matrix, Ansoff Matrix, etc.) is applied to the competitors in question.

Behavioral Traits: Although not perfect indicators of future action, it is true to say that organizational leaders repeat past successful behavior and avoid past mistakes. So it is possible to predict future behavior to some extent. Understanding the behavior and reactions of rival corporate leaders can be elucidating future intentions.

War Gaming: In-house team workshops take on the simulated role of competitors for exercise. The team is provided with real data and asked to simulate the actions they think the contestants will follow. Their responses are then analyzed in a brief session. This process brings many benefits, such as enhancing teamwork, identifying competitors' weaknesses, and identifying information gaps related to competitors' knowledge.

Synthesis report: Information from numerous sources is gathered under a common main theme. It is possible to electronically scan large amounts of text for key words and selectively extract or flag them. Techniques such as word and pattern analysis can identify underlying themes and trends.

Mission Statement Analysis: The main purpose of the analysis is to predict what the competitor will do. It is therefore possible to analyze the competitors' mission statements to establish their goals, common strategies and values. It is very insightful to analyze how the mission state has changed or been interpreted over time. Rumors of possible activity can be checked against the mission stated by the adversary.


CI must be designed to meet user needs. Effective dissemination is based on simplicity, clarity and appropriateness as needed. CI should form the basis of competitive action plans where appropriate. A useful test is to consider what are the consequences of not passing intelligence? It is questionable whether it is necessary if there are no real consequences. Research shows that many CI projects fail at this stage. Hence presentation of CI is important. Pollard recommends developing a structured template for reports as follows.

(i) Information – bullet point graphics etc.

(ii) Analysis – interpretation of information.

(iii) Consequences – what may happen.

(iv) Actions.

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Time management