Competitive Intelligence

CI - Competitive Intelligence has an image problem. The term conjures up images of conspicuous activity involving private detectives, telephoto lenses, and hidden microphones. Although such images are not entirely unpleasant, they are far from the truth. Simply put, CI is an ethical, structured, and legal process designed to analyze and disseminate data and information related to current and potential competitors. The ability to turn basic raw data into actionable intelligence is the key to successful CI. Actionable intelligence involves providing decision makers with timely and appropriate information that facilitates action. Additionally CI emphasizes the need to protect business activities from competitors' intelligence gathering operations.

The need for CI has always been there. Indeed Tzu's 'The Art of War', written in China over 2000 years ago, makes many references to CI. Know the enemy and know yourself, you will not be defeated in your hundred battles.

Such a reference is equally applicable to today's business world. Given established business trends:

(a) Globalization

(b) Rapid technological development

(c) Mergers and Acquisitions

CI is likely to be a strategic priority for many organizations. Currently, management information falls into two main categories. First report and control information. It observes what happened internally during any period of time. Second is information related to key performance indicators that provide measures of success or failure relative to pre set benchmarks eg. Accounting Ratios, Profit and Loss Accounts etc. Such data is certainly necessary but managers need to look further afield. CI serves this purpose.

A clear example

Competitive Social Networking for CI

The next generation of CI vehicles can deploy social networks as a powerful analytical tool. An innovative, competitive, opportunity for clients to collaboratively share and manage competitive knowledge. Co-founders Chris Rasmussen and Andrew Holt aim to provide tools that allow organizations to collectively build a current knowledge base about competing companies or products. Effective use of such information allows users to spot opportunities, identify threats and plan future strategies. The concept can be thought of as social networking with a special focus on the client's comprehensive business environment.

CI can provide many useful functions in any organization. These can be summarized as follows:

Anticipating competitors' activities.

The most obvious advantage of CI is to provide a system to consider the likely actions of specific competitors. The various strengths and weaknesses of the opposition can be considered, and a framework can be established to anticipate and pre-empt the adversary's initiatives. Early warning of competitors' actions enables the organization to judge the seriousness of the threat and develop appropriate responses. This process can also reveal potential competitors who are going to target your existing customer base or industry activities.

Analyzing industry trends.

It is possible to proactively establish growing trends by monitoring the actions of groups of competitors in specific segments or market leaders. If the management realizes the convergence of technology and methodology, it is possible to steal on the competitors.

Learning and innovation.

The CI process offers tremendous learning opportunities. CI forces managers to focus externally. By constantly reviewing the opposition we are better able to develop, adapt and innovate our own product offering. For example - the process of reverse engineering in which competitors' products are examined in detail. Can provide a valuable insight to improve our own products. Scenario planning exercises that anticipate competitors' actions can enhance organizations' understanding of the competitive environment.

Improved communication.

The key principles of CI are:

(a) Timely distribution of information to decision makers.

(b) Ability to share information across functional boundaries and provide wider access to knowledge.

These common concepts do much to enhance overall corporate communication and promote teamwork. Applying CI concepts correctly can overcome many problems associated with employee information overload.

The reality is that most organizations have some form of CI. For example commissions market research, benchmarking exercises or monitoring competitors' prices. CI offers the opportunity to bring together different stands of information that already exist.

See More


Time management