Friday, March 15, 2002

Competitive Intelligence Defined. Competitive intelligence is one of those terms that mean different things to different people, with many definitions based on misconceptions. One of the best definitions I've found is What Competitive Intelligence Is and Is Not.

Framework for Competitive Analysis is an MS Word document that provides a structured approach to CI, and Process to Define Intelligence Needs adds more structure to the art and science of competitive intelligence.

Mining Competitive Intelligence from Public Sources. By some estimates 90% of the information needed to perform an in-depth assessment of competitors is publicly available. What is required to obtain this information is knowing where to look. Also be aware that if you can so easily learn about your competitors they will probably learn much about your organization with the same ease.

Who Are You Assessing? Conducting competitive intelligence operations requires executive level commitment, funding and resources. You cannot [cost-effectively] watch everyone. The whitepaper titled Identifying Adversaries will help to identify the scope of your research.

Sources. The best starting point is Hoover's Handbook of American Business 2002, or if your scope is international, Hoover's Handbook of World Business 2002 is the place to begin. You will also want to bookmark Hoover's Online. One well-written article on competitive analysis is titled What Are Your Competitors Up To?. This article is aimed at recruiters, but the information is applicable to marketing analysts, members of benchmarking teams and product developers.

I urge corporate communications and legal departments to also be familiar with this material because there is latitude for implementing effective countermeasures. As a competitive intelligence specialist I know only too well that many companies make more information publicly available than is necessary. Look at it this way: your competitors are almost certainly expending money and resources to learn about you. Developing a business case for countermeasures may reveal a surprisingly large ROI.

Transformations. Information does not equal intelligence. It needs to be transformed into raw and processed intelligence (see Mike Tarrani's 28 February 2002 definitions of raw and processed intelligence in Postcards from the Revolution).

A document that addresses the information-to-intelligence transformation is Business Intelligence for the Finance Industry. Although this document is focused on the finance industry the concepts and approach can be used in any industry sector. Another source of valuable information and key indicators is a company's investment in information technology. The whitepaper titled Value Implications of IT Investments gives insights on how to interpret competitor information technology spending.

When competitive intelligence in turned inward it's called business intelligence. The same framework and processes used in competitive intelligence gathering and assessment can be used to evaluate your own competitive position. The whitepaper titled E-Commerce Internal Intelligence shows the value of business intelligence techniques when applied to e-commerce solutions, while Realtime Business Analysis provides a broader look at the value, factors and issues of internal intelligence. An interesting paper that looks inward is Agency Theory Online Analysis. This document is a case study that illustrates the value of web-based online evidence as research tactic for business intelligence.

Challenging Exercise. If you want to test your skills at analysis and developing intelligence from information read Information Technology for European Advancement. Place you findings within the context of European Union initiatives and develop conclusions. You may uncover interesting insights and trends.

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