What is Competitive Intelligence? Part One

Posted by Mark Guthrie on Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is Competitive Intelligence? Part One

In its simplest format, Competitive Intelligence is a process that will make your business more successful than your business rivals. If you think of your business as a race then the goal is to get to the finish line first. The finish line for your business can mean a lot of different things- it could mean the successful launch of a new product or service, winning more work, improving your company’s brand or expanding the business into new territories. Regardless of your goals though, getting to the finish line first isn’t as simple as just being the fastest; there are a lot of obstacles between where your business is now and that elusive finish line.

Think about your competitors- some of these will be big, well established companies that dominate the market. They have lots of resources, but can be slow to react. Conversely, there are also small competitors who might not have vast resources, but they'll be nimble, innovative and can quickly react to changing market factors. Ignoring your competitors is dangerous as they are racing, or lumbering, towards the same finish line as you.

Competitors aren’t the only thing standing between your company and your business objectives - regulatory and trade issues can slow down your progress or detour your strategy. Knowing where those hurdles are, and how to avoid them, is an important part of running a smart race. There are other market events that can slow you down as well, so being able to look ahead and plan for disruptive technologies, industry consolidation and industry trends can help ensure you reach your goal. In Competitive Intelligence, these factors - that are outside of your control but exist between your business and the finish line - are known as the Competitive Landscape.

Can you imagine running this race with a blindfold on? Your chances of getting to the finish line first or even finishing at all would be pretty slim. Without using Competitive Intelligence, this is exactly what you'll be doing. CI can help your company understand and navigate the competitive landscape. By researching your competitors, the regulatory environment, and industry trends, the use of CI can help you plot a course that will ensure you achieve your business goals and objectives..

CI can come from a number of different places, including; published reports, financial statements, websites and articles. Using these sources is referred to as secondary-research and will include anything found via search engines or library resources. For a more detailed analysis of competitors, CI practitioners use primary-research which is gathered directly from the people who have the information required. These people can be industry experts, competitors, former employees, vendors and clients. The advantage of primary-research is that it provides the most comprehensive, specific, and detailed view of your company’s competitive landscape. In most cases, companies will employ a third-party research partner to undertake primary-research both to adhere to the legal and ethical guidelines and to ensure objective results.

Once all secondary and primary information is gathered, it is then analysed and processed. The data can be supported by CI technology applications but ultimately it requires the skill and perspective of human analysis to get the most out of the information. The result of this process is Competitive Intelligence.
In the next article, I will share with you how CI techniques can be used to find the best employees to come and work for you.  These individuals are usually currently working for one your competitors......

“This article was written by Mark Guthrie of Intel Horizon who partners with Maxim Recruitment on Competitive Intelligence gathering and selected search recruitment assignments.”