Power of Competitive Intelligence– Think Garbology With A Twist: A Critical Edge That Turns Trash Into Advantage…

What you don’t know can destroy your company– it’s a highly competitive world where knowledge is power… However, with some savvy planning and perfectly legal snooping– otherwise known as competitive intelligence– you can drive strategy, soothe your fears, and give your company a competitive edge...

Competitive intelligence (CI) is the action of ethically and legally gathering, analyzing, and communicating information about your total competitive environment– it’s a practice that is essential in modern business… it’s warning system that enables business to make important decisions with a higher-level of certainty…

According to Linda Klebe Trevino; sometimes competitive intelligence gets a bad rap when some people associate it with terms, such as; snoop, corporate spooks, spying, James Bond tactics… which implies illegality or at least questions legitimacy of the activity…

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Competitive intelligence in its truest form is an ethical and essential function that involves collecting and analyzing often public, but little-noticed information, with an objective of ‘connecting the dots’ and leading to a competitive advantage… and, when it’s effectively aligned with the strategy-setting, it can help companies decipher the early signs of opportunity or trouble before they become obvious to everyone else. It essentially means understanding and learning what is happening in the world around your business so you can be as competitive as possible. It means learning as much as possible– as soon as possible– about your industry, markets, competitors, or even your county’s particular zoning rules. In short, it empowers business to anticipate and face challenges head-on… In essence it turns many sources of raw data, and in some parlance, garbage and trash into a significant competitive advantage– think Garbology…

In the article Competitive Intelligence Focused on What Matters by Jim DeLoach writes: In a dynamic, complex and uncertain business landscape, effective competitive intelligence is needed to provide early warning… competitive intelligence should be comprehensive in scope, integrating the intelligence gained from the analysis of multiple sources of data and information with the objective of identifying insights and trends that can make a difference in exploiting opportunities, identifying emerging risks…

In effect, a competitive intelligence function is the business’– ‘eyes and ears’ in a rapidly changing world… it’s a ‘early warning’ system that is critical in identifying ‘vital signs’ in an ever-changing environment… However, failure to make the fundamental connectivity with the enterprise’s underlying strategic assumptions leaves competitive intelligence as a tactical, ad hoc, strategically irrelevant process… If the intelligence function is not driven by factors relevant to the critical assumptions underlying the strategy, then the organization is at risk because the intelligence gathered does not convey the full picture…

In the article Importance of Competitive Intelligence by Tony Corrigan writes: Know your ‘enemy’: According to Sun Tzu; to know your enemy you must become your enemy… Sometimes competing for business can seem like a battle, where the odds are stacked against you and the odds of success are insurmountable… All is not lost however; competitive intelligence is a key weapon in leveling the battle field and allowing you to compete with the advantage of knowledge on your side…

Competitive intelligence is the ethical gathering and analysis of– competitor, customer, market… information from multiple sources… and, used by organizations to make better strategic decisions. It’s the difference between competing and winning… Your organization survival depends on the knowledge that you acquire from and about your– customers, markets, competitors… It’s not an overstatement to say– embedding competitive intelligence as core management process is increasingly essential for survival and growth in the 21st century… As Sun Tzu noted: opportunities multiply as they are seized…

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In the article Right Kind of Competitive Intelligence by Leonard Fuld writes: Competitive intelligence isn’t magic, it’s legal, it’s about gathering honest and hard-won information and analyzing it so that business can make sound decisions. Many companies mistakenly believe they can find all the information they need by just uses Internet search engines, but using the Internet is only scratching the surface… Unique business insight comes from blending, analyzing information from many sources, such as; street knowledge, market savvy, customer data… Here are a few rules for harnessing intelligence:

  • Rule 1: Marshall your company’s competitive knowledge: Created a war room and assemble a team drawn from across the organization, including; sales, marketing, engineering, manufacturing… collect all available information and use the war room’s walls as a strategic planning board pinning all available information, e.g.; product offerings, advertising, packaging, pricing, customers, distribution, market trends, innovations, government regulations… Hence, the team becomes fully aware and immersed in the competitive intelligence process, and the objective is to devise business initiatives that engages this competitive environment…
  • Rule 2: Build information filters to reduce competitive distraction: Monitor the critical signals in your competitive environment… This means devise a simple early-warning system based on series of weighted information filters, and monitor signals that tracks key competitive activities… When any of these signals is triggered, then the potential threat or opportunity needs to be examined for potential action…
  • Rule 3: Stress test your strategy to identify future threats: It’s one thing to develop a strategy and another to demonstrate its resiliency when faced with unimagined business  threats or opportunities. Stress testing is another way to scope out the potential competitive landscape– place your strategy in a type of pressure cooker, such as; a war game… to demonstrate or stress test your strategy’s resiliency…

In the article Protect Your Business From Competitive Intelligence by Michael C. Zahrt writes: Many large companies hire strategic intelligence experts, and these experts specialize in– discovering, uncovering… wide range of relevant information that can impact a company’s competitive position… The good news is that small and medium-sized business are not usually the targets of professional competitive intelligence experts.

However, business would be wise to protect itself from intelligence gathering by its competitors… Competitive intelligence gathering begins by identifying the strategy of a business and key issues affecting its competitiveness… One competitive intelligence expert suggests four steps business can take to protect themselves:

First, improve workplace culture to lower the possibility that workers feel mistreated… Those who feel mistreated are more likely to divulge sensitive information to competitors. Non-disclosure clauses in the employment agreements of all employees with sensitive information are also helpful, but can be hard to enforce. Second, business should be wary about being contacted by anonymous communications, i.e., phone calls, emails…

it’s common for competitors to make up a fake identity in hopes of gathering information… Third, business should ensure that their website is secure and not a source of sensitive information… Finally, remind your employees to be careful about what they post on social media. Employees may be disclosing more than they should on their profiles, and it’s easy for a competitor to find this information quickly…

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Every operation needs an effective network of informants, e.g.; every employee is a sensor, every employee is an intelligence resource… Encourage staff members to gather competitive information as they interact with people outside the company, e.g.; sales people talk to customers, who talk to competitors… human resources staff members interview job candidates, who work or may have worked for rival firms… purchasers talk to suppliers, who know who is demanding what and when it’s needed…

Get the whole company involved: Find out where employees used to work, what kind of data they use to do their job, whom they work with outside the company… It’s possible they have easy access to the kind of information you are looking for or have a relationship with people who do… profile the competitor’s top executives– examine the decisions they made to determine how decisive or methodical they are… Each independent information source can help complete a larger picture…

According to Burt Helm; sharp focus is essential to any successful intelligence-gathering effort, e.g.; don’t just say; ‘find out everything you can about all the competitors in the marketplace’… It’s far more productive to think of a specific question or problem that is crucial to your company’s success. The goal of your intelligence operation is to gather information to help address issues that really matter; remember– stable, predictable markets are relics of the past… According Gino Imperato; business moves fast– product cycles are measured in months, not years… partners become rivals quicker than you can say ‘breach of contract’… That’s why competitive intelligence is so important…

Forget the occasional racy headlines about industrial espionage and take new approach– think global, snoop local… become heads-up on a new innovations, know rival’s cost structure, understand changing business modes, track people’s talent… This kind of information gets exchanged all the time, e.g.; engineers swap gossip at trade shows; rival salespeople compare notes at a restaurant, Internet offers a remarkably wide variety of sources– news services, online job postings, brutally honest discussion groups… The information is out-there– all you need is an effective competitive intelligence process to activate it…

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According to Maryam Donnelly; competitive intelligence is one of the most powerful yet under-utilized sources of knowledge at most organizations– the key issue is with how companies store, access, analyze competitive information. They typically keep it in individual silos throughout the company, with no consolidation, no chance at analyzing the scattered data for broader organizational use… This lack of consolidation and analysis leaves many companies at a disadvantage…

The truth of the matter is competitive intelligence, in many businesses, takes a back seat to things like– impulsive, ill-informed decision-making… Where as through use of competitive intelligence, company could get a more accurate view of where the business is, within the context of the overall competitive landscape– its position now, its trend, its future potential… and more important, it provides much relevancy for better, informed decision-making…

A Garner Research paper suggested– that many of the world’s top global companies have serious issues making good decisions due to a combination of changing markets, lack of information…