Competitive Intelligence (CI) is a key investment for most of the best business leaders. Instead of making significant business decisions based on intuition or gut, the best business leaders put time and resources towards better understanding the business landscape of opportunities. The benefits of making investments in CI directly correlate with one’s ability to exploit opportunities.
CI can be both internally and externally focused. Many large organizations have so many irons in the fire that few know the full extent of the activities and investments that are underway. By using CI tactics internally, business leaders become more aware of the organization and are able to more effectively navigate internal channels, connecting and sharing resources with other business leaders, and optimizing existing activities and investments.
CI of the external business landscape can be overwhelming. Where does one start? The key to successful CI is focus. Scope creep will kill the best CI efforts. When CI is initiated, the projects need to be clearly defined by objective and by time. CI is only valuable if it informs and facilitates better business decisions, so timely production of CI findings is essential.
Some CI projects may evolve into ‘surveillance’ efforts once business leaders see the initial value of continuing to collect and analyze specific business landscape elements. This is good, but do not assume that all CI projects will lead to ongoing surveillance; some topics are finite. When CI projects shift into surveillance, business leaders should ensure that reporting expectations are established; no one wants activity happening if it is not generating information or knowledge that can be used.
From experience, CI is not rocket science. Yet, not everyone can do good CI. It requires a level of domain expertise then a competency in doing research, aggregating disperse data, and being able to do an analysis to surface the valuable bits and pieces.