When Competitive Intelligence Became Part of the Solution
Updated: Dec 30, 2018
In the 1980s, it often happened that competitive intelligence managers analyzed various topics not directly related to the concerns of the company. The topics were too general to catch the interest of executives. Therefore, their messages were often overlooked.
Competitive intelligence managers did not emphasize strongly enough that the small changes they were talking about could have great consequences. These changes were introduced as changes in their environment and not as "tipping points" to be followed very closely.
In this cacophony, instead of managing the information to answer the company’s concerns, they remained too general, too conceptual, and their analysis did not bring necessary additional tools to help executives make their decisions.
In the 1990s, executives became more aware of the need to share and collaborate. Gradually they began to anchor the competitive intelligence function to the company’s needs. They stopped indicating where the problems were and began to share the efforts to find the best solutions to implement.
The time of parallel developments of a company’s interests and competitive intelligence concerns came to an end. Executives stopped asking themselves obsessive questions on the profitability of their competitive intelligence system, and implemented the following changes:
Surveying the environment for detailed technical analysis: No
Surveying the environment to facilitate executive decision making: Yes
Surveying the environment to identify and report threats: Yes
Surveying the environment to signal new opportunities to develop: Yes
In other words, competitive intelligence started to understand that it should be well-aligned with the other departments of the company by imposing a requirement of performance. The term bottom line driven intelligence found its place in the language of competitive intelligence managers.
The bottom line translates the last line of the balance sheet - that is to say, that the result is a reminder that intelligence is not a conceptual and theoretical bubble escaping an imperative statement. Like all other departments of the company, it must also have the desire to be effective and efficient. And, it can be so when its information management function is in line with the company's expectations.
Here are two examples:
1. The Strategic Plan meeting is part of critical business meetings. The competitive intelligence manager must provide to each participant the figures, results and all they may need to guide their choices and actively accelerate decision making. He must also report the comments contained in the literature about their competitors; detail the feasibility of their product portfolios or simply their market developments, and the revenue/market share of the most threatening competitors. To be efficient, he needs to concentrate on developing different alternatives and solutions rather than limiting his job to problem analysis.
2. As manager of the competitive intelligence unit, you are aware well in advance of the arrival of the leaders of the company’s Swiss subsidiary in France. Rather than wait for your executives’ information requests and the panic of last-minute preparations, be proactive and anticipate their questions. These are generally known in advance, so it is possible to anticipate them. Assume that at any time you will be asked for detailed information on the competition.
In summary, we discuss operational excellence that should be part of the concerns of competitive intelligence managers. In terms of operational excellence, added value generated by their contribution is rather easy to evaluate. It is measured by comparing exploitable information when it is “part of the game” compared to the result when it is absent.