Competitive Intelligence: Detecting New Threats
Question: In our Competitive Intelligence efforts, my department has been concentrating almost exclusively on our traditional competitors. I am concerned that we may be overlooking some competitive threats that may blindside us in the future. Is this a legitimate concern and, if so, how do I convince my colleagues and senior management that we should devote more time and effort towards emerging competitors on our business periphery?
Dear CI Manager: In a competitive environment where technologies are developing at an ever increasing pace and where there is much economic uncertainty, Competitive Intelligence has become both a driver and prerequisite for a company’s survival and success. While monitoring the activities of traditional is both desirable and necessary, it is also important to develop an understanding of companies that are on the periphery of one’s particular industry. It is likely that they are small companies with technologies or distribution methods that may not be fully developed, but with enhancements can develop into strong challengers within two to five years.
Depending on the source, tracking potential competitors may be referred to developing a “peripheral vision” (in order to avoid being blindsided) or the ability to pick up “weak signals”. The objective is to change your company’s view of the competitive horizon in order to take in the possibility of disruptive technologies and competitors.
It is likely that people within your own company are already aware of such developing threats but have not been able or willing articulate or bring together information on such threats.
As the CI Manager, it is your responsibility to start up the dialog, whether it is from one-on-one conversations with company personnel or industry experts. You might be surprised at how much your colleagues already know.
Once an initial body of knowledge has been developed, you can present your evidence to senior management on the current situation and extrapolate into the future on what your new competitors will be, how they will challenge your company and industry paradigms, and what has to be done now to avoid a crisis in the future.
This is what makes Competitive Intelligence so effective: it can take data and analyses from a variety of different sources (competitors, demographics, economics, financial, legislation, industrial and technological) and create a picture of current conditions and extrapolate into future to visualize the competitive environment two, five, ten, twenty or more years into future.
Competitive Intelligence is a way to get out of the confines of conventional thinking and to develop unique solutions to problems that would otherwise be unsolvable.
“You can’t be too rich or too well informed. Information is power, a world currency upon which fortunes are made and lost.” Richard Saul Wurman, “Information Architect