What is Competitive Intelligence?
When Competitive Intelligence (CI) is mentioned, two extreme notions arise in people’s minds.
One extreme is that CI is akin to industrial espionage with all that it entails, from obtaining competitors’ documents through dumpster diving or bribing janitorial personnel to pick up discarded documents, entering the offices of a competitor and using hidden cameras to film or photograph proprietary information, and all manner of similar skullduggery. In short, CI is seen a shady, unethical and illegal activity.
The other extreme is that CI is simply taking information off the Internet, newswires or picking up brochures. In short, an activity a co-op student could handle.
The truth, of course, is quite different.
Competitive Intelligence is the ethical gathering AND analysis of data dealing with the competitive environment. This data is transformed into a succinct understanding or actionable intelligence to facilitate decision-making by corporate executives.
The “competitive environment” deals not only with the activities of competitors (marketing and sales strategies, research and development, patents, mergers and acquisitions, hirings and firings) but all factors that impact a company’s livelihood. This includes regulatory legislation (like deregulation or pollution standards), the emergence of new technologies, new markets, public opinion, the emergence new competitors, etc.
All these factors are encompassed in the Competitive Intelligence mix.
Also, it is called Competitive Intelligence and not Competitor Intelligence. While Competitive Intelligence often does focus on the activities of competitors, its overall mandate is to help decision-makers deal with all factors impacting the company’s Competitiveness – and this also includes such things as legislation, new technologies, new markets, etc.
Sources of Data
While all competitive data are external in origin, sources of competitive data can be both internal and external.
Internal sources of competitive data include:
- Customer Service Representatives
- Human Resources
- Legal department
- Corporate Librarians
- Corporate travel
- Investor relations
- Media relations
- Market Research reports
Anyone in your company who deals with competitors, clients, government or anyone and anything impacting your company or industry can be a source of competitive data. For example, sales people not only meet clients but they often meet their opposite numbers from competitors.
External sources of competitive data:
- CEO bios
- Financial statements
- Visits to competitors’ locations
- Market Research reports