Competitive Intelligence (CI) represents an enterprise practice that executes a coordinated and continuous ethical and legal program for the collection, selection, storage, analysis and dissemination of information about the current business environment. The objective of competitive intelligence is to obtain advantages over competitors and to answer questions of a strategic nature. Also known as Business Intelligence, Technology Monitoring and Competitive Analysis, Competitor Intelligence is distinguished from industrial espionage.
Competitive Intelligence can have a tremendous SWOT analysis reports impact to an organization’s overall corporate strategy, effectiveness of business units and policies and procedures followed by functional areas. From the strategic perspective, some activities contemplated by CI are:
– To analyze the present and potential competitors with respect to their strategies and objectives and to study possible competitive responses.
– To investigate and to define the opportunities and threats of the industry or business sector.
– To keep watch and to be on alert to important changes with key customers, technologies (Technological Monitoring), legislation and other areas including related markets. Use a site like ChangeDetect for both free and paid CI tools.
Competitive Intelligence also contemplates all those activities of tactical nature which contribute to the creation of the new prices and product promotions, credit risk from customers, reverse engineering attempts, third party benchmarking activities and important trade shows etc. The use of Competitor Intelligence tools and techniques is not limited to only large companies. Small companies can also very easily leverage CI strategies quite easily and creatively. The benefits associated with implementing Competitive Intelligence is classified into two groups:
1. Mitigate the risk of project failure as in the development of a new product, potential acquisition or alliance or an expansion into a new market or geographical territory
2. As a response to the improved competitive position of a competitors or group of competitors.
A CI program can offer additional benefits like the protection of intellectual property. Effective management of competitive intelligence programs in mid to large scale companies can be structured in different ways (i.e. centralized or decentralized, globally or narrowly, or formally or informally). It all depends on corporate culture and what is currently happening in the industry.
To realize the most benefits from their CI programs, the best organizations are learning organizations that leverage the key findings from competitive intelligence and respond quickly to any threats or opportunities presented. However to get to this point, emerging Competitive Intelligence learning organization can start in a more focused approach. At first perhaps using freely online tools to keep track of the competition and other easy to implement programs. Actually going out and interacting with key players in the market or industry and/or operating as a leader tend to naturally allow the best organizations to gain the benefits competitive intelligence. That is the proverbial “being in the right place at the right time” strategy.