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Vicky Nolan

Using Competitive Intelligence to Gain an Edge

31 May 2000

Being nosy is a distinct business advantage. Only, it's more properly (and politely) called competitive knowledge or competitive intelligence.

We'll stick with the term "competitive intelligence" or CI, which the Society for Competitive Intelligence Professionals ( defines as:

the process of monitoring the competitive environment. CI enables senior managers in companies of all sizes to make informed decisions about everything from marketing, R&D, and investing tactics to long-term business strategies. Effective CI is a continuous process involving the legal and ethical collection of information, analysis that doesn't avoid unwelcome conclusions, and controlled dissemination of actionable intelligence to decision makers.

Basically, this boils down to finding out as much information as possible about your competitors and your industry, and analyzing that information to formulate potential strategies.

While some might say that finding information about Internet gaming sites is as easy as milking a bull, SCIP estimates that 80 to 90 percent of all information is public knowledge. So, where do you look?

One of the first places to look, according to Stephen Miller, executive editor for SCIP media, is on a company's website. He also recommends interviewing customers, suppliers, and even your own staff for information about what's happening in the industry.

"An amazing amount of information is in the public sphere," he explained. Other sources of information include trade publications, news services, trade associations, want ads, stock pages and executive speeches.

Gathering information is only the first step. The actual cycle is collection, analysis and strategic use. After collecting a gazillion bits of information on your competitors (including information about who they're hiring, what sorts of financing they are considering, what deals they've signed and even what products they are developing), you need to analyze it in terms of how it affects your company.

The information is used strategically--basically by creating a series of "what if" scenarios to figure out how your company should respond. (Some people call this "war gaming" or "scenario analysis.")

Companies may have a single person or an entire department devoted to the gathering of information about its industry and competitors. Frequently, these people have a marketing, business research or R&D background to handle the entire cycle.

Sometimes, though, that information is harder to obtain, and no matter how hard you look for information on a competitor, you just can't learn much. In that case, a consultant can come in handy. Such information can be obtained ethically and legally.

Whether you call it nosiness or competitive intellegence, it is important to keep tabs on where your competitors are going and what they're doing. With this information, you can make sure you're keeping one step ahead of the competition. If you don't keep your eyes open to what's happening, the end result could be your company wiping off the tread marks of competitors passing by.

Using Competitive Intelligence to Gain an Edge is republished from
Vicky Nolan
Vicky Nolan