Competitive Intelligence Systems

What is competitive intelligence (CI)?

  • Process to systematically collect, analyze, and disseminate information as intelligence to users who can act on it.

  • Organizational function responsible for the early identification of risks and opportunities in the market before they become obvious

  • To gain foreknowledge of your competitor's plans and to plan your business strategy to countervail their plans

Why do you need a formalized CI system?

  • Ensure all internal stakeholders are privy to key market information

  • Help managers discover new markets or businesses

  • Beat the competition to market

  • Foresee competitor’s actions

  • Determine which companies to acquire

  • Learn about new products and technologies that will affect the industry

  • Forecast political or legislative changes that will affect the company

  • Makes the organization more competitive

  • One centralized depository for CI data

What are the benefits of a formalized CI system?

  • Improved market knowledge

  • Improved cross-functional relationships

  • Greater confidence in making strategic plans

  • Improvements in product quality vs. competition

The Process

CI is a formalized four step process

1. Setting intelligence objectives (i.e., designing the requirements)

  • Clear outline of intelligence needs

  • Avoid too much or unnecessary information

  • Driven by needs to the organization

2. Collecting and organizing data about the industry and competitors

  • Data will be collected & organized by Product Manager

  • Key is to ensure reliability & credibility

  • Sources of Intelligence (primary & secondary)

  • Library service

  • Internet

  • Sales

  • Technical operations

  • Customer support

  • Industry publications

  • Trade shows

  • Trade associations

  • R&D

  • Supply/Procurement

3. Analyzing and interpreting the data

  • Analysis & interpretation is the real core of CI

  • Real data must be transformed into “qualitative” information (i.e., intelligence)

  • Product Manager will review all data & interpret vs. competitors & market environment

  • Regular interaction with key stakeholder input

  • Incorporate intelligence Spider to index and categorize documents (via web searches)

4. Disseminating the intelligence

  • Deliver actionable information

  • Delivery to staff at all functions of organization to enhance competitive advantage

  • Monthly report to president (white paper)

  • Quarterly presentation to senior management

  • Quarterly Intelligence Digest distributed to internal management


Lastly, be sure to understand the difference between information and intelligence. Information is the starting point. Information becomes intelligence when it is distilled and analyzed. Intelligence is filtered and actionable information. It is data that is turned into knowledge and used for decision making and actions. Intelligence is knowledge and foreknowledge. Remember, CI's real value is to provide managers with the organizational tool to learn what the competitor will do, not what the competitor has already done.