What is effective competitive intelligence?
Competitive intelligence is effective when it:
- Strengthens your company’s position
- Answers how is your value proposition perceived
- Tells you what is the competition is doing to win (or lose) sales
- Defines which industry-wide best practices truly apply
- Discovers new markets
- Develops new products/services/solutions
One of the biggest obstacles to creating effective competitive intelligence is the timeliness of the data. If intelligence is not available at the moment of need, it does little good. And the value deteriorates quickly after the decision for which it was generated has been made. In other words, intelligence should be present before decisions are made as often as possible.
To judge your situation, ask yourself:
- How much time passes between question and answer?
- How out of date is the intelligence after it is finally collected?
- Can spontaneous requests for intelligence be fulfilled in a timely manner?
In my experience, the timeliness issue is magnified in two scenarios: First, if your company has a reactive approach to intelligence and second, if your company has not yet developed a consistent intelligence plan to feed its strategic decision-making process.
The first example is characterized by companies that do not typically rely on intelligence. The reactive approach goes something like this: We just lost [major account] to who? Find out why! Or, When did [company] start [entering our space/offering new features/pricing us out of the market]? There isn’t anything wrong with being surprised by a market event. But, if surprising market events are the driving force for your intelligence, timeliness is going to be an issue. Unfortunately, it probably isn’t your biggest issue.
The second example may be the result of a company that has not yet consistently incorporated intelligence at the highest levels. In this case, you or your department has some selling to do. You are going to have to make a case for the benefits of your intelligence, ability to deliver and willingness to produce and analyze the information that is most applicable to the current ideas in the boardroom. You have to find the channels that will eventually grant you access to those people.
If you review the definition above, you’ll see that effective intelligence often has to be placed in the hands of senior management, at the least. Otherwise, how will the most productive changes be made?
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