What’s competitive intelligence? The Wikipedia says:
A broad definition of competitive intelligence is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.
Several years ago I advised a client on how to develop a CI process:
1. Start by asking questions internally and seeing what kind of answers you get. Use your existing social media tools to do this.
2. As a distributed team, each person can be responsible for a specific information source that is monitored regularly. This should be narrated and posted for all to see and comment.
3. Ask a weekly question and see who can get some information that may be able to answer part or all of it.
4. In the feedback to these questions people may ask you to re-frame the questions. Continue to learn and refine this process for your unique context. Better questions will make for better CI. Keep this process visible.
5. You may not need to hire anyone else to collate the data, but if you do, keep your team (who have industry knowledge) involved.
6. Don’t just hand CI over to a junior staff member. CI should be part of the conversational flow in the company. Marketing, sales, developers and management should be actively involved.
7. The process of asking questions, seeing if there are answers and in turn asking questions about the questions can hone the team’s ability to gather competitive intelligence.
8. If you decide to purchase access to information sources, only buy one at a time. Use that source as much as you can (squeeze it dry) until you realize you should eliminate it or augment it with another purchased source.
CI, like knowledge management, needs people to be continuously involved and engaged. CI is really just a focused type of knowledge management. Therefore, people with good personal knowledge management (PKM) skills should also be better contributors to CI.
In How to Map Sources for a Competitive Intelligence Project, Cate Farrall provides a basic set up guide to those practicing CI, and describes a 3 step process.
This map can also be used as a way to initially set up the Seek part of a personal knowledge management framework. Once your PKM objective(s) is clear, then identify one or more resources from each part of the map. This should give a fairly broad selection of knowledge resources.