Competitive Intelligence step by step Henri Dou, University Professor, Director of Atelis (Groupe ESCEM) How to use this e-book These notes are short. This is to concentrate in a few words what is important. But, many works, applications, etc. have been done on this subject. This is the reason why we have many times linked some words of this text to important publications, power points, videos which will help you to clear up your ideas and help you to jump to other works using the references of the attached documents.
The cycle of Intelligence If you see underneath the cycle of intelligence, you can see that various competencies are necessary to implement this cycle correctly. We are going briefly to examine these different competencies with some useful indications.
How to use this e-book These notes are short. This is to concentrate in a few words what is important. But, many works, applications, etc. have been done on this subject. This is the reason why we have many times linked some words of this text to important publications, power points, videos which will help you to clear up your ideas and help you to jump to other works using the references of the attached documents.
1 – The vision A competitive Intelligence unit must be aware of the vision of the company or institution for which it is working. This is from the vision of the company, that you will be able to set up the various strategies to collect the information necessary to “feed” the experts. In this field many people refer to CFS (Critical Factor of Success) and Hoshin Planning. If the CFS are necessary to focus the information of what is necessary to do to maintain the competitve advantages of a company, the Hoshin Planning is different from the Competitive Intelligence, but still related to it through information and SWOT analysis.
2 – Information retrieval Information is available in different formats. The information typology shows that there are two broad forms of information the formal information (or secondary source information) and the informal information (human network information, primary source information). Then, to collect information you will need to develop two strategies, one which is close from the documentation (formal information, which includes validated sources: newspapers, scientific journals, dissertations, accurate reports, patents, etc.), the other which needs to develop human network(s) to get “ground” information, often not validated and available in various formats (phone calls, notes, email, etc…).To retrieve the best possible information, you need to know the information sources (commercial databases such as dialog, …), open information sources such as patent information, open scientific journals eg Data Science Journal), Google books, Google (with a careful use, because not all information is present in Google). The retrieval is most of the time done by combination of Boolean operators (AND, OR, AND NOT) and also the use of technologies such as the Web 2.0 which will help you (clustering eg Allplus, RSS fluxes, etc.). Do not forget also the social media which may provide also interesting and real time information. But, do not forget one thing, your employer does not pay you to spend all the day on Internet. So, you must be clever and performing well in information retrieval.
3 – Information Management This is necessary in all companies and institutions. A good information management system will have to solve various problems and manage various sources. The information must be available to experts when this is necessary. The difference between a classical database and the availability of information for the experts is that the system from which the information is available must allow to comment the information (this is by this process that experts build up knowledge). This is generally done by developing platforms to exchange information, works with it, communicate, develop recommendations and alert indexes, etc. The level of technology involves in these platforms is variable and so is the price. To “feed” the platform with information, it will be necessary to have some rules: validation of the information and usefulness (avoid what is called information obesity). The selection of the right information is important (it must be done by people well aware of the vision and goals of your company or institution). The way to introduce information in the platform is variable. It can be done automatically (this is available on certain hosts such as Dialog), or to have some experts sending directly the information into the platform, or to have a mediator which will get the information and willdecide which is the most relevant.
4 – Automatic Information Analysis The amount of information increases all the time. So, even if you collect the information quite well you will be facing in most of the cases a large amount of data. We don’t advise you to try to query a database or other sources so precisely that the amount of data remaining will be very small. This strategy is very short minded, because doing so will discard very interesting data which are close from the subject and which will broaden the scope of your search, an important objective in Competitive Intelligence.This analysis is performed by using datamining tools. But, the information may be informal or formal. If formal information is easier to analyze, informal information must be also rerieved, categorized and analyzed. It may concern full text information analysis, formatted information such as the data from Patents, Pubmed, Dialog databases, home made databases, etc. A special mention must be done for the APA (Automatic Patent Analysis), because patents are unique documents which make a bridge between science and technology and which are understood by scientists and practitioners. The goal of the analysis is to provide to the experts a global view of the set of data that you retrieved and to build up through statistical treatments new information. (call elaborated information) See the example of bibliometrics treatments using Matheo-Analyzer and another example of a business analytical platform based on remlationships between various entities and also the same treatment for patents..
5 - Experts and recommendations You cannot be experts in everything. Then, in a company or institution, there must be people which part time, will work together or with the people of the Competitive Intelligence Unit to understand, from the selected information, the impact of this former on the vision and goals of the company or institution. This is the process to create for the company an actionable knowledge. Most of the time the experts work using a collaborative platform (which allows to work together without an agenda constraint). Various methods could be used, Delphi, Zwicky matrix, Charrette, etc. The objective of the expert work is to provide to the decision makers alert indexes, recommendations, and insights which will facilitate the decision making. Most of the time the experts belong to the same company because Competitive Intelligence work deals with very sensible aspects of the company’s strategy. The recommendations should be send to the decision makers, or in some cases questions coming from the decision makers should be answered by the experts according the cycle of intelligence process. The transmission of the recommendations, alert indexes or answers to the decision makers must be formatted according their needs and working ways. This is an important step since this is the outputs of the Competitive Intelligence Unit. Presenting these outputs even with powerpoints or other documents will need training and strategy.
6 – Other considerations The term cycle of intelligence means that the intelligence process is cyclic, it is going on all the time into the company or institution. If the company is too small, it is wise to have one or two persons which will part time, applied to the company goals and objectives the whole intelligence process. Most of the time the information is available quasi free (this is the case for the patent information, for many data posted on Internet, for open sources, etc.). For the informal information, the employees of the company, the customers, the suppliers, the exhibitions and fairs are good sources, but the information collection must be organized. Do not forget also that most of the process is linked to the quality of your information. Then if the sources are not validated you must set a process of selection and validation. This can be done by a group of people or by someone with a sufficient background in the company.The Competitive Intelligence Unit, or the person (for a SME) in charge part time of the Competitive Intelligence process, must have a good contact with the decision makers. This prompt to discuss the place of the Unit in the hierarchy of the company or of the institution. Generally if you want to develop a Competitive Intelligence Unit you must first of all know what is going on in the company or institution. This is done through an Audit process. The debriefing of the process will help to set up the basis of the Unit. If the Unit is placed at a too low level, it will be useless to speak of Competitive Intelligence since the various barriers to pass before reaching the decision markers will be to important as well as the time necessary to do it. This is the reason why we recommend that the Unit will be placed out of the hierarchy if possible, or at a level where the communication with the decision makers will be facilitated. This is one of the most important conditions of success.
7 – E-reputation, influence, lobbying, security It is clear that if you are more and more involved in Competitive Intelligence, it will be necessary to deal with the social networks (professionals, or general), blogs, etc.). This is necessary for different reasons: all those systems are in direct contact with the “crowd”. This can be interesting in various ways, to know the expectation of people, this is close from the crowd sourcing (seeking problem solving by the crowd), but also to see if rumors, gossips which could hurt the reputation of your company or institution are present in these supports. The symmetrical position will be also considered: how to use this media to give the best possible feeling about your company or institution, briefly that will be to begin to work on the first step leading to influence and lobbying. Influence (also called “soft power” used today widely in diplomacy) and lobbying are also concerned by Competitive Intelligence since they deal most of the time with people. Then, all information about them will be useful, all information sources being screened. It is also important in Competitive Intelligence to be aware of the security. You must understand that if you look for actual or possible new competitors, new technologies, , etc., the other companies are also doing it. This the reason why you must protect your information (formal and informal one)Then you must know what can be said or not, not even for yourselves, but also for all people in the company which will know about important information pieces, even if for them they it do not seem important.
8- Regional development, clusters and poles of competitivenss We presented above some considerations upon the development of a Competitive Intelligence Units for companies and institutions. But, because these units deal with strategic information analysis, according to the vision of development and as a finality to provide the best insights to help the decision makers, Competitive Intelligence can also be applied to other fields. The Regional Development, with the creation of clusters involving various steps, as well as the pole of competitivenss in France, (foe example) are ideal places where the application of Competitive Intelligence is a must. Many examples, in various contries demonstrated the usefulness of Competitive Intelligence, to facilitate good decisons and to implement the Governance of the poles.
Conclusion This online book, a short of ebook will help you to catch the main points that you have to look and consider to understand and practice Competitive Intelligence. If you are in a technical environment, you may applied the same method, but in this case the type of information may be different. This is called generally Competitive Technical Intelligence. You have also noticed that this ebook can only be used online. This is done on purpose, since it will allow you to interact directly with the Internet ressources, those linked to this text, but also other according your ideas, your assumptions, etc. If you want to get more in this field and know what some experts are doing , you will find in www.ciworldwide.org different articles, conferences, etc. which I hope will be useful for you.