About Competitive Intelligence & Business Intelligence profession

Intelligence is information that has been analyzed for decision making. It is important to understand the difference between information and intelligence. Information is the starting point; it is readily available numbers, statistics, bits of data about people, companies, products, and strategies. As a matter of fact, information overload is one of the leading problems of today's executive and the top reason for needing a competitive intelligence expert. Information becomes intelligence when is it distilled and analyzed. Combining this idea with those of competition or competitors leads to the concept of gathering and analyzing information about competitors for use in making management decisions. Competitive intelligence provides a link between information and business strategies and decisions. It is the process of turning vast quantities of information into action.

Business intelligence (BI) is a technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information to help corporate executives, business managers and other end users make more informed business decisions. BI encompasses a variety of tools, applications and methodologies that enable organizations to collect data from internal systems and external sources, prepare it for analysis, develop and run queries against the data, and create reports, dashboards and data visualizations to make the analytical results available to corporate decision makers as well as operational workers.

The field of competitive intelligence, as a profession, is relatively new in the Ukraine. An indication of the importance of competitive intelligence is the growth, since 1986, of the Society of Competitor Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), an organization committed to developing, improving, and promulgating the methods, techniques, and ethical standards of the group. SCIP defines competitive intelligence as "the legal and ethical collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions of business competitors conducted by using information databases and other 'open sources' and through ethical inquiry." The major research firm in the field, Fuld & Company, Inc., defines it as "information that has been analyzed to the point where you can make a decision and a tool to alert management to early warning of both threats and opportunities. Competitive intelligence offers approximations and best views of the market and the competition. It is not a peek at the rival's financial books." Competitive intelligence can 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, and forecast political or legislative changes that will affect the company.

Competitive intelligence is not spying on the competition. It has been associated in the past with the political and military intelligence used during the Cold War era. Because of this association, many people think that competitive intelligence uses illegal, shady, or unethical means to gather information about competitors. Visions of wiretapping, bribing competitor's employees, or stealing information come to mind. This is not true today. Such techniques can damage the reputation and image of corporations and are not worth the risk. SCIP takes a strong position on the importance of ethics and developed a code of ethics for members. Note the words, "legal and ethical," and the emphasis on retrieving data from "open sources." Competitive intelligence experts use openly-available information. They do dig into public records and government databases and use the latest technology (such as satellite photoreconnaissance and software tools such as spiders) to help gather and analyze large datasets. However, the professionals and companies for which they work do not use illegal methods.

The process of competitive intelligence is outlined in the following steps:

  • Setting intelligence objectives (i.e., designing the requirements)
  • Collecting and organizing data about the industry and competitors
  • Analyzing and interpreting the data
  • Disseminating the intelligence

BI technologies provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations. Common functions of business intelligence technologies are reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, process mining, complex event processing, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining, predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics.

The competitive intelligence expert or analyst usually has a strong business background, combined with experience in the company. Likely candidates for the assignment are generally research-oriented people in sales, marketing, or research and development. Combining research skills with communication and writing skills is essential. Because of the research orientation of the job, people with library or information science backgrounds in the company are logical choices.

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