In part I of this series, Jeroen discussed the information gathering and spreading framework. In this framework he discussed multiple functions. We believe a tool should offer this functionality, together with the functionality I will discuss here, in order to be named a Competitive Intelligence tool. I will discuss two frameworks in this post: the profiling framework and the analysis framework.
The developing and editing of profiles is one of the most important functionality a CI tool should offer. Profiles are the perfect place for systematically storing your information and findings about your environment. Profiles provide you with structure and flexibility. Your information and findings are all structured in the same way, so they are easy to retrieve. Profiles allow you to add new information, findings or insights fast and easy. Although the name might suggest that profiles are about companies or persons, you can develop a profile for each entity you can think of. There are for instance product profiles, (potential) market profiles, et cetera. The branch of your company determines for the greatest part which kinds of profiles are interesting. For instance, when you own a restaurant you will use diner/menu profiles, and no ingredient profiles.
Why are these profiles important? Profiles not only allow you to store your information and findings at a logical place, but also allow you to compare them! The comparing of profiles will give you valuable information and insights. To stick with the previous example, a restaurant owner can get very interesting information from comparing diner/menu profiles. They can show you for instance whether or not you are overpriced, offer enough diversity, et cetera. This information can be a source for analysis. The results from the analysis make it possible to make well informed decisions for your company (for instance to develop a different menu). The comparison of profiles can also function as a report. It is much more interesting to investigate a competitor profile compared with your own company’s profile or with other competitors, than to investigate a competitor profile on it own.
A well developed CI tool will offer a large array of functions that fit in the profiling framework. There are tools that show related news in your profiles, or give the possibility to benchmark them by subject/item. Some tools make it possible to build up your own profiles from scratch, while others use templates. Although these functions are nice to have, the most important functions in this framework are the possibility to develop, fill out and edit profiles, and to compare them with each other.
The functionality that support the CI practitioner to perform analysis belongs to the analysis framework. Especially in this framework is it important to stress that analysis remains human work, and the functionality these tools offer, supports CI practitioners in this task. I think it doesn’t need much clarification when I state that the possibility to analyze is a necessary component of a CI tool. It is nice to have much information, but it is useless if you can’t do anything with this information. So analysis is of the essence.
There are different ways in which a tool can support the CI practitioner in performing analysis. A CI tool can offer support for several analyzing frameworks like SWOT or Porter’s Five Forces. The tools can help you analyze your information according to these frameworks, for instance by providing flags (so you can flag an item as a strength or weakness, et cetera), or by providing templates (just like profiles) where you can work out your analysis. A CI tool can also offer other analysis tools, like matrices in which you can, for instance, add markets and competitors so you can investigate what your competitive landscape looks like.
I hope Jeroen and I have provided you with useful information about what we think makes a tool a CI tool. I would like to emphasize here, that although functionality plays a great role, it depends entirely on what you do with the results of your analysis whether or not your CI efforts will be successful. We have said it before and we will say it again: it is acting on your intelligence that counts!
What is a proper competitive intelligence tool? (I) by Jeroen van Luik