In our previous blogs, we have been constantly saying that analyzing will remain human work and that the CI analyst is of vital importance. But what does the typical CI analyst do? What makes him or her valuable? What is that piece of human work we don’t want to (or can) automate in CI tools? I will discuss these questions in this weblog.
Who is the typical CI analyst?
For the purpose of this blog, I allow myself to generalize, and talk about a ‘typical’ CI analyst. Due to the nature of the tasks he performs, a CI analyst should at least have the following characteristics.
The typical CI analyst:
- is not afraid to enter the lists against higher management;
- understands and knows how to handle political issues;
- is easygoing;
- knows how to find his way in and outside the organization;
- works systematically and from a rational point of view;
- is analytical and can think outside the box.
So, do you fit the profile? Then you are a typical (or let’s just say perfect) CI analyst! That is, theoretically speaking.
What does the typical CI analyst do?
The profile of the typical CI analyst has everything to do with the tasks the CI analyst has to perform. The analyst should not be afraid to engage in combat with higher management, because his messages aren’t always good news, but he has to make sure he will be heard. Good news isn’t hard to tell, but bad news is. Imagine you have to inform your director about a competitor who brought the same product on the market that your company is still developing. Also, you may need to suggest action that you know higher management truly dislikes and that can maybe even damage their image and/or create awkward situations for them. Informing your superiors is one thing; another is to make sure something is done with the supplied information. Some analysts have a CI manager to do that, and they should consider themselves lucky. Other analysts have to do it on their own, and it is their responsibility to make sure strategic decisions are based upon relevant competitive intelligence. An analyst should understand political issues as well. Politics are important in organizations. When you know who ‘controls’ who, and what implicit rules there are, you are more likely to succeed in transferring your messages. Yes, CI analysts most likely have to play the game of politics too…
The typical CI analyst is easygoing and talks to everybody. Although this is most likely in his nature, it is valuable in his line of work. A CI analyst will obtain a lot of information in informal settings (as opposed to official meetings). The analyst knows where in the organization he has to be/go when he needs something (or wants to know something).
A CI analyst should work systematically and from a rational point of view. He can’t afford to get pulled into one interesting subject, because this causes him to lose track of other subjects. The systematic aspect comes from the definition of Competitive Intelligence: the systematic collecting and analyzing of information about external factors. CI tools are tools that support this systematic approach. The CI analyst shall for instance design and fill out profiles (about products, markets, competitors) which allow him to structure the unstructured information he encounters. Another way of structuring information is the use of analysis frameworks, like SWOT or Porter’s Five Forces. The CI analyst does not only have to know these frameworks, he should have the ability to analyze with the help of these frameworks consequently and precisely. But the analysis should not be limited to the use of frameworks. A CI analyst should be able to think outside the box, because unstructured data can be hard to see through. When the CI analyst is analyzing the same data from another perspective or when he thinks beyond existing frameworks or opinions, it is possible for him to see new trends, topics, et cetera.
What makes the CI analyst valuable?
The value of the information about the competitive environment depends on the work the CI analyst does. If the CI analyst does a lousy job in structuring information, the reports he produces will reflect his way of work. When this happens, supervisors don’t see the surplus value of CI. When a CI analyst works systematically, from a rational point of view and when he feels like a fish in the water in the organization, most likely his services are greatly appreciated. This analyst will produce good reports, and is able to advise his supervisors based upon grounded information. When he also thinks outside the box and offers new insights, the value of the CI analyst will increase more and more. In the hands of a capable analyst, CI does what it should do: provide strategic decision makers with useful information about the external factors from the organization which make it possible for them to make informed decisions.