The previous posts had a bit of an open end, for which I apologize. So by popular demand, in this post I will reveal what happened to my restaurant after I started practitioning CI. Did I manage to turn the Thursday evening into a profitable night, inspired by my competitor but without losing my identity? And what else did it bring me to reward my invested time? Also, I pointed out that you don’t necessarily need fancy tools to support a CI system at this maturity level. I will show you what I accomplished with little or no investment in tooling, creating a system to support my activities.
In the previous post we investigated whether or not I should consider practitioning Competitive Intelligence in my restaurant ‘Chez Jérôme’. We designed a partial action plan based on my strategic goals and based upon that, I decided that it was most definitely useful to invest some time and effort (and scarce means) in CI. In this post I will focus on the next steps, now that we decided to go through with our Competitive Intelligence ventures. I will also address some tools that you can use to support your process, which are by the way not Competitive Intelligence tools because that is too big an investment for the size of my restaurant (see my post “The Synergy between Competitive Intelligence and Social Media” for my definition of competitive intelligence tools).
When we hear success stories on Competitive Intelligence (or other related professions such as Business Intelligence), the companies in question often have mature CI systems in place, with lots of supporting software, contracts with (expensive) content providers or news sources and many CI professionals to support decision makers in their tough task of guiding their company through stormy weather. Of course that makes sense because these companies have much more visibility in the market than small companies, the stakes are higher and the struggle to beat competition is drawing more attention, especially when it is a publicly traded company. But that doesn’t mean that smaller companies with ditto budgets cannot gain serious advantage by practitioning CI. In fact I think the effect per invested coin of your choice may even be larger and CI may even be more vital for these companies. Let’s have a closer look at that in this post.
I have to make an apology for the misleading title, because this post is not about competitive intelligence and social media. At least, not the combination that is so often described as synergy in its purest form. I cannot help thinking that some (more or less) highly respected people write about social media (in some cases related to Competitive Intelligence or any other underestimated and underappreciated profession) because writing about social media scores. I really encourage everyone to draw attention to my beloved profession, but do not do it by stating nonsense, please! You might as well write about CI in relation to Britney Spears or Tiger Woods.
In this article Tom Hawes describes five signs to detect distress regarding strategy and competitive intelligence, as quoted below. Some of them may sound obvious, but there are also some quite useful signals described that can really help you detect distress (and therefore guide you in your next steps, which by the way Hawes will describe in his next article). Let’s take a look at the five signals:
- It is unfashionable to be identified with strategy.
- “Strategy” is equated only to cost savings.
- Competitive intelligence is stopped.
- Common arguments do not work.
- There is an unsatisfied, pent up energy for the future.
Ken Sawka once again wrote a very interesting article on their Outward Insights blog. It’s about the problem of perfectly good Competitive Intelligence simply being ignored by management. I’d like to discuss this article in more detail in this blogpost, for two reasons. Firstly because this really is a problem every CI practitioner will recognize. Sawka describes the three forces that influence the level of success in being heard by management, which I think is enlightening. Secondly because I would like to share my vision on this ever returning nuisance and provide some suggestions on how to deal with these forces. Needless to say, I would really recommend the Outward Insights blog since it contains very useful posts on Competitive Intelligence.
This article by Bruce A. Brien, author of The Stratascope Sales Enablement Blog gives basic but helpful tips, for people who are just starting to discover Competitive Intelligence, on how to set up a system to monitor their competitors. Basically he categorizes three ways to collect information on each of your competitors:
- Their website: the website will not only display their services, products and solutions offerings. It will also most likely be used to broadcast their success stories.
- Social media: Brien recommends following your competitors on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, et cetera.
- RSS feeds: set up RSS feeds based on searches about your competitors and one or two keywords, such as issue.
Anyone who worked in a CI environment knows that no matter how extensive, expensive and mature your Competitive Intelligence activities are and, more importantly, no matter how insightful and actionable your acquired intelligence may be, it is never guaranteed that the intelligence is actually used in the process of strategic planning. The same goes for decision making; it takes more than relevant, actionable intelligence to make sure decisions are taken based upon it. The following article by Kenneth Sawka, managing partner at Outward Insights, clearly describes two ways to improve the impact CI can have on both strategic planning and decision making.
In below article Tom Hawes quite clearly explains how Competitive Intelligence can help a CEO tackle one of his many concerns in his organization. CI is one of the many inputs to help the CEO (or any other decision maker for that matter) make the right decisions. I really think he touches five important areas of interest when you are a CEO or (high level) decision maker in the process of considering any level of Competitive Intelligence activities. Therefore, I would like to quote his five ways ‘Competitive Intelligence can help you to organize your external perspectives and align your team to compete better’.
Rather interesting article by Ellen Naylor about some takeaways for companies (in any industry) that start practising Competitive Intelligence. Some of them are a bit of a no-brainer but all in all it’s pretty useful. Some useful findings are:
- Determine most important areas to focus on, the so called Key Intelligence Topics, to avoid focussing on everything
- Market your CI initiatives internally and emphasize what you can do for your colleagues
- Invest in your network and maintain it, and focus on the people who know what’s happening inside and out the company
Tippers on Setting up a Competitive Intelligence Process by Ellen Naylor
About Anne van den Brink
I am working as a BI and CI business consultant at Dink Intelligence. I hope I can provide useful information about what CI is, but also what it can be. It is exciting to work in such a dynamic field, and writing about CI is a challenging task I gladly accept.