As I suggested in my previous post (Article: Misrepresentation in CI: An Ethical Analysis) ethics in CI is a difficult subject. It is difficult to know where to draw the line between what can be tolerated and what absolutely cannot. Drawing this line is something each CI practitioner should do for him- or herself. Although this may be true, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any guidelines. In my previous post I discussed an article from Julia Evans, where I outlined several positions concerning these guidelines. In this follow-up post about ethics and CI I would like to discuss the perspective of Devin Liddell as outlined in his article: “Are you gathering competitive intelligence ethically?”.
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.
When practitioning Competitive Intelligence, you always balance on the line between what information is available, and what information isn’t, but can be made available. In the latter situation the question is at what price this information can be obtained. Does it involve a visit to the competitor’s showroom while portraying oneself as a customer? Or making employees of your competitor believe they are participating in a market research project while you’re collecting interesting information for your own benefit? When thinking about these situations, questions about ethics come forward. According to Julia Evans, the writer of the interesting paper ‘Misrepresentation in CI: An Ethical Analysis’, the most common ethical questions in CI concern misrepresentation:
Misrepresentation occurs whenever a CI practitioner lies or misleads a competitor about their identity in order to gain access to information.
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