Watching the evolution of ShiftCentral since its foundation is a bit like watching the evolution of competitive and market intelligence (CI / MI) itself.
When we began this venture in 2000, maintaining an understanding of your competitive environment – from up-to-the-minute current awareness to long-term strategic insights – was a luxury for most organizations. Since then, however, it has evolved from an aspirational goal to a must-have function for any company that hopes to be competitive in today’s environment.
We’ve been privileged to work in this space for twenty years, and in that time I’ve witnessed an evolution of CI/MI in five key areas:
1. Changing Markets
When ShiftCentral was founded, buzz words such as the “new economy” and outsourcing were used frequently, but the larger picture was less well understood. In reality,
• The economy was globalizing and most business leaders were not ready for a playing field in which even small businesses needed to compete around the world;
• The technological seeds that grow would enable the explosive growth of digital businesses were in place; and
• Capital flows were also being reshaped, thanks to internet bubbles, housing bubbles, and financial crashes.
Indeed, markets never stop. Today it is all about risk mitigation, digital transformation and innovation. There are new sectors emerging, such as the cannabis industry, that were not on the radar 20 years ago. Whatever the context, the ability to understand what’s going on through market and competitive intelligence is only gaining in relevancy and urgency.
The delivery of MI/CI has kept pace with the larger changes in media and workplace information-sharing and consumption. From the nascent World Wide Web, which made it easier to publish frequently and to a wide audience (the ever-sexy newsletter in the mid-2000s and its inseparable portal), to automated aggregators, to algorithms and now to Artificial Intelligence, leaders have constantly been seeking to use these tools to develop content and insights for strategic advantage.
3. Content Functions
CI/MI has escaped the boundaries of the strategic planners and has spread to marketing, knowledge management, product lines, and senior leadership, though this has meant that it is often an orphan, looking for a home.
Content has become more specialized , as some techniques – such as scenario planning or war-gamming – require deep knowledge of markets and of history. Others require the rigor of tracking and reporting flawlessly. While others still require the finesse and the relentless intuition of the investigative journalist.
4. Changing Titles
Consequently, the buyers of these services have evolved. Thinking of the roles and responsibilities of those we deal with, the list of their titles would confirm this. The chief evangelist and trendy monikers have waned. Some CMOs have morphed into CBDOs, CROs, and CSOs. CIOs, CKIOs, CTOs, to name a few, are populating the C-suites. Market and competitive intelligence has lived inside all of these functions and under all of these titles. It still does!
5. Industry Iterations
Entire industries have changed substantially in the past two decades, through business model innovation, changing consumer preferences and new regulatory mandates. Professional businesses such as legal services adopt CI/MI as they modernize and develop new business models. Banks and financial institutions are trying to evolve from cathedrals of capitalism to magnets for the millennial workforce, which is much more that a semantic stretch. Health insurers navigate a convoluted regulatory landscape while simultaneously trying to redefine their value proposition in an industry that has made an abrupt transition to a more member/consumer-centric focus.
Shifting times, markets, organizations. A deep understanding of the global business landscape, through competitive and market intelligence, is a rare constant.
ShiftCentral has witnessed this evolution of CI/MI tools and practices – indeed, we’ve applied the results to benefit our clients. We have taken the long view on our own industry and have bet that human-based intelligence analysis, delivering custom curated content, is still the must-have ingredient inside winning organizations. In launching this client quarterly, it’s our intent to keep you abreast of our progress, our reflections, our continued evolution.
This article was originally published on ShiftCentral, now part of LAC Group.