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Is your competitive intelligence being used?

Best practices for establishing a CI culture

You’ve requested research into the competition or other companies. The competitive intelligence (CI) report you receive answers all the questions for making an informed decision. Your presentation is ready for the executive team.

However, despite all your preparation to help your company’s business leaders make informed decisions, your recommendations may be ignored. According to Harvard Business Review, only 55 percent of respondents with experience using CI frameworks and tools said their companies actually used the information collected when making a judgement, while 45 percent did not.

How do you make sure your company not only listens to input based on CI and other research gathering, but acts accordingly? Following are a few ways to ensure the research you’ve invested in is used in business plans, decisions and strategies.

Make CI research part of the decision-making processes

HBR contributor and Academy of Competitive Intelligence founder Dr. Benjamin Gilad recommends an analyst with sign-off authority be part of the business discussions pertaining to the CI research. This ensures management understands not only what the data is, but what it means for the company and the choices to be made.

Instill and encourage an open management culture

The survey results showed that the most effective use of CI was in situations where management was open to opinions that were not aligned with internal consensus.  Competitive data is most valuable when decision makers are willing to see the big picture and consider all data presented to them, not only the data that supports their current views.

Use competitive intelligence proactively and tactically

CI is most often requested and used in reaction to competitive situations. The survey found that proactive action points are bound to positively impact the decision more than reactive recommendations. Research also found that when CI research involves a product launch, executives are more likely to follow the recommendations. It may be that competitive intelligence is most valued and appreciated for tactical decision support.

How to optimize your CI investments

Establishing a well-run and managed competitive intelligence function is a great start to ensuring your CI investments and insights are optimized. However, as noted by Gilad, to become an “intelligent organization” it’s important to also consider culture, staffing and fit within the organization.

Culture: Companies that tend to be cautious in decision-making and not open to changing processes or actions year-after-year may not have use of CI, even if they gather the information. CI may be a better fit in firms and businesses that are apt to use the research to change processes relatively soon.

Staff: Researchers and analysts who can think conceptually, are active listeners, have familiarity and experience working with research tools and frameworks and understand the organization’s business and industry are a CI necessity.

Organizational fit: Where you place your CI unit in the company can bring success or difficulties. Most CI units function within marketing or business development groups. Sales and marketing are prime CI users and requesters, yet they lack the research and knowledge management skills needed to find, assess and report information that’s most reliable and current. That’s why many law firms and corporations embed people with LIS (Library/Information Science) credentials within CI user groups or turn to external research providers.

Taking these steps will not only ensure your competitive intelligence research is done most efficiently, but will make sure the decision-maker understands and considers the information to take action.

Additional information:

Read the Harvard Business Review article on using competitive intelligence

Learn more about our virtual competitive intelligence services

Jim Haggerty

Jim Haggerty

Jim Haggerty is Vice President of LAC Group's information management services. He oversees the expansion of the company’s information management offerings for on-site and virtual research librarians at law firms, corporations and any organization wanting unparalleled research and competitive intelligence.