9 min read
Vanessa Querry - Aug 25, 2017

12 Dangers to Avoid in your Competitive Intelligence Project

The title of this article might come across as negative, but it’s definitely not our intention!

Our goal is to put our 20 years of expertise in the Competitive Intelligence (CI) Market to good use by sharing some insights to give you the opportunity to make adjustments to your current CI project.

This is the reason why this article is aimed both at people setting up a CI project and at readers who might already have a CI project.
Without further ado, these are the first 6 reasons why CI projects fail:

1. Lack of Definition of Objectives and Needs

Many of you probably think it’s obvious to define objectives at the start of a project, but unfortunately, we find that this phase, although critical, is often forgotten or overlooked.

In fact, we often hear the following sentence: 'We're going to gather information and see what we're going to do with it.'
Without a clear definition of your objectives, your CI project will not be able to meet your needs and address your business challenges. The key is to always begin with the end in mind, by asking yourself:

  • Why? What will CI bring me?
  • What deliverables will I create to help with decision-making in my organization?

If this first phase is missing, then it becomes difficult to identify clear KPIs and measure the added value, which could hurt the performance of your CI project in the long run.


2. Absence of KPIs

The definition of objectives and needs must naturally lead to the implementation of key performance indicators (KPIs). Without them, it is difficult to measure the success of your project on an ongoing basis and identify areas for improvement.

Here are some examples of indicators:

  • Number of users who have signed up to your CI Platform
  • Number of alerts generated
  • Newsletters‘ opening rates


3. Missing an Important Step of the CI Cycle: Contributing to Decision Making

The CI cycle is composed of 5 steps:

  • Definition of needs
  • Collection of information
  • Distribution of information
  • Analysis
  • Showing value

The fifth and final step—the efficient use of information to show value—must ensure that CI is used for decision-making. Sending and analyzing information alone is not sufficient; the CI expert must check and validate that all the key functions are utilizing the information provided for important decision-making.


If you are having a hard time demonstrating the value of your CI project, several consequences may arise:

  • ROI is not obtained or is extremely difficult to calculate
  • General management shows a decline in interest, which will result in your budget and resources being reduced

4. Inadequate CI Professional Profile

CI, which is unfortunately not a priority for some organizations, does not always receive the best financial and human resources.

Firstly, too often, interns are tasked with CI projects. While this is not necessarily a problem, planning a thorough transition when your intern leaves the company is vital for ensuring continuity (see point 6).

Second are professionals who are not tech-savvy. With CI becoming increasingly digital, from the collection of information online, to the creation of newsletters and automated alerts, CI professionals are required to have transversal skills. Recruiting someone who is tech-unsavvy can prove a major hindrance to your project, so hire carefully!


Lastly is the absence of a “work in pairs” set up which has proved highly successful in our experience. It should consist of:

  • The sponsor, a true ambassador at heart, should lobby internally and participate in management committees to push the CI project and its results
  • The project manager, who is responsible for launching and deploying CI projects, including defining CI topics, research semantics, sources to be monitored, and so on.


5. Neglecting the Time Factor

Setting up a CI project can be time-consuming, therefore it is necessary to anticipate temporal needs, as well as human and technological needs.

Ultimately, without available resources, you will not achieve the results you want!


For a CI project to succeed, it is crucial that all members involved have time allocated to them officially. One of the most efficient ways to do this is to include CI missions in their job description.


6. A Poor Transition

Bad news: your CI expert is leaving your department/organization. This case, which happens frequently enough, can disrupt the progress of your project, or worst, threaten its survival.

Why? In many cases:

  • CI plans and processes are not properly documented
  • Transfer of competencies is not organized
  • No training on CI software is planned for the successor of the project
  • No training on the CI professional software is planned for the successor (if relevant)

Hence, it is very difficult for the remaining team members and new hires to maintain the project.



Now It’s Time for the Second Part of Our Blog

After covering the absence of KPIs, the inadequate profile, a poor transition, we will be focusing in this next segment: the lack of internal promotion, a stronger focus on quantity than quality, and the wrong reasons pushing professionals to launch CI projects.


7. Lack of Support

Lack of support can be problematic on two levels:

  • Lack of training on the CI tool: CI project teams will not know how to fully access the platform, how to validate information, how to view that information, or how to modify the query of their project
  • Inability to help business units launch new CI projects resulting in a lack of understanding of needs, ill-definition of KPIs, and identification of sources, which does not bring the expected returns


8. Investing in CI Because Your Competitors Are

It is not uncommon to hear organizations investing in CI because of the following reasons:

  • Their competitors are doing it
  • CI is the trend in the industry
  • They have a budget leftover for it

Once again, without a real understanding of the objectives, the CI project is destined to fail. CI must be driven by a real need for information because you’re keen on understanding your market, or want to anticipate tomorrow’s trends.


An organization lacking an understanding or need to use data to support its decisions should not feel compelled to invest in CI, because it will most certainly not bring the expected returns.


9. Focusing on Quantity Rather Than Quality

The success of a CI department should not be measured by the amount of information delivered, but rather by the relevance of that information and how they’re synthesized and used.

Again, It is not uncommon to hear CI experts proudly talking about the frequency of their communications, or the number of articles sent to their collaborators every week.
Yet, it is sometimes preferable to send a deliverable once every two weeks with two relevant pieces of information rather than a daily deliverable with little qualified information.

Bear in mind that patience is a virtue in the CI context. Indeed, it might take weeks or months for a truly valuable piece of information to come through.
Cross-checking information/news over a long period is often required in order to analyze trends and contextualize data.


10. Launching Too Quickly and Missing Important Steps

We have witnessed a number of CI projects’ failures within a few months, due to organizations missing vital steps in a bid to launch several complex ventures at the same time.

  • Why is it important to start with one line of business, with one topic?
    This allows time to understand the methodology, fulfill every step of the CI cycle, and identify areas for improvement. This is essential for ensuring the success of the next CI project.
Another thing to take into consideration is the fact that CI teams are sometimes lean in manpower. Overloading them with multiple projects can result in them being unable to produce quality work for each one.


11. Not Having a Dedicated CI Department

Not having a dedicated department for CI can be a challenge. Indeed, CI analysts are:

  • Proficient when it comes to optimizing queries
  • Advanced CI professional software users
  • Centralize requests from the business lines
  • Experts in synthesizing and analyzing data

All these factors are essential to the success of a CI project!


12. Not Promoting the CI Project Internally

Promoting your CI projects internally is vital to ensure their sustainability. Thus, your business expertise and added value will be recognized throughout your organization, which will enable you to identify new CI topics and maintain the virtuous circle.



Written by Vanessa Querry

Vanessa is marketing manager at Digimind, and is looking after the CI market. Passionate about information technologies, digital marketing and B2B, Vanessa likes to debate the best strategies to help companies stand out in a highly competitive and rapidly changing market.