4 min read
Jerome Maisch - Nov 23, 2012

Building a CI Function:4 Underestimated Success Factors

Setting up a Market or Competitive Intelligence function from scratch can be a daunting task for even the most intrepid Intelligence practitioner. So we asked Henrik Sköld, an Intelligence Specialist who manages the CI function at the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority, to share some practical tips and advice.

Henrik will publish his first book in 2013, a handbook for creating an effective CI function. He has outlined some sure-fire tips to help you establish a successful Competitive Intelligence unit:

"Most companies and organisations these days find themselves in a rapidly changing environment, where new customer demands, new technologies, new market players etc. create major long-term uncertainty.

There is no doubt that to survive in a business environment like this, Competitive Intelligence (CI) becomes a key success factor. However, creating an efficient CI function is often not entirely straightforward. To succeed in this, I use a 10-step process, where the first steps include looking at the present situation and surfacing - or defining - the CI function’s goals, and the final step sets up the fully-fledged CI function for continued development and adaptation to changing demands.

Many of these steps have been covered by the excellent contributions of previous experts in this series, although packaged and presented a bit differently. So, instead I would like to highlight a few issues which many organisations tend to underestimate.

The four issues I will address are: marketing, refining your view on monitoring, continuous development, and having a consultative mindset.

Let’s start off with marketing. In some people’s view, once the decision is made to implement a proper CI function, all that is left is to “do the job”. In truth, this is far from enough. In today’s harsh economic climate, support functions that do not prove their value to a large part of the organisation risk budget cuts or worse. First of all, you should communicate internally that a professional CI function is about to be launched and which problems it will solve. Take help from the organisation’s communications specialists if you need good ideas on this. Secondly, you have to do the best analyses you can and make sure that they actually help your internal customers to solve their problem (obvious, but sometimes forgotten ...). Then you have to tell the organisation about it. Share your success stories - or better yet, help your customers share them. By showing the value of the CI function to a larger audience, you increase the understanding of what good CI can provide, and increase the market potential internally.

Another underestimated factor is refining your own and/or your team’s view on how to monitor the business environment. In today’s information society, too little information is hardly ever a problem. To keep information stress at bay, I use and recommend others to use a number of principles. I’ll share a few of these here. First – make sure that your sources are in sync with your business environment map (you have one, don’t you?). Second – manage your source list actively. Has a source lost its relevance? Drop it. Something else seems interesting? Try it out. Third – separate the monitoring and the analysis in time. I monitor my own news sources on a daily basis. Even without my first cup of coffee, I can make one simple decision – this is useful information, this is not – on a large number of news items at a decent speed. Analysing: making connections, projecting trends into the future, thinking about implications etc.? Not so easy. Feeling the pressure of doing razor-sharp analysis on a daily basis would make the monitoring process slow, tiresome and outright scary. Instead, block time for this in your calendar on a weekly or biweekly basis, and go back to the news items that you have deemed relevant.

The third factor that is often overlooked is continuous development of the CI function – and yourself. People often ask “how long does it take to build a CI function”. Some authors suggest time horizons such as 2, 3 or 5 years. My view on this: implementation is never finished. You don’t ask the same question about an organisation as a whole: “when is adapting the organisation to the business environment finished?” (At least, you don’t survive for long saying that). This is by no means an excuse for a slow implementation process, though. In line with my thoughts on marketing above, you have to start adding value to the organisation very, very quickly. In addition to continuously developing the CI function, you need to make sure that your own and the CI team’s competence develops accordingly. What do you need to take your competence to the next level? Often, this includes strengthening not only core competencies (everything CI), but also adjacent competencies such as presentation skills, facilitation, coaching etc.

The fourth factor that I find useful is having a consultative mindset, and ensuring that everyone on the CI team does too. If you start viewing your role as a consultant, you see the need to increase demand for the CI perspective and the services you provide. You also start viewing your clients as clients, and the meetings you have with them as a chance for you to understand their needs (stated as well as unstated) and how CI can meet these needs. It also helps enforcing the previously mentioned issues regarding marketing and continuous development.

If you focus on these four issues when it comes to your own CI work, you are well on your way to creating an efficient CI function. The best of luck!"

About Henrik Sköld

Henrik Sköld is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and has worked with Competitive Intelligence (CI) since the mid 1990’s. Currently, he manages the CI function at the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority. Previous experiences include e.g. consulting assignments for a broad range of private companies and public sector organizations in Sweden and internationally. In early spring 2013 he will publish his first book, a handbook elaborating the ten-step model for creating an effective CI function. More info about Henrik can be found at http://henrikskold.com.

Written by Jerome Maisch

Marketing Manager @digimindci. Passionate about big data & social marketing. Photography, music and hiking lover