He is Managing Director of the consulting company Acrasio (www.acrasio.com) and has international experience advising large corporations on intelligence topics and has published several articles and books on intelligence.
1) You’re an experienced Competitive Intelligence Consultant. Why would a company need a CI Consultant and what’s the most important part of your job?
Often, one of my first tasks is to explain the value of CI to the decision makers in the company. Be it cost savings, increased market share or improved decision making. What I have seen is that internal CI units often have difficulties in reaching the decision makers and explaining the value they add (and receiving the budget they need).
I advise them to focus initially on agreeing what outputs need to be achieved ahead of issues like how to find the best information sources. My role is also to challenge the CI team, as well as the decision makers and discuss the internal setup and processes with them. I also bring external insights to the table by sharing the best practices of other companies.
2) As someone who is working outside the company, how difficult is it to get people inside to engage or follow up with your recommendations?
Very often it’s easier to convince senior executives as an external consultant than as an internal CI guy. As well as helping them to zoom out and see the big picture I also give clients hands-on advice and tools to deliver quick wins. For example companies rely very strongly on their own sales force to gather intelligence from the market. But it’s important to encourage this type of intelligence sharing from the beginning by delivering something “tangible/valuable” to them at the outset. So together we develop a battlecard-template that the sales team find valuable.
3) Any advice on whether a company should hire skilled Competitive Intelligence professionals or outsource the job to experts?
My clear answer is: it depends. I would also segment the external providers further into librarians, researchers and intelligence guys. The librarian is using existing information pieces to compile a report without adding a lot of value, the researcher on the other hand has in-depth knowledge about a topic and is excellent in gathering secondary information sources. The intelligence guy is the most experienced and expensive part of the process, focusing very heavily on primary research. Depending on the confidentiality level, the skillset of the in-house team and the geographical focus of the sought for information I would advise on the level of outsourcing. Highly confidential information should always be kept within the company.
4) You have published a best-selling book in Germany on Competitive intelligence. What drove you to write it and can you explain the main philosophy behind the book?
I had this idea a long time ago as the intelligence topic is misrepresented in a lot of countries. The German book was in the top 10 business bestseller list of The Financial Times Germany, so it proved to be quite popular. It’s a mix of personal experience and anecdotes together with a practical approach to implement/improve Intelligence within a company.
You need to have a strong business acumen, be an excellent networker and have the required communication skills.