Managing competitive intelligence projects is an integral part of the day-to-day role of a CI manager and requires a well-structured, holistic approach to ensure a successful outcome. The CI Manager is responsible for coordinating all activities – from the initial stage, which involves consulting with stakeholders to determine intelligence needs, through to final delivery of the project goals.
We have outlined 5 steps which are essential to a successful competitive intelligence project.
1. Targeting of Sources & Collection
At the outset of a new project it’s critical to establish the needs and expectations of end-users by engaging with cross-functional stakeholders (Sales, Marketing, R&D etc). Take a step back and ask yourself the following questions. What is the purpose of this project? How can we achieve our goal? What are the deliverables? Who are the intended recipients? Once you have identified the answers to these questions you can begin targeting the sources that are relevant to your specific project aim. An automated intelligence tool will help to gather the information you need from multiple sources by extracting the relevant data according to pre-defined keywords and other parameters.
2. Validation of information
Only information which contains valuable insights and is of strategic benefit is approved and validated. While an automated tool can help to refine your intelligence sources and reduce the amount of extraneous information that needs processing, this step requires the intervention of a CI professional to assess the relevance of information and to detect ‘weak signals’ which have the potential to impact deeply on the organisation.
One of the common features of unsuccessful competitive intelligence projects is the failure to implement this key step. Performing in-depth analysis is the lynchpin of a CI project as it facilitates a deeper understanding of the main drivers behind market and competitor performances, changes in customer sentiment and economic fluctuations. A successful CI project will succeed in transforming hard analytical facts into actionable results.
Sharing information and distributing it to the relevant stakeholders is one of the key deliverables of any project, it’s also a good way to leverage Competitive Intelligence in your organisation. A competitive intelligence tool will help you to share information in a range of different formats and target it effectively. Intelligence sharing should be a two-way process so make sure you seek input and encourage feedback from all stakeholders.
The intrinsic value of competitive intelligence lies in its ability to shape and influence decision-making and impact positively on business performance. Accordingly, the measure of a successful intelligence project is one that manages to translate competitive findings into strategic actions that benefit Sales, R&D, Marketing and other key functions. The role of the CI manager is to track the impact his/her intelligence activities have on each department and to calculate the return on investment, with a view to improving this over time.