Tired with BI? Here’s some ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ of CI

|January 22, 2015 0
Image courtesy of Photokanok at freedigitalphotos.net
ValueNotes analyst dissects many dimensions and questions around competitive intelligence

PUNE, INDIA: Several CI gurus bemoan the supposedly low-end, data collation efforts that they claim are erroneously passed off as legit CI activity.

How many times have we heard that information gathering is not CI?We’re then told that the quality of insight is what defines good CI. Like all humans, we love to hear that what we do is “sophisticated”. It makes us feel important. “We’re not merely information providers. We’re helping change the world!”

But does everyone in the CI value chain have to be an insight provider? Is it possible to provide great insights without long hours spent in reading and sifting information, and building up our own knowledge? Does the quality of information or analysis not affect the quality of insight (and therefore decision making)?

Arun Jethmalani, Managing Director of ValueNotes, a noted research consultancy from India, has culled a small list of debates in his latest observations – that competitive intelligence professionals endlessly engage in, and which will probably never be truly resolved.

Chief among them is that ‘Should CI be strategic or tactical?’

Jethmalani argues that this is one of the most enduring debates in the competitive intelligence profession – despite the fact that most CI veterans vote on the side of strategy.” Of course, if high quality CI can drive C-suite strategic decisions – that’s brilliant. It’s also Nirvana!
No matter how important we CI geeks think our profession is, the reality is that the rest of the world (and many of those who control budgets) don’t always see CI as indispensable to strategy.”

At the same time, he highlights that intelligence is used for a number of day-to-day, so-called tactical decisions. Should this intelligence not be called CI, he quips.

“Personally, I don’t think it really matters. If somebody (our boss or client) can use intelligence to make a better decision, then CI has a reason to exist. Let’s not belittle the person who needs to make the “small” decisions… nor the professionals that support this decision making.”

He also advises on the spots where CI should reside?

“Naturally, the CI team should reside close to decision makers, but this becomes very complicated when there are many decision makers in a globally distributed organization. We’d all love to work directly with the CEO, but that’s not always possible.”

What’s good for A may not be good for B. Every company has its own DNA, evolutionary history and organization structure. Ultimately, CI should reside where it can have the most impact – and this will vary for each company, he recommends.

As to calculating RoI on competitive intelligence, he notes that in the highly competitive and financially driven world, bean counters (and CEOs) need to justify every investment. “I’m not suggesting we stop trying to measure RoI. Simply that precise measurement may not be possible, and such exercises may end up missing the wood for the trees. An interesting take here is that companies often learn the value of CI when things go wrong (i.e. they lose market share, or new technology blind-sides them). It may be easier to measure the cost of not doing CI, than the returns.”


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