Three A’s of Competitive Intelligence

I was thinking today on what I would recommend someone entering into a career in CI. (This applies equally to myself, as I wouldn’t hold myself up to guru status just yet!)

There’s plenty of detail one could focus on. For me though it boils down to three key skills areas that will ensure any CI practitioners success.

  • Getting people’s attention
  • Being right (or accurate)
  • Being memorable

So in order to be memorable I’ve taken these and rolled them into the three A’s below. My “Three A’s of Competitive Intelligence”. Memorable already?

1. Analysis:  You’re being employed to be accurate. To spot trends, to know what your competitors are doing and saying in the market. For this reason alone it pays to continually update your arsenal of competitive (and non-competitive) analysis tools. If I see another SWOT analysis in an internal document, I may just scream.I’m sure your audiences feel the same. Mix things up and go for deeper, more insightful analytic tools to craft your message.

2. Articulate: Speaking of messages, what you say and write will be THE key differentiator you will have over all of the other armchair or part time CI specialists in your company. You know, the ones who see an announcement from a competitor first and just fire it out over email or post to an internal forum. Usually these are accompanied by “we must do something!” Your ability to take analysis and craft it into something that is understood, remembered and can drive action is what differentiates you from the rabble.

3. Attitude: Attitude is that X factor that you don’t have to be born with. When you present to an audience or send an email – particularly in a sales focused CI role – your audience wants you to be as passionate about helping them win deals as they are about making their numbers. Your enthusiasm, empathy and responsiveness is what creates a memorable experience and increases your authority.

I plan to write more in the coming weeks regarding these hard and soft skills. In particular, some of the resources you can use to increase your exposure and competency in new skills. In all honesty I think they can be applied to almost any job requiring opinion and data. I’ll put more of a CI spin on them, however, and try to add some anecdotal evidence as to why I believe these three A’s are the solid foundation that great CI is based on.


7 thoughts on “Three A’s of Competitive Intelligence

  1. I look forward to reading more. I also picked up an interesting undercurrent from your comments: You’re not enamored of SWOT analysis. Or, at least, we need to dig deeper than that and use other analytical tools, too. Just guessing: Maybe SWOT has an amateurish feel because it’s used — and overused — by armchair analysts?

  2. Thanks Mitch,
    I’m probably being a bit too harsh on the poor old SWOT, but your guess is spot on. I think the overuse of SWOT reduces its effectiveness greatly. My main beef is that SWOT rarely produces action. Yes there are weaknesses that could be capitalised on, threats to be managed – but in most cases the recommendations SWOT gives are too high level and generic to then take that next, actionable step.

    I’m guessing it’s my hangover from supporting sales. I feel SWOT is more of a strategic tool for CI – for long term planning – rather than tactical sales engagements.

    I’m willing for anyone to prove me wrong though!

  3. I agree: SWOT is for very general, high-level, long-term planning — it’s better than doing nothing — but it’s not much good for tactical action.

  4. Pingback: Machines of the future. Kill Sarah Conner or kill your job? « [CI]

  5. The problem is that there’s an awful lot of “monkey-see-monkey-do” about the normal practice of CI. I prefer to practice BI – business intelligence – in which the competitor is just one aspect of the environment, and by no means the most important one. (The customer is the most important aspect of the environment.)

    Boyd’s principle of getting inside the opponent’s decision cycle appeals to me, and here you have to follow me like a dog follows a fry cook: To get inside your opponent’s decision cycle you must defocus on the opponent (keeping him in peripheral view, though) and focus on the customer, which is, after all, what he’s chasing. It is customer shifts that will ultimately determine the opponent’s moves and you want to get ahead of him, not follow him around. And, if he should miscalculate the customer’s movements, as he probably will if he is focused on you, you hopefully won’t make the same mistake because you haven’t been zoned in on the wrong thing. If you have a more intimate knowledge of your customer than your opponent has, AND if your organization is agile enough to add strategic value to that knowledge, I’d put my bet on your company even if you couldn’t tell me exactly how many containers of product your competitor shipped last month or where he’s planning to open five new stores. He’s always betting on something, but that doesn’t mean they’re good bets.

    The regulatory, technological and sociological elements of the business environment are also more important than the competitor, because these things are what set the conditions on the battlefield. If you were the commander of a tank group about to do battle with an opposing tank group, it would be better to have special knowledge that a hard rain is coming that could wash out a strategic bridge, than to know the exact deployment of the opposing force.

    Also, for any who might not have seen it, here’s an online book by Richards Heuer on the psychology of intelligence. I have read it at least 10 times and still get new things from it:

  6. Excellent website you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any message boards that
    cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really love to be a part of online community
    where I can get suggestions from other experienced people that
    share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

    Thank you!

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