**A disclosure up-front: I am employed by Microsoft and any comments below are my own and do not represent those of my employer.
Ok, now that’s out of the way I have been seeing a growing thread on TechCrunch (as I’m sure many of you have) regarding the ever expanding list of Yahoo! execs who are leaving Yahoo! to greener pastures. Regardless of what side you are on in the long saga of Yahoo! vs. Microsoft, clearly this is a disturbing thing to have published about your company.
The crux of this post is not to put the boot into Yahoo! any further, but to showcase how CI is getting easier in some quarters and how this impacts the decisions that may need to be made by incumbent or established players within an industry.
As of Janurary 2007, 114 senior executives have left Yahoo! for a variety of companies, some for their own reasons, some cashing out, and some jumping ship (particularly in the last 6 months). TechCrush has nicely packed all of these departures up into a table listing title and where they went to (if known). Undoubtedly this is a great source of information, however the “newsworthiness” of this topic means that everyone is aware of the information. It’s openly discussed. Traditionally a list such as this would take weeks to collate and months to track and may yield some fantastic results.
- Is there a pattern of people leaving from any one business or product group? (Problems at the top? Bad products? Bad strategy?)
- Is there a pattern of people leaving to join another specific vendor? (this could foreshadow a strategic announcement or move from a non-traditional competitor).
- Is there a pattern around timing? (When is the best time to poach star talent?)
I compared this list to my own informal list of executives in Asia Pacific who have left one large software application firm to join another. This was done in the traditional way of gaining information from associates, partners, analysts and in my case ex-colleagues who were making the move. This tells me a bunch about what’s happening at both companies and definitely gives me an insight into what could be expected from both over the next financial year.
The underlying question is: Does having all this additional information make the job of CI easier?
Yes and no.
There is a growing trend within CI and Market Intelligence to have access to more and more information to filter and action upon. I’ve mentioned a few times the previous entries that CI’s future lies in being able to gather large flews of data and be able to filter, interpret and anticipate future competitive movements. Data becomes a facilitator, but not the creator of value or insight. That’s been the case since the beginning of time, but more and more so CI practitioners are being challenged to get get to the insight part faster. We need to tap into the data in new ways and then add value – rather than create the data in the first place.
On the other hand, the process of gathering my list (which is slightly more pointed and niche) maintained a critical skill. It served to maintain and grow my network for data and opinion gathering.
The network helps to validate, open new ideas and keeps a certain level of objectivity to the interpretation of all of these flows of information. They can help you weed out the erroneous or less significant events from those that really matter.
So take time this week to think about how you gather intelligence in your industry and whether the questions you are being asked to add insight to are best addressed by the large flows of data that will free you up to really add value, or through mining your network for those very specific nuggets of information that, while hard to get, will make a huge difference to how your company responds or anticipates to the market.