In Stage 4 of the 5 Stages of CI Maturity, we will talk about the information analysis process as the backbone and pivot point of CI efforts. Thorough and accurate analysis will provide actionable insights to inform business decisions.
Competitive intelligence and data management require organization and a clear process to ensure useful and accurate results. In our 5 stages of CI series, we will be expanding on each stage of a CI workflow to offer greater insight into what makes the process function.
Competitive intelligence research focuses your attention on the trends and significant occurrences in your market. You need to have a firm understanding of competitor developments to ensure you don't get surprised by unforeseen product releases or mergers that would negatively impact your business.
Information analysis is the backbone of CI. It creates the wisdom that allows your company to make choices that help you evade disturbances in the market and emerge ahead of the pack.
When looking for clarity in the CI process and the importance of information analysis it is helpful to consider the knowledge management tier. The knowledge management tier can be broken down into four distinctions: data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.
Data alone is not useful for competitive intelligence or research in general. Information adds a layer of explanation, but still lacks context. Knowledge can influence a direction or decision, but wisdom is the most instructional, and it's the best way to approach that decision. Wisdom is insight from a trusted source that surmounts data, information, and knowledge to give you the most clarity and path forward.
With each refining step in the knowledge management tier and in your process, more actionable steps can be gleaned to inform your business decisions. Analyzing information converts it into knowledge, and eventually it becomes wisdom that can be used to direct your business decisions.
Your data is collected, filtered, and organized. Now you need to analyze what is there and define the crucial points to highlight and expand on. Part of this effort will rely on your ability to apply your knowledge as a filter for the data you have compiled. Your past experience and context for your research will influence which pieces of information are worth including in your analysis and which should be forgotten or flagged for later. This filter is unique to you, but will influence how you analyze as well — so be cognizant that your personal biases or that of a team member or consultant may impact the final conclusions drawn.
You need to ensure that your analysis thoroughly answers the questions posed at the beginning of this process. Does your analysis account for rising competitor influence? Have you gathered enough information about an impending merger? Filter out the excess and leave the key contextual information to answer your research questions clearly and completely.
CI strategy consultants often have a wider breadth of knowledge when it comes to which information should be included in a final analysis and which should be left alone. Based on years of experience working with companies of different sizes and in different sectors, they know which resources are reliable and will provide actionable insights.
This awareness goes beyond understanding which newspapers are more reliable than others. CI consultants know which authors or contributors are the ones to follow, and how to find the most valuable information. They know where to find obscure information and when to identify if a source is skewed in any direction — and how to account for that influence.
More importantly, they know what it all means and can quickly form an analysis from all of the information gathered. If your team is new to CI, it may be a good idea to bring in a strategy consultant to ensure that your CI engagement produces beneficial results.
Information analysis is often the most difficult part of attaining CI maturity. It takes someone who is comfortable and knowledgeable about analysis best practices to make the most of the information you have collected and organized. You must ensure your team has the tools and experience required to provide accurate and actionable analysis.
After all, analysis is the backbone of competitive intelligence. It will inform strategic business objectives that will help you grow your business and avoid competitor surprises. This five part series concludes with stage five: Production and Dissemination.
Following a 30-year career as an intelligence collector and information operations practitioner in the US Army and multiple civilian intelligence organizations, Fred now draws upon his broad experience in worldwide intelligence collection, information operations, corporate personnel and intellectual property protection to support both government and commercial clients.