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A successful internal competitive intelligence function will distill all available information to the most salient and actionable points, allowing key decision-makers to act faster and with greater confidence, but the road to establishing such a function can be confusing and challenging.

Empirical evidence over two decades demonstrates that companies with internal CI functions outperform peers without CI capabilities, responding more quickly and effectively to market threats and realizing benefits on innovation, cost control, revenue generation, and market share growth. Implementing a successful CI function, however, can be challenging, and your company risks setbacks such as inadequate IT infrastructure, internal conflicts, insufficient participation incentives, and limited training/mentoring programs.

Following a well-articulated roadmap that integrates the five key underlying variables of a successful competitive intelligence function – structure, people, process, technology, and culture – will allow your company to avoid common pitfalls and streamline the implementation process. Cipher leveraged its experience guiding client CI implementations to develop a step-by-step guide for CI success:

1. Outline CI objectives and assess existing capabilities – Identify and document key business challenges, then create specific goals that correspond to each challenge so you can easily articulate how and why resources are being spent on competitive intelligence.

2. Establish clear roles for the CI team – Find and hire the right people to ensure the CI team operates smoothly, but also understand the importance of clear roles and a fair organizational chain of command.

3. Determine internal/external balance – Establish an equilibrium between internal and external CI resources to keep capabilities high and total resource costs low.

4. Implement rules for intelligence gathering – Establish a well-defined ethics policy to mitigate intelligence gathering risks, maximize efficiency, and ensure compliance during the collection process.

5. Decide how raw intelligence will be accessed internally – Implement a properly-configured knowledge management system to ensure your intelligence is easily accessible to internal stakeholders, making it easier to quickly translate information into strategic insight.

6. Convert raw intelligence into actionable insights – Implement a strategic blueprint that marries automated information workflows, human analysis, technology support, and scenario planning initiatives to leverage intelligence in multiple ways while working toward the same goal.

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7. Develop a tailored performance measurement system – Determine a CI team’s effectiveness by developing a tailored performance measurement system that provides executives with a clear, consistent picture of CI’s contribution to the organization.

8. Foster a corporate culture that embraces CI – Change organizational culture when necessary to provide the internal competitive intelligence team with the organizational support it needs to gather and process institutional knowledge into competitive advantage.

Following the roadmap above will set your company on the path to implementing a successful internal CI function. With the right people, processes, structure, technology, and culture, CI will support your company’s efforts to gain strategic insights in a fast-paced global economy where the competitive, product, and consumer landscape is continually changing.

Cipher is a full-service market and competitive intelligence consulting firm that supports clients through strategic research and two industry-leading competitive intelligence software solutions – Knowledge360®.

Cipher works with Fortune 500 companies across industries and across the globe. We deliver actionable insights that enable rapid and effective decision-making for our clients. Our research services include custom CI research, CI optimization, strategic decision support, market entry due diligence, and strategic scenario planning, all executed using a repeatable process and time-proven techniques based on CI best practices. Cipher has worked with over 100 clients to complete over 125 engagements in 23 countries, since 1996.

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