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With workshops, sessions and a full exhibitor hall, this year's Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) conference offered attendees many opportunities to expand their competitive intelligence knowledge, learn from industry experts as well as other attendees and enjoy some Florida sunshine.

Phil Britton, Strategic Business Insights Leader at Sedulo Group and multi-year SCIP participant and presenter, shared that each year the SCIP conference and expo plays a key role teaching CI basics to first-time attendees (like yours truly). As the industry continues to grow, new attendees benefit from sessions, like his, on competitor segmentation. Segmenting your competitors can help you avoid executive-induced fire drills and make explaining your competitive landscape easier. Attendees left his session with a plan they could implement as soon as they returned to the office.

Between conversations in the exhibitor's hall, I was able to attend a few of the more than 40 workshops, breakout sessions and keynote presentations, for which I will do my best to share key takeaways with you below.

I'll begin with what I felt was the most valuable session, Amir Fleischman's "Going Beyond Google: Effective CI Resources to Perform Better Online Research." His presentation was a dizzying 100 slides of tactical gold nuggets. In just 45 minutes, Amir ran the audience through dozens of alternative online search tools. He made a point of reminding the audience that a thorough search for information requires more than just text searches and text results. Key competitive intelligence can be found with search tools like Docjax, the world's largest document search engine or Pipl, the world's largest people search engine with more than 3.2 million people in its database.

In the coming weeks, I plan on connecting with Amir again, so keep an eye out for a more complete list of online search tools.

Keynote presenter Isaac Collazo, kicked off the conference with a talk on leading and winning in an era of unprecedented change. His presentation featured ten slides, each with a beautify image of an IHG property and a single word: Complex, Data, Win, Curious, Partner, Simple, Educate, Activate, Lead and Trust.


Next up, Liam Fahel shared best practices on using insights to make a difference. He defined insight as:

"New marketplace understanding that makes a difference"

and went on to define a framework of levels of insight understanding. His experience has shown that without superior insight, winning over time is simply not possible.

Wednesday morning I joined Allison Van Diest, Senior Director of Product Marketing & Intelligence at Blackbaud, for her breakout session: Application Intelligence - Good Cop/Bad Cop: How to Partner with Marketing and Increase CI's Impact. She began with an exercise that identified how frequently marketing and competitive intelligence overlap and went on to share the Competitive Assessment Matrix she built. This matrix has helped the Blackbaud team discover competitive differentiators, inform their competitive position, prepare employees to handle objections and drive the company's investment strategy.

The last session I attended was an Ask The Experts panel discussion featuring Mike Finnegan, Rama Mallika, Diana Pohle, and Leo Rodriguez, moderated by Erik Giltman.

The panel shared tips with the audience like how The Vanguard Group’s Senior Corporate Strategist, Mike Flannigan, uses the question, "When am I on the agenda?" as a signal to measure how important a topic is to someone making a CI request.

Diane Pohle, Associate Director of Global Intelligence at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, believes her job is "to drive alignment of assumptions across the organization." To do this successfully, you need the right data, information and insights.

When asked how he promotes CI within PayPal, the company’s Head of Market Research and Senior Director, Analytics & Insights, Rama Mallika, challenged the audience to "solve the big problems." Doing this will remove pain from the organization and naturally promote the value of your CI team.

Continuing the conversation on how to raise the visibility of CI work within your company, Leo Rodriguez, the Senior Manager of Competitive Insights at Ultimate Software, suggested branding your CI work. For example, creating a logo for your CI team and including it with your work provides a visual cue for your audience.

The panel emphasized the need for CI teams to think creatively and operate with an inclusive mindset. Sharing that some of their most productive meetings have taken place when they attended other department meetings or invited departments to join one of their CI meetings.

As the Expo wound down, I realized that the three days spent in Orlando was the first time I was with a group and didn’t need to explain what competitive intelligence is. Spending time with customers, industry experts and others that understand the value of competitive intelligence and the opportunities it offers businesses was refreshing and has me looking forward to next year’s event. Until then, here is a short video taken at this year's conference.