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5 Stages of CI Maturity: Competitive Intelligence Information Gathering [Stage 2]

Fred Hoffman, D.Sc.

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July 5, 2018

Competitive Intelligence efforts 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.

Stage 2: Competitive Intelligence Information Gathering

Competitive intelligence information gathering follows the planning stage in the CI cycle. You and your CI team need to cast a wide net of effort and resources to capture and collect all relevant or possibly relevant information. This is dependent on your access to data sources and your capacity for extensive research.

To start collecting information, pool your data collection resources. Data comes from many places and gathering which sources of information you will be using to research is a necessary first step. You don't want to miss out on important updates or news because your pool of data was shallow, so make sure you have a variety of source types and enough of them to get a firm consensus on the data you will pull. Here is a list of commonly used sources to start collecting data from.

  • News services
  • Journals
  • Google alerts
  • Regulatory documents
  • Clinical trials
  • RSS feeds
  • Conference abstracts/posters
  • Marketing materials
  • Press releases
  • Job postings/personnel moves
  • Patents
  • Competitor websites
  • Social media, blogs
  • Financial releases
  • Government data
  • Paid databases
  • Industry-specific sites

Information Influx

It is both helpful and important to set up and keep your alerts on for CI information coming from any of the sources you choose. Constant pinging on updates from a wide range of sources to your inbox can seem overwhelming, but competitor surprises occur when information falls through the cracks.

While modern news is contributed to by a select group of primary sources, it is replicated across a growing number of news outlets from people with different spins and access to information at a constantly increasing rate. A study done by IBM Marketing Cloud reported that 90% of the data on the internet has been created since 2016, which gives insight into the compounding age of information we live in today. As the digital age continues, the process of pairing down information becomes more important.

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Gone are the days of waiting for the evening news and being caught up for the day. Likewise, ensuring each story is credible is becoming increasingly more difficult. It is not immediately clear after a story breaks if the source is reliable, or if the information has been corroborated by multiple, trustworthy sources. The pressure to keep up a 24/7 news cycle leaves more room for error coming from news providers. Shortcuts might have been taken to publish a piece, or premature information that isn't yet fully formed or contextualized is released. The difficulty lies in waiting too long and missing out on valuable information and not ensuring your information is reliable.

The depth and breadth of the internet holds possibility to greater tune into competitor developments as well as customer sentiment of your brand. As an example, customer feedback is made quickly and publicly available in real-time through social media. This can be beneficial to growing your brand awareness and can be potentially harmful based on negative comments. Business, competitor, customer information and sentiment are all important factors to know and to stay up to date on in order to maximize your competitive edge in your market.

Traditional Collection is Labor Intensive

Do you know how much of your CI team's time is spent on data collection? Cipher clients report their CI teams spent 50-75% of their time on data collection alone. The plethora of information available to your CI team should be a positive aspect of their job that allows them to gain more valuable insights at a faster rate, not an overwhelming reality that seems impossible to grasp. It is increasingly difficult for human analysts to compile and keep track of all relevant information without a tool to automate and assist them.

CI cannot exist without information, so the way you gather and digest it needs to be valuable and easy to maintain. Technology platforms, like Knowledge360® allow your team to optimize and streamline the data collection process. Having one source that filters through the overwhelming churn of information and alerts your team when there is something relevant they need to know will allow them to spend less of their time on data collection and less time stressing about competitor surprises falling through the cracks.Our series continues with stage three: Organizing Data.

Download Now:   5 Stages of Competitive Intelligence

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Fred Hoffman, D.Sc.
Fred Hoffman, D.Sc.

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.

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