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5 Stages of CI Maturity: Creating a Competitive Intelligence Plan [Stage 1]

Fred Hoffman, D.Sc.

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June 28, 2018

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.

Stage 1: Creating a Competitive Intelligence Plan

When beginning the competitive intelligence process from square one, you should always start by establishing a firm plan for your CI endeavor. Solid planning at the beginning of a competitive intelligence engagement will fuel the rest of the processes, ensuring you are on track to meet the goal you decide upon. Your eventual data collection, organization, analysis, and production will then be able to follow a cohesive direction.

Who are the consumers?

Whether you are spearheading your team's CI efforts or a consultant is working with you to accomplish your goals, you will need to identify the main stakeholders for the research process. Who will be the end users of the information you will collect? This will be important when you produce your data visualizations.

What is the strategic objective?

What is the strategic objective those stakeholders are looking to fulfill by accomplishing this research? Competitive intelligence can fuel a range of strategic objectives. For example, do you need to know if it will be a good time to release your new product in a few months, or how a competitor's merger will impact your business? Available information is widespread. In order to stay on topic throughout the CI research process, identify and keep your strategic objective firmly in mind.

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Where does that competitive information live?

What type of information do you need in order to grasp a firm and diverse understanding on the strategic objective you, or higher ups have outlined and where can you find it? Depending on the objectives at hand, the nature of the information could be quite different. The difficulty in the research realm today is not the lack of information, but the chance of drowning in irrelevant data. Planning is required to help you apply filters to the wide world of information to get what you most need out of your sources and not miss out on key information.

A lot of information could be unattainable to you without the help of expert researchers. The deep web is 90% of the internet. Like an iceberg poking out of the ocean, the deep web has information that is not available to the masses unless you know how to look under the surface for it.

Triple constraints

During your planning phase it will be crucial to examine and understand the possible triple constraints that could impact your competitive intelligence engagement. The first is cost. What will the cost of this research run your company? This cost could factor in if you need internal teams to focus on competitive intelligence instead of their normal tasks, or if you need assistance from outside strategic consulting firms.

The second constraint is time. Are there time restrictions on the research you are deciding to run with? Are you anticipating a competitor product release and need to know the full scope of information before it is released? The team accomplishing the research will need to know the amount of time they have to do what they need to do.

The third is scope. How wide do your stakeholders want this research to span? The larger the scope of the research question, the more time it will likely take and the more money it will likely cost.

The Information Planning Bottom Line

The benefit of establishing a clear and agreed upon plan for your competitive intelligence research will prove to be the time and energy saved down the road. Ensure that your end result will answer your initial questions and support your strategic objective. The first step of the five stages of CI will set the tone for the rest of your competitive intelligence efforts to come. Our five part series continues with stage two: Information Gathering. 

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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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