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Competitive Intelligence Basics: What is Competitive Intelligence?

A useful way to consider competitor monitoring, and also competitive intelligence generally, is to imagine your company as a Navy ship, and your CEO as the captain of that ship.

The captain of the ship must adequately understand his external operating environment: Water depth, shipping lane activity, tides/currents, underwater obstacles, and weather are just a few of the broad external factors about which a naval ship captain must have awareness. The ship possesses a variety of systems and intelligence specialists who gather and provide that information to the captain.

In the business world, competitive intelligence analysts and competitive intelligence software serve that function for the CEO and senior management.

Cipher_Navy Analogy

Maintaining Environmental Awareness

On board a naval ship, a critical activity is force tracking, or identifying and monitoring the presence, capabilities, actions, and intentions of friendly forces, civilian shipping, plus a wide range of potentially adversarial forces, or threats.

In similar fashion, the CEO of a company must be aware of a range of external entities whose presence, capabilities, actions, and intentions could positively or negatively impact the company’s business.

This is what we call competitor tracking.

Some competitor activities you should be monitoring include:

  • new product releases
  • new product development
  • job postings
  • merger and acquisition activities

Going Beyond the Basics of Competitor Monitoring

Competitor monitoring involves more than just tracking competitors; it also involves identifying and monitoring developments that impact your competitors.

What happens to your competition can have a direct impact on your business – either positively, or negatively.

Some examples include:

  • recalls
  • lawsuits
  • brand reputational damage
  • legal issues
  • environmental issues
  • labor issues

The Challenge: Too Much Information

CI practitioners mostly rely on Publicly-Available Information, or PAI, to inform their business decisions. Today's challenge is that the type and volume of PAI continues to grow exponentially.

Maintaining situational awareness and tracking your competitors, as well as those developments that may impact both you and your competitors is getting harder.

According to Buckminster Fuller’s “Knowledge Doubling Curve”, human knowledge doubled every century until around 1900. By the end of World War II, knowledge was doubling every 25 years.

Today, knowledge is estimated to double every 13 months, and IBM asserts that building out the “Internet of Things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

While this wealth of information represents a phenomenal opportunity for marketers, strategists, and intelligence analysts, it also presents a seemingly Herculean challenge: How can one person (or team) identify, acquire, analyze, store, AND share relevant information in a consistent and timely manner?

It is no secret that relying on manual methods is a tedious, time-consuming, and inefficient process, and supporting a competitive intelligence function using these techniques can miss key indicators.

Solving the Competitive Intelligence Challenge with Knowledge360®

Knowledge360® is an innovative competitive intelligence software solution designed by and for competitive intelligence analysts to streamline processes. No other solution supports as many aspects of the intelligence cycle and getting started with Knowledge360® is quick and easy.

Knowledge360 Company Dashboard


Automatically collect, filter & organize key information

By automating the process of seeking, identifying, and acquiring information, Knowledge360® enables practitioners to spend less time on “hunting and gathering” and more time on analysis.

Eliminate communication silos across your organization

Collaboration tools within Knowledge360® enable team members to share, store, and access newly-acquired information not only at headquarters, but also from the field.

For example, a team member attending a conference can use a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop to rapidly upload documents, photographs, or other information acquired in the field – along with the collector’s notes and analysis.

Quickly share competitor analysis with key stakeholders

In the competitive intelligence role, you need to be able to not only store, locate, and retrieve knowledge, but also share that knowledge both horizontally (that is, with other team members and business units) and vertically, with various target audiences inside your organization.

Knowledge360® enables multi-user access to the same information, rapid identification and retrieval of both structured and unstructured data, and the creation of tailored reports for a variety of target audiences with differing informational needs.

Making the Business Case for Competitive Intelligence Software

Today, a purpose-built competitive intelligence software is virtually indispensable for the product marketers and intelligence analysts responsible for competitive intelligence.

Returning to our navy ship analogy, there are a wide range of environmental entities and trends about which a ship’s captain – or in the corporate context, C-Suite executives – must maintain awareness. Just as the ship’s captain has dedicated crew members and automated systems to assist with that task, a CEO relies on the competitive intelligence function to provide and sustain environmental awareness.

Watch Now! Competitive Intelligence Basics: Building Your CI Function

In one respect, the explosive growth in the number of types and sources of information benefits businesses; at the same time, it creates a demand rapidly-executed and repeatable processes and procedures. A software solution like Knowledge360® automates and accelerates the day-to-day tasks of analyzing, storing, sharing, disseminating and rapidly retrieving all this information.

Rather than forcing competitive intelligence analysts to adapt their workflow and processes to a new software, Knowledge360® has been purpose-built and is continuously enhanced to conform to the needs of CI practitioners.