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Creating a Culture of Competitive Intelligence

Jennifer Knauff

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November 12, 2019

You may be the only person at your company with “intelligence” or “research” in your title, but that doesn’t mean you’re the only one responsible for competitive Intelligence at your organization. 

Even if you're lucky enough to have a small team performing market and competitive intelligence work, the responsibility for how your organization gathers, analyzes and shares market and competitor intelligence should be shared by all employees.  

If your organization is like most, Competitive Intelligence (CI) is only one portion of what you do and may have been something you were tasked with following an event that caught your management team off-guard.  

What do you need to “Do Competitive Intelligence?” 

If you are going to successfully "do competitive intelligence" you need help, but that doesn’t always mean hiring and adding more bodies in seats. 

For market research and competitive analysis to have value throughout your organization, you need to create a Culture of CI

Companies with this perspective understand that everyone, from the front-line sales team to the back-office procurement group, must have a shared understanding of what competitive intelligence means and what your objectives, outcomes, and strategies are for identifying and adapting to disruption. 

Market and Competitive Intelligence (M/CI) describes the insights derived from the collection and analysis of external data and information related to customers, potential customers, competitors and other external factors impacting your business like regulatory and compliance trends. 

Starting small doesn't mean that you are starting an impossible journey. 

We understand the difficulties faced when beginning an M/CI practice and have identified eight free CI tools. You WILL get there, it just means that a little more work, time, and planning are required. 

Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day!  

I hearken back to a time when I began working in software development as product owner on an agile team. Our primary objective on the team was to deliver working software. We had stakeholders with whom we had close relationships and communicated what was going to be delivered. But often our communication happened AFTER hours of work eliciting requirements, AFTER planning the work with the software development team, and AFTER they began working.  

When something went wrong and we couldn't deliver on a commitment, we were left scrambling to find alternative solutions, or worse, make the surprise call to a client informing them that they weren't going to receive what they expected. This placed a strain our relationships with our clients and among our team members.  

It wasn’t until we implemented a new methodology - one that involved stakeholders IN planning meetings, BEFORE work began, and as participants of the ENTIRE process - that our relationships strengthened. Our clients became more than just observers, they became partners. 

As with every project, things still went wrong. We may have uncovered an unknown dependency or missed a milestone, only now when it happened, there were no surprises. 

In many organizations, the market and competitive intelligence functions are part of the marketing department. Several typical marketing activities involve gathering competitor and market information. For example, understanding what keywords a competitor uses in Google Adwords campaigns can provide insights into a competitor’s marketing and business strategy.   

Take our market and competitive intelligence self-assessment to learn your  maturity score

A word of caution. 

Building a Competitive Intelligence Culture within your organization requires more than sending out a newsletter or building a SharePoint dashboard that you expect users to "log in" to and receive the actionable insights they need. It requires laying a foundation and building a community of support, partnerships, and shared responsibility. 

Here are five steps you can take to begin your journey towards creating a culture of CI.  

  1. Define CI- What does competitive intelligence mean to your organization? What does that look like now and what do you want that to look like three years from now? While the process is important, remember to think about outcomes. For example, what disruption can you safely "predict", what key indicators of that disruption  should you monitor, and what will your strategy be when certain events occur, or thresholds are reached? Not sure where to begin? Try scenario planning with a recent event. Lessons learned are a great way to determine what you need to be better prepared next time. Remember to spend some time thinking about what you did well too.  
  2.  Identify your stakeholders - What business functions will benefit from market and competitor insights and support better business decisions? Of course, Product Development, Marketing, and Sales are all interested in understanding how you stack up against your competition, but what about Finance, Operations, or Technology? Would they benefit from a deeper understanding of current market trends? Targeted and clear communication regarding your competitive market landscape help each business function make better decisions. Thinking back to my example of working in Software Development, if I had been armed with a clearer picture of what our competition was doing from a technology perspective, I could have made better project decisions -, or better yet, redefined what "working software" meant for our organization.  
  3.  Conduct Interviews- Now that you have identified your stakeholders, you need to conduct a series of interviews with each stakeholder group to find out what information they need and what format makes the most sense. Do you want to spend a few hours a week compiling a newsletter only to have it sit in an inbox for weeks without ever being read? Better to spend a few hours up front once, than spend several hours a week working on something that isn't delivering value.  
  4.  Develop a RACI matrix- You probably identified more than one stakeholder in each group. Take the information you learned in the interview and use a [RACI matrix], to determine what outputs each stakeholder is responsible for as well as what role they play in the decision-making process. RACI identifies those Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed for a specific task or decision within a project. A complete RACI can help to keep your project moving forward by illuminating potential conflicts or redundancies. Most importantly, and after completing step five, a RACI can help to ensure you have buy-in. 
    • Responsible - person(s) responsible for completing a specific task, deliverable, or output. Several people can be jointly responsible.  
    • Accountable - person(s) who own the work. Ultimate decision maker if consensus can't be reached. Only one person can be accountable.  
    • Consulted - person(s) that should be consulted for input on decisions. These are typically subject matter experts and active participants.  
    • Informed - person(s) who need to be aware of outputs or decisions. They should be kept abreast of progress and outcomes but are not active contributors. 
  5. Share, Share, Share- Up to this point, you've defined what competitive intelligence means for you, why it's important, and what you want it to look like over the next few years. You've identified your stakeholders and asked THEM what insights and which format have the most value. You've even drafted up a matrix that identifies each stakeholder you'll engage with along the way and whether they are responsible, accountable, consulted, or informed. Now it's time to share your work.  

Set up meetings with each group. Talk about your vision, highlight key information you uncovered in your interviews. 

You may even want to create a specific logo and associate it with your work product. This will raise the visibility of your work and help identify what intelligence your business groups value and how your organization is leveraging the new insights and knowledge you are sharing. You won't just be creating a culture of CI; you'll be creating trusted partnerships and a team of advocates. 

These five simple steps will begin laying the groundwork towards creating a culture of CI. 

You are now armed with the information you need to look inward at your own internal processes and modify them to align with your overall vision and the needs of your stakeholders. 

You may even decide that you need a software solution to help. For help choosing the right market and competitive intelligence software tool, use this 2020 Buyer’s Guide to help select the right M/CI software tool for your company. 

If you already have a software solution, it’s time to talk to your customer success manager. They are a great resource for helping you build out your solution based on your desired outcomes.  

Once you start the process, remember, it will take a while. But don't give up! The time you invest in creating a Culture of CI will pay off in the long run when ownership of the CI function is shared, and insights and outcomes deliver value every. Single. Time. 

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Jennifer Knauff
Jennifer Knauff

As the Director of Customer Success, Jennifer Knauff is our resident expert on implementing, optimizing, and gleaning competitive insights from Knowledge360®. Jennifer leads on-boarding and ongoing support efforts for Knowledge360® customers and advocates to prioritize customer feedback to the product development team. She is a certified Scrum Master and Scrum Product Owner.

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