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One of the best practices around intelligence collection at conferences, conventions, and trade shows includes the role of a “quarterback.”

In practice, the tactical team is headed by a quarterback who plans and anticipates collection opportunities. The quarterback will:

  • begin to link with targets who can address specific intelligence requirements
  • find internal and (trusted) external sources who have potential access to specific targets,
  • and follow up to determine which events could help bring sources and targets together.

The quarterback identifies the Key Intelligence Topics (KITs) and opportunities. They then assign the appropriate members of the team to cover those topics.

The information gathered through field intelligence collection (from posters, presentations, symposia, and primary interviews) is disseminated to the users of competitive intelligence. This includes sales and marketing and is integrated into the strategic planning process.

After the conferences, conventions, and trade shows end, many competitive intelligence professionals go back to their “day jobs” and shelve this process and the quarterback role until the next conference season.

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I propose that the quarterback role should become a standard within intelligence teams.

The same leadership qualities that make a quarterback effective during the conference intelligence planning, collection, and dissemination process can (and should) be applied to everyday intelligence tasks. Staying engaged with the cross-functional teams can prove advantageous when intelligence is needed or other projects emerge.

Further, it is their role as quarterback that allows them to function as a “connector” in an organization. A connector is someone who connects others in order to facilitate the successful execution of efforts. This resource knows and understands the best tools and talent at their disposal and can call on them when needed.

The best intelligence can often be found inside organizations themselves and connectors are essential for the efficient intake and distribution of intelligence. The future is one of integrated intelligence.

No longer can intelligence teams function in a centralized manner without input from others. The path forward is to establish a quarterback to lead the team, call the right plays, and win in the marketplace.

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