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This blog is the third in our three part Competitive Strategy Series. This series is meant to help you understand the three key parts of your competitive strategy. You can compare the three pillars to three legs of a stool. If one leg is shorter than the rest, or worse yet, if you are missing a leg completely, your stool will fall right over.

The same goes for the competitive and market intelligence function in your organization. If you aren’t executing all three pillars, your overall strategy will ultimately crumble.

Read about all three pillars in our blog series, The 3 Pillars of a Comprehensive Competitive Strategy:

  1. The Framework
  2. Prioritizing Information and Research (Coming soon!)
  3. Monitoring and Communication (this article)

What is Monitoring and Communication?

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it really make a sound? The value of your competitive intelligence work can’t possibly be realized by your company until you have communicated your findings.

There are five major parts to the Monitoring and Communication pillar of your competitive intelligence strategy:

  1. Monitoring sources for information
  2. Organizing competitive intelligence data 
  3. Making decisions about what that data means
  4. Sharing data with those who need it
  5. Updating and pivoting your strategy

Below we’ll go through each of these five components in depth to help you understand how you can become a pro at communicating the findings from your research to your company.

Monitoring sources for information.

We’re not going to pull any punches with you, this step is both incredibly time consuming and also incredibly important. Most CI practitioners spend too much time gathering and organizing information, and are often left with too little time to perform the more important tasks of actually analyzing that information.

As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, there are a ton of different sources you can use to gather information, including:

  • 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

With so many sources of information that you have to stay on top of, traditional data collection is very labor intensive. Most of our 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.

Additional Resource: Learn more about finding the different data sources available in our in-depth article, Competitive Intelligence Information Gathering.

So how can your team consistently stay on top of all the changes in the market and collect data, without spending all their time on it?

A Better Way

Today’s world-class marketing and competitive intelligence (M/CI) teams have broken the "M/CI cycle of Death" by leveraging technology. Using a tool to automatically monitor the sources you select (so you don’t have to do so manually) will make a huge difference.

Our Market Intelligence & Competitive Intelligence Tools Buyer’s Guide can help you start to explore M/CI tools that are available. You’ll want something that can monitor all the sources you want access to, including paid sources. It should also be able to automatically identify and actively alert you to unknown information that will be of value to your organization.

Additional Resource: Market Intelligence & Competitive Intelligence Tools Buyer’s Guide.

Organizing competitive intelligence data.

Successfully communicating with your audience begins with how you organize your intelligence. Competitive intelligence and knowledge management require organization and a clear process to ensure useful and accurate results.

You need to start by understanding the requirements for the research you are organizing. If it is being used in a board meeting next month, make sure to understand the format and level of depth that will be expected.

How to organize your competitive intelligence data:

  • Pair down your data: Useful data organization means consolidating the research the wider team has collected in order to make it actionable. Experience in data organization plays a role in how much effort you will spend organizing one source versus another. 
  • Remove silos: Data can be easily scattered across departments or siloed to specific individuals when there isn't a central repository for organization. Your job is to bring into a centralized repository so it is all in one place.
  • Tagging and categorizing: You’ll be collecting information across a very wide range of categories. In order to make the information actionable, it is important to organize and tag that data appropriately so you can easily find and look at the correct data when making a specific decision.

Additional Resource: Learn more about how to organize and manage your competitive intelligence data in our in-depth article, Organizing Competitive Intelligence Data.

A Better Way

Similar to monitoring sources, there is a better way to automatically organize the data you collect.

Recent advances in technology—specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the form of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML)—offer unprecedented opportunities to automate the critically necessary, but time-consuming and low-value activities of organizing and curating information.

You should really look for a tool that offers a robust NLP feature-set including tagging for people, locations, and organizations. The most important uses for AI and NLP within a competitive intelligence tool is for data collection and automation of taxonomies and improving data searchability with an AI-enabled search.

The correct M/CI software tool allows researchers and analysts to focus on developing insights, which is the only value intelligence teams have to offer the business. The right tool serves as a force-multiplier for the modern M/CI team, freeing the analyst from low-value tasks like collecting and organizing information from multiple sources. 

Our research shows M/CI professionals using a M/CI tool have as much as five times more time to devote to the analysis and insight generation in the next steps as those without a tool built to support M/CI work.

Additional Resource: Market Intelligence & Competitive Intelligence Tools Buyer’s Guide.

Making decisions based on competitive intelligence data.

This is where the rubber really meets the road. Data alone has no value. It’s not until an analysis is performed that an output with value to your business is created.

The better your analysis (and presentation of that analysis), the more engaged your audience will be in the next step, and the greater your impact on organization’s success will ultimately be.

Before we dive any deeper, let’s make sure we clarify the terms data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. The DIKW hierarchy, also known as the wisdom pyramid, is commonly used to explain the different types of human experiences:

  • Data are the most primitive type, the result of observing events, environments, and ourselves by our senses and modern sensors. (i.e. the number "3") 
  • Next, information represents patterns from data. Information helps us understand what things are. (i.e. the three colors or a traffic light)
  • Knowledge represents the sense-making of information in the personal and social context, and helps us understand how things are. (i.e. "There is construction at the traffic light") 
  • Last is wisdom, the pinnacle of the hierarchy, it represents human beliefs, purposes, values, and judgment which helps us understand why things are. (i.e. "If I follow my GPS directions to the traffic light, I'll be late for my meeting: I'm going a different way.") 

Information analysis is the backbone of CI. It creates the wisdom that allows your company to make choices that help you evade disturbances in the market and emerge ahead of the pack.

Your data is now collected, filtered, and organized. This is where we shift to Knowledge Management (KM). KM involves a real-life human applying tacit and explicit knowledge to data and information, creating new knowledge by managing the knowledge gathered from CI and BI. 

Now you need to analyze that data that has been collected and formulate hypotheses around the crucial points to highlight and expand on. Part of this effort will rely on your ability to apply your knowledge as a filter for the data you have compiled. 

You need to ensure that your analysis thoroughly answers the questions posed at the beginning of this process. Does your analysis account for rising competitor influence? Have you gathered enough information about an impending merger? Filter out the excess and leave the key contextual information to answer your research questions clearly and completely.

This is truly where you want your team spending their time. Automate the stuff that isn’t valuable and free your team up to do this part of the process. This is where their experience comes into play, and where they provide the most value.

In this phase is where you can:

  • Identify New Opportunities: Knowing where and how your competitors influence a market can help adjust your strategy. You can identify and monitor market trends to see when a new opportunity presents itself.
  • Gain Market Clarity: Maximize your competitive advantages with clarity into where your competitors are vulnerable in relation to you and market trends.
  • Reduce Risks & Uncertainty: A clear picture of your current market and competition will remove uncertainty and eliminate speculative decision making.

Information analysis is often the most difficult part of attaining CI maturity. After all, analysis is the backbone of competitive intelligence. It will inform strategic business objectives that will help you grow your business and avoid competitor surprises.

One of the most important aspects to information analysis is maintaining a strategic mindset throughout the process. Great analysis starts with knowing the organization’s overall competitive intelligence strategy, and understanding how new information affects that strategy.

Additional Resource: Learn more about gaining insights from data in our article, Information Analysis.

Additional Resource: Learn more about knowledge management in our article, The Strategic Intelligence Triad: The Differences Between CI, BI, and KM.

Sharing competitive intelligence data.

Now that you’ve collected your data and organized it in such a way that it is easy to understand and find what you need and wrapped it in insights, it is time to share that data with those who need it.

The reason for collecting all this data is to use it to fuel educated decisions. Most commonly, those responsible for collecting the data aren’t going to be making decisions on that data in a vacuum. They need to involve important stakeholders throughout the company before a decision is made.

You’ll want to have in place a tool that makes it easy to share the data collected with those that need to work to generate insights from that data.

Creating a model for collaboration within your company and pairing that model with tools to facilitate communication of the data and research you compile will make internal CI a beneficial, important piece of your organization.

When preparing to share your competitive intelligence data, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Target Audiences: The key point to remember when producing successful data visualizations to these stakeholders is that not everyone absorbs or understands information in the same way. Tailor the way you present information to the audience it is being presented to.
  • Preferred Delivery Means: Build your dashboard or presentation to reflect the level of detail the audience needs. For instance, go with visualizations for visual learners who don’t need every tiny detail.
  • Presentation: Make sure your presentation clearly outlines key takeaways you want your audience to leave with, and emphasize the action items that need to happen.

As you are considering different delivery methods, dashboards should be at the forefront of your thinking. Reports or “single-snapshot” presentations aren’t nearly as effective, or valuable, as a continuously updated dashboard for a couple of reasons.

  1. CI professionals shouldn’t be spending their valuable time on updating slide decks and reports. They should be focusing on the in-depth analysis, and automating the efforts to display and communicate that analysis to the larger organization.
  2. The organization needs access to real-time information. Dashboards are always up-to-date and can provide any stakeholder in the organization with a look into what they need at any given time.

With the right CI tools, you can build customized dashboards with any number of visualizations that get automatically updated for every stakeholder that needs to see them.

charts-for-strategy-presentationsDownload this graphic as a PDF using the form below.


Additional Resource: Learn more about how important collaboration is to competitive strategy in our article, Today's Competitive Intelligence Function is Collaborative.

Additional Resource: Learn more about how to present and share competitive intelligence information in our article, Competitive Intelligence Production and Dissemination.

Update and pivot your competitive strategy.

This step brings us back full circle to the first leg in our stool, The Framework. With all the valuable information you have learned and decisions you have made, it is time to go back to your strategy and update it accordingly.

You may well have generated new hypotheses during this process that would require additional research and testing. You can also use this information to fuel new market research projects to understand even more deeply what changes you can make to your competitive strategy.

Are you looking to automate pieces of your competitive intelligence function?

No mature CI practice functions without the right tools. Use our buyer’s guide to help you determine the best software to suit your needs and execute all of the phases above.

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