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The Navy Analogy for Business Intelligence

How do business intelligence, market intelligence, competitive intelligence, and knowledge management work together to provide a competitive advantage for your business? To explain the benefits of each, we use the example of a Navy ship, its Captain, and protocols to keep the ship on course.

We rely on the analogy of a Navy ship when discussing the difference between business intelligence, market intelligence, and competitive intelligence and the role each plays in supporting your overall business strategy.

Why the Navy? As a proud member of the local business community here in Annapolis, MD, our headquarters is only a few minutes away from the U.S Naval Academy. Our CEO, Peter Grimm, served in the U.S. Navy prior to his career in the consulting world and can easily translate the operations of a Navy ship into the operations of any business to provide a clear guidance for anyone seeking to understand the interplay of different intelligence initiatives. 

Picture your company as a ship in the Navy and your CEO as the Captain of that ship. To be successful, the captain needs to understand his/her own ship’s capabilities and limitations, the external environment the ship is operating in, and the capabilities and intentions of any rival ships out at sea. In short, the captain needs to be well-informed.

In the business world, the tools, software and systems that support informed business decisions make up a corporate intelligence strategy.


Listen to this 2-minute audio clip for an explanation of the Navy Analogy for Business Intelligence from our Director of Research, Fred Hoffman. 

A corporate intelligence strategy is comprised of three primary disciplines: Business Intelligence, Market Intelligence, and Competitive Intelligence. 

Business Intelligence (BI) focuses on internal data from within your company’s own operations to help you improve processes.

Business intelligence refers to the tools, software and systems used to gather intelligence about internal business operations.

Business intelligence tools like Tableau can be used to improve the efficiency of your business operations by using big data analytics and data visualization to help you see trends in your data.

Business intelligence tools are similar to the gauges that monitor engine performance and ensure the ship is running smoothly. The ship is likely expected to reach a distant port by a certain date and time and accomplishing that mission depends on a variety of factors, including whether or not there is enough fuel on board to make the trip and how changing speed or course would effect the amount of fuel available. Crew members (aka business intelligence analysts) are responsible for monitoring the amount of fuel on board and passing this information along to the captain to make sure the ship arrives safely at port when expected and is not stranded out at sea.

Market Intelligence (MI) focuses on external data about your customers to help you develop a go-to-market strategy.

Market intelligence refers to the tools, software and systems used to conduct market research about consumers' needs and develop analysis.

Market intelligence tools like Factset and Crunchbase can be used to monitor market conditions and identify market trends.

Market intelligence is the external data the crew gathers around winds, waves, tides, and currents to detect changes and identify trends that may predict future conditions out at sea. A big storm rolling in could cause strong winds, large waves, and a change in the tides that send the ship of course. Those same winds may help the ship arrive at its destination faster. The captain needs to be aware of all external factors that may impact the ship's voyage to make decisions about how to take advantage of better conditions and avoid dangerous conditions.

Competitive Intelligence (CI) focuses on external data about your competitors to help you find and maintain a competitive advantage.

Competitive intelligence refers to the tools, software and systems used to gather information about your competitors.

Competitive intelligence tools like Knowledge360 can be used to track your competitors, develop competitor analysis, and share insights.

Competitive intelligence tools are similar to the radar and sonar used on board the ship to track the movements of rival and friendly forces nearby. The captain and crew will use these tools to keep a safe distance away from any rival ships and adjust course if any ship gets too close. Any intelligence gathered on the movements of rival ships gives the captain and his crew "information dominance" over their adversary which can be used to their advantage.

Recommended Read: What is Competitive Intelligence?

A final component, Knowledge Management, ties all of the pieces of your corporate intelligence strategy together.

Knowledge Management (KM) refers to the tools, software and systems that make previously acquired data and information and the experiences and expertise of your employees easily accessible. 

Knowledge management tools like Sharepoint can be used to collect and store internal documents and field intelligence for your team to collaborate on and share.

Knowledge management tools are similar to the automated databases sailors use to advise the captain about the presence and presumed intentions of friendly forces, civilian shipping, and potential threats to the ship. The databases give the captain easy access to a collective base of knowledge that enables timely, informed decision-making.

Cipher_Navy Analogy

For more information about the key components of a corporate intelligence strategy, visit our Competitive Intelligence Resource Center to explore our free library of webinars, guides, templates, and more!

Competitive Intelligence for Competitive Advantage

A strategic approach to competitive intelligence gives you a competitive advantage with the ability to monitor and plan for changing market trends, mergers & acquisitions, and new products or technologies coming to market. Cipher is a full-service competitive strategy firm with competitive intelligence tools and analysts to provide end-to-end competitive intelligence support.

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