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Synthesis vs. Analysis

Welcome to the seventeenth lesson in Cipher’s Strategy & Analysis Education Series. In every lesson, we’ll cover a key framework or methodology used by leading strategy consultants.

Synthesis and analysis play an important role in market and competitive intelligence (M/CI). But the two are often conflated, with damaging results for M/CI professionals. Today, we explore the key differences and share how you can free up more time to spend on highly valuable analysis.

Key Takeaways:

About the Strategy & Analysis Education Series

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Synthesis is the process of combining simple things into something more complex in order to understand their shared qualities.

Analysis is the process of breaking down something into its basic parts to understand the nature, function, or meaning of the relationships among the parts.

M/CI professionals should ensure their end customers understand the differences to align expectations.

About Synthesis vs. Analysis

Business leaders often confuse synthesis and analysis: two distinct stages within the wider competitive intelligence process. This is harmful to overall M/CI efforts, resulting in misaligned expectations, unclear goals, and ultimately, sub-par competitive intelligence output.

As a general rule, technology can perform synthesis much more effectively than humans can and M/CI teams should deploy technology to perform synthesis. Making sense of the information gathered and how it impacts certain areas of the business or markets (aka analysis) is work best performed by talented, well-qualified M/CI professionals.

Drawing a clear line between synthesis and analysis also helps to better align expectations across the organization. Many times, stakeholders might think they want a synthesis, but what they really want is an analysis

Continue Learning

This article from Cipher’s VP of Marketing, John Booth, explores the differences between synthesis and analysis in greater detail.

Read the Article

Your Next Steps

Yes, we are actually assigning you homework! Now that you've learned about this, your next steps are to...

Step 1

Make sure your team understands the difference between synthesis and analysis. [Required time: about an hour]


Step 2

Run through an exercise for a particular topic on which you are going to provide a CI deliverable, where your team brainstorms the answers to the following questions:
  • Why: Why does this particular piece of information (or sum of multiple pieces of information) matter?
  • How: How does this information affect our organization?
  • What: What are the recommended actions to take as a result of this information.

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