Competitive Intelligence

Tactical, Operational & Strategic Analysis of Markets, Competitors & Industries

Early Warning: How to perform a 360 degree scanning process

There are two main perspective when talking about Early Warning:

1) The "focused mode" Early Warning: the firm has identified a specific topic to follow and anticipate (ej. technology, a new competitor, an alliance etc.). Under this perspective Comai and Tena (2006) propose their own model. (see attached article)

2) The "scanning mode" Early Warning: you are not aware were the opportunities or threats will come from.

The first type is the one more discussed in CI. In contrast, the second type less. I am interesting to explore potential techniques and approach about the second type in which organizations fight the true ambiguity of the environment. Day and Schoemaker (2006;51) suggested the directed and the undirected scanning process.

Following I will list several techniques that may related to the 360 degree scanning process (this list has been developed thanks to the contribution of the people that have partecipated in this forum):

A) Leveraging human networks (internal and external) to obtain new rumors.
B) Utilizing softwares that are able to perform multi searches in structured and unstructured databases (invisible web is one possible source).
C) Analyze systematically the environment with new /different frameworks. The objective is gaining new insights from those areas that have not been previously explored (ej. Cantrell, R. (1999). “The Six Angles of Competition.” Competitive Intelligence Review, (10)3:51-57.) You may also interested in Fleisher and Bensoussan's book titled "Business and Competitive Analysis: Effective Application of New and Classic Methods". There are plenty of analysis techniques able to uncover hidden markets opportunities or threats.
D) Use cross functional teams to share knowledge and brainstorm new firm’s related issues identified as opportunities and threats. (see Fox, K (2006) “Invisible competition”. Competitive Intelligence Magazine, 9(5):41-43.
E) E) Utilize a variety of divergent techniques. Visual representation or methods, for instance support the creation of new ideas regarding a particular landscape. These instruments can be embedded into an analysis process. A good source for identifying which technique work best for you is the Visual Periodic Table (


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Hallo Adrian

Ich hatte Ihren Kommentar leider nicht gesehen (mein Fehler), würde mich aber über Ihre Präsentation auf English sehr freuen. Bitte schicken Sie es mir.

Beste Grüsse
Hi Sandra,

I am Alessandro. Please let me know which presentation you would receive. I suppose you are talking about a presentation Adrian Alvarez, a friend of mine, have been presenting in SCIP last year (San Diego).

Hi Allesandro,
I refer to the discussion between us from last year, compare to the reply on page 1 of this discussion from Adrian "Reply by Adrian Alvarez on March 29, 2008 at 10:31pm". It would be great, if you could provide the presentation here.

Best thanks
Hi Sandra,

yes, sure! I think that you have to replay to Adrian so that he gets the comments.

Hi Alessandro

This is what I intended to do within this forum, so he can see, what I refer to. If you have the same presentation, could you add it here? Or could you give me any idea, where else I should reply him?

You have to reply Adrian's comment in page 1. I think this is the only way that Adrian will see your post. However, I will mail him and ask if he can attach the document.

Hallo Sandra,

Sorry für die verspätete Antwort, aber ich war und bin eigentlich zu beschäftigt und arbeite bis 1:00 AM täglich, da ich nicht nur meine Konsultingtätigkeit übe, aber auch die erste SCIP-Konferenz in Lateinamerika leite.

Anbei sende ich die Präsentation.

Beste Grüsse,

Hallo Adrian

Danke für das File.

Viele Grüsse
Early Warning can get very complex.

One could be monitoring New Emerging Technology or Shift in Consumer Behaviour.

On the other hand one could be monitoring Existing Competitors. But are we monitoring Latent Compeitors or Parallel Competitors.

Why does a firm go in for Low Cost strategy option or Focussed Low Cost option or Broad Differentiation option or Focussed Differentiation option.

What is the market? A geographical area or a customer segment.

Who is a competitor? Existing, Latent or Parallel.

Is the OODA loop effective?

Are there any Backward Integrations or Forward Integrations?

What about Related Diversifications?

Now when we monitor competitors and we keep the above in mind, we can identify the feasibility or mergers or acquisitions to enter a emerging market or Consolidation strategy.

Again Market life cycle whether the market is in fragmentation stage ie multiple customer segments or are we looking at consolidation.

Further, Government regulations need to be monitored or lets say ammendments.

To top this we need to understand taxation structure, lets take for example Mauritius Float.

Are competitors Re-Positioning theemselves or De-Positioning us

Then sift between the Micro picture and Macro Picture ie Focus & Re - Focus and draw Implications

And maybe generate Early Warning based on Probability x Impact analysis or move a level ahead and Predict.
Vivek - you are spot on. There is no point in doing any environmental, or any other sort of scanning, if you cannot translate that into scenarios. Scanning without analysis is observation - nothing more, nothing less. It is as useful as going to the library, taking out a book and not bothering to read it. The only information you have from that exercise is that the book has been published and is available to everbody via the library but you have no idea about the book's content or whether it is of good quality. Looking for early warning signals is indeed very complex and without context, almost impossible. CI output would have more value if the people who produced it had a strong intellectual and practical understanding of the impact on business and market strategy AND are then responsible for implementing subsequent decisions. What Vivek has outlined here is what should happen when options are being debated and is what all CI analysts who wish to be valued, should be addressing in their interpretation of any sigals, early warning or othewise. If they don't, then they are simply deliverers of reports with no impact interpretation. You don't need to pay anybody a high salary/fee for that. Good CI translates quickly into Competitive Analysis and it embraces strategic, operational and tactical levels, both concurrently and consecutively. If you don't have the knowledge or experience to do this, then scanning will be waste of your time and the firm's money. I see far too much time and money being spent on finding more and more information and nowhere near enough time or intellectual effort being spent on doing anything with it. Remember the 80/20 rule? Try it and put 80% of your effor into thinking and interpretation rather than gathering. You might find that CI output becomes 100% more valuable.
Hello Vivek,

The points you are describing are all fine. I understand that any organization will have their own needs based on the strategic orientation and the perception of each executive and/or decision maker. As you mentioned could these needs can have different orientations as technology, regulations, competitors, consumer, etc. Priorities will be then set accordingly.

However, all of these needs are encapsulated in a focused perspective. I mean that the needs are based on an explicit knowledge (knowing what the organization is looking for). (see also Nonaka and NONAKA about the four boxes knowledge).

The problem/limitation arise when the organization doesn’t know where and what is the next changes that can get source of opportunity or threat. To overcome this limitation, I think that other techniques and tools must be included into a traditional Early Warning process which aims to detect new/unpredictable/strange/singular changes.

I agree with you and Sheila,

But Alessandro, the reason we exist is because we can join the dots and identify Strategic Inflection points.

It is our Insight for which the organisation needs us. Otherwise in this brutal world do you think they will tolerate us.I do not think so.

The organisations need us because they cannot subsitute us.

Implicit knowledge gives us the cutting edge otherwise Artifical Intelligence will not even blink to subsitute us.

Technology / Regulations / Competitors / Consumers are Drivers.

Once we identify the drivers which interest us or we think are important then of course you are right.

In a nutshell Early Warning = Strategic Inflection Point


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