Competitive Intelligence

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The topic of SCIP governance and management seems to be a hot-button issue for several people in the forum. The call for nomination for board members has gone out and presumably an election of board members will be coming soon. With that in mind, this forum may be able to provide some useful guidance on how we would like to see SCIP prioritize its activities and some changes we might like to see at SCIP. These aspiring board members may be able to design a platform and influence an agenda based on the guidance we provide here.

Emphasis is given to objective, factual observations and actionable recommendations. Presumably we're all good CI professionals focused on providing "actionable intelligence" based on facts, so this should be something at which we would all excel.

I'll go first....

Change to be made: socialization of policy changes with affected stakeholders.

Observation: On multiple occasions in the past year policy changes have been instituted by SCIP national or the board that appeared to me to genuinely surprise groups of stakeholders impacted by said changes.

Two specific examples:
1. A policy limiting SCIP chapter coordinators to terms of no more than three years.
2. Changes to the compensation for workshop presenters at the national conference.

Why this matters: A basic tenant of effective negotiation and leadership is that people need to feel like they at least had a chance to be heard and influence the formation of policies that will impact them. The fairness, necessity or even rightness of any policy decision often does not matter if stakeholders do not feel that they have had a means to provide input into that decision.

The importance of consultation and buy-in becomes more important in a volunteer or "near volunteer" environment (the latter describing workshop presenters that provide their service at less than what they consider to be the true market value) because so much of the "compensation" for volunteer work is in self-actualization (top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs). "Having input" is a necessary element of volunteers' sense of self actualization.

Suggested action:
1. As the ultimate decision-makers evaluate their options for any given change in policy, they should incorporate stakeholder analysis and consultation as a step to take before any policy is solidified.
2. Make a list of specific individuals from different groups of stakeholders with whom to explain, propose and capture feedback on a given policy.
3. Decision-makers should listen closely to the feedback, take into consideration the feedback that resonates.
4. Decision-makers are obliged to explain to stakeholders elements of their feedback that do not address the original issue that necessitate a change in existing policy.
5. Design a new policy based on the feedback from individuals from the appropriate groups of stakeholders.
6. Re-check the revised policy with the previously consulted individuals and stakeholders and additional individuals.
7. Communicate the policy change to the appropriate parties, including a clear explanation of the issues that drive the need for the given change, acknowledge challenges to the change raised during the stakeholder feedback process and explain how stakeholders can successfully execute based on the new policy.

This does not have to be a one-off exercise. In an ideal environment minor tactical changes to policies, forms and processes will be considered based on the factual feedback from stakeholders.

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I agree that SCIP needs to take into account member feedback and feeling. However the current structures seem not to allow for this - and it would mean major change to make SCIP truly accountable to members. In fact, I'm not even sure that the changes required would be possible with the current structure.

The examples you gave (conference workshop remuneration and chapter coordinator service terms) are just two examples of many I've seen over the years. Many (most) seem to have been taken without considering the impact on membership. The results of this are plain to see.

I joined SCIP over 10 years ago. I joined because people I knew and respected were members - and they told me that this was THE organisation for CI professionals. Most are no longer members - not because they are no longer interested in CI, but because SCIP is no longer relevant for them and no longer offers value.

When I joined SCIP was growing - with over 6000 members. (I seem to recall it was approaching 7000). SCIP had a high-quality refereed journal (that I used even before I joined SCIP while completing my MBA thesis via a university library which had a subscription). SCIP also produced a newsletter / magazine called "Actionable Intelligence" along with other means to keep members in touch. In the UK there were regular chapter meetings of a high calibre, attracting dozens of CI professionals. (I remember one with approaching 100 attendees, and others regularly attracted 50+ attendees).

Then SCIP put up members' dues - without any accompanying increase in value. Membership dropped. Rather than realize what was happening, services were cut further. Then there was the approach to how chapters should be structured - ignoring cultural and national/legal issues. This killed off the UK SCIP chapter, which only recently restarted - and is still no where near the heyday from a few years ago.
I'm a member of three other professional societies - and SCIP offers me the least at the highest price. Two are UK associations so may not be directly equivalent. However the third is the Association of Independent Information Professional (AIIP). AIIP is a smaller organisation that SCIP - but one which SCIP should learn from. Membership fees are $200 per year and includes a highly active private mailing list and support network - that many members (myself included) feel is worth the $200 alone. There are also many discounts to premium services - an invaluable benefit and also worth the $200 membership fee.
The key lesson though SCIP can learn is AIIP’s approach to its membership. All members have a direct say in the running of the society. The AIIP annual conference concludes with an annual general meeting. Attendees get to discuss issues impacting the organisation and vote accordingly. Any major changes are voted on rather than imposed. The budget is voted on (and in 2007 was challenged and almost over-ruled: approval only came with some limitations on spending).

In summary, SCIP needs to start practicing what it preaches. It needs to do some CI - examining equivalent organizations to see what they are offering members and doing to retain and grow membership. SCIP needs to do a SWOT analysis on itself and its competitors and look at its own assumptions and blindspots, as well as those of its peer organizations. (As a starting point - look at what the SLA is doing in the CI arena. The SLA has implemented a certification programme for CI professionals that's accredited - whereas SCIP is still talking about it. The SLA is actually becoming the opinion leader in CI with state of the art webinars (e.g on the impact of Web 2.0 on CI) unlike SCIP that tends to be more basic.
So in conclusion, unless SCIP does a root-and-branch analysis and stops tinkering but undertakes a full strategic analysis and change management programme I don't see it having much future.

So if I understand correctly, you believe that SCIP does not provide ROI to members in line with the cost of membership, no? What are some specific things that you would like to see that would raise the value of SCIP?

Can you put some flesh on the bones of what the SWOT, strategic analysis and change management program should look like? Against which organizations should SCIP benchmark themselves? Who are SCIP's "competitors?" SLA? American Marketing Association (and international equivilants?

You mentioned SLA, and I would agree that in some areas of collection and knowledge management they seem to have stolen SCIP's thunder in putting together some good programming. I think they serve a different niche, and I might add to your recommendations that SCIP would incorporate market segmentation in their strategic analysis. The organization might actually cede certain segments. AIIP is geared specifically towards the independent vendor, and not necessarily limited to CI. As a corporate practitioner of CI I would not get that same value. Some of the different segments I see:
* Corporate practitioners
* Consultants working for large or medium-sized professional service firms
* Government and national intelligence professionals
* Business school academics
* Intelligence academics
* Independent consultants
* Consultants working for small firms specialized in CI
* Corporate customers of CI

I won't exhaust the exercise... what other segments are there?
August. Might I suggest that you address your questions to those on the SCIP Board such as Martha Matteo and Bill Fiora as well as those who have served in the past 5 years. You will find that they will remember that the exact exercise you are suggesting has taken place at least twice during that time. All at great expense with very costly consultants being brought in to "facilitate" a group which had a collective level of experience which outweighed theirs by a factor of 10. SCIP published the outcome of one of these strategic reviews in its annual report and the decision was that the experienced corporate practitioner was its core customer, or at least that's what they thought it should be. All services would then be re-orientated towards that segment, but guess what? Nothing changed. An analysis of the member records reveals that the overwhelming majority are in the '1-3 years in CI' category. The most recent strategic review was cited as the discussion forum which caused JCIM to be suspended by CIF. That really is a good way of encouraging business schools and academics to fall in love with SCIP and to develop the academic foundation for the field. As for suggesting that SCIP dictates to business schools the content of its curriculum, well, that is only going to happen if a qualification becomes necessary to practice, as one might find in law, engineerings, science, medicine, aviation. That also assumes that what the US deems important has any relevance on any of the other 4 continents, plus Canada. As the member churn in SCIP attests, there are more people practicing CI who are not members of SCIP, than are. There are entire countries which eschew any connection with SCIP and they seem to do very well without it. I certainly have never seen a job ad where the person specification says "must belong to SCIP". Maybe the question should not be "how to build an association from the ground up". How about "do we even need an association at all"? If the answer is "yes" then apart from a warm feeling of belonging, what exactly would be offered (in return for a fee) which would differentiate the association from that of the member's primary professional organisation? The one which they really do have to belong to, and keep their CPD records up to date, in order to continue working. The one which is a necessary business expense and as such, is tax deductible. A serious recommendation which SCIP could enact now would be to take at least one year out of recruiting to the Board and allow for a natural shrinkage in numbers to no more than five people. The cost of flying 12 people to Washington 4 times a year, and paying for all their accommodation, as well as their attendance at the annual conference, has got to be an expense which a 3000 member organisation simply cannnot bear. That's where the cuts should be made. Where the costs are highest and the revenue generation is zero.
I'd not only back Sheila up on saving costs for people on the board - why fly people in the first place. Once per year should be enough - for the annual conference. The rest of the time should be via teleconferencing. Instead of 4 times a year, meet monthly for 2 hours via teleconference.

Another cost saving that really should be made is HQ staff. To have a staff of 10 for a 3000 member organisation is overkill - especially with the level of duplication. This is going to make me unpopular, but why do we need both a membership & registration coordinator plus a membership & chapter relations coordinator. Combine the two - and you've saved several thousand dollars. In fact combine these two with the director of membership services & development - and you'd save more. Is there really that much work for 3 people to relate to the membership for 3000 people. Then you have a director of communications & marketing and one for business development. Combine the two - and give some of business development to membership services (or vice versa). Or what about two people for education & training. Cut it to one. Essentially you need one executive director - and 5 managers. NOT what we have - 6 director level staff and 4 others.

As for putting flesh and bones on SWOT, strategic analysis, etc. SWOT analysis is, as you know, a standard management analysis technique - but nobody seems to do it for SCIP. Benchmarking against competitors - actually you want to look at other organisations with a similar membership size, and not necessarily niche. Look for best practice - what do they offer and how do they retain members. None of this is rocket-science. It's just good management practice. Unfortunately this seems alien to a lot of SCIP management. The board have got high positions in their companies - it's time they used the same rigour to develop SCIP. And Ken Garrison has been give a poisoned chalice - as if he's to make difference he needs to look closely at what actually is done and be willing to wield the hatchet.

As for ROI. Is anybody seriously saying that CI Magazine is worth $300 per year - as that's the main benefit that SCIP offers. (In fact the benefits claimed on the web-site are out of date or inflated. JCIM has closed, and who would ever pay $500 for a fairly small advertising funded directory of services. This is not ROI. This is zilch).
I'd like to make a few comments.

Firstly, one would expect SCIP (as a CI organization) to at least be aware of some of the parallel organizations that it can learn from - it should surely be cognizant of its own external environment, or is it stuck in a huge blindspot?

One example, as others have mentioned, is the SLA. I have on number of occasions asked both SCIP and the SLA what differences there are between them, and why I as a CI practitioner should be a member of either one or both societies. In one revealing comment, some senior SCIP people had at one point not even heard of the SLA - despite its CI Division having been its fastest growing division in recent years. SLA is different from SCIP and has a different membership constituency. But it also takes a far wider view of what can and should interest its members: and not surprisingly the SLA magazine is far more informative and refreshing than its SCIP equivalent.

Over the last few years, I have suggested to SCIP directors that they look at SPIE - the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers. No, they are not spies, and they have little to do with CI. But what can SCIP learn from them? The development of SPIE shows that an organization, originally started by optical engineers working on missile ranges, who wanted an open forum where they could talk and share their knowledge and experience, has since become, the society for ALL aspects of optics, whether defense, medical, entertainment, space, sports, underwater, computer-based etc etc etc. As I recall, many of the early activists in SCIP came from organizations where they too were seeking an open forum to share ideas ...

The SLA take a wide and encompassing view of data, information, knowledge,knowledge management, information search, and CI - to name just some of the issues they encompass. And what does this have to do with SCIP? Well, the SLA is in this respect closer to SPIE - in that they are not afraid to include subjects which are seemingly peripheral to their core interests. On the other hand, it is SCIP that seems stuck in a largely US-centric "CI101" approach, with a limited repertoire of commercial courses (has SCIP really now sunk to becoming a platform for those commercial interests which give such courses?), and seems unable to get beyond its all-too-oft-repeated knee-jerk apologetic reaction "we are not industrial espionage". It would be nice to see SCIP define what CI IS for a change, and not what it is not.

As one colleague mentioned, one can 'get' to CI from so many different paths, that SCIP does not have the definitive answer as to what a CI professional is or should be. Which makes its sometimes 'holier than thou' attitude, that it and only it knows what CI is, a little wearying to say the least.

You mention the academic side of things - well, in a few weeks time ("the beginning of September"), we may hear (if SCIP keeps to the timescale it announced when it put the JCIM into abeyance - without warning or serious explanation) what is to become of the 'restructured' JCIM.

So, is JCIM being relaunched in three weeks? somehow, I'm a little doubtful.

What serious professional organization ceases publication of its main journal, in order to "restructure" it? This badly-handled, badly communicated, and sad episode has left a very bad taste regarding SCIP's commitment to academic or even quasi-academic activity. It is still not clear (to me at least) what needed fixing, and without an understanding of that, how can we as SCIP members know whether what may have needed to be fixed was in fact fixed?

To build up the reputation of an academic journal, openness, continuity and reliability of operations are essential: the timescale from submission, through revision, to approval often runs into well over a year. By so abruptly stopping the journal, a message has been sent to potential contributors that will reverberate for at least the next 24-36 months ... and for what purpose? we shall have to wait and see. It's not as though this hasn't happened to SCIP before - you may recall the now defunct CIR - Competitive Intelligence Review - there was an 18-month hiatus before the JCIM replaced that.

In conclusion, here's hoping for a more reflective and more open SCIP, one which becomes just a little more aware of the environment in which it is operating, and what organizations, conferences, and literatures compete for its (actual and potential) members attention and pocket.

The cost-effectiveness of membership in SCIP remains significantly lower than many other professional, CI, business information, strategy, or management-related organizations of which I am aware. Unless this changes drastically, SCIP will continue to lose members, and become less and less relevant to the ever-widening CI-related community.


Michael Neugarten
Point of information. The SLA CI certificate program is not accredited. It is the result of the hard work and knowledge of Cynthia Cheng Correia of Knowledge Inform who designed and teaches most of the courses.

The webinar "The impact of web 2.0 on competitive intelligence" was another of Cynthia's efforts, and was sponsored by Dow Jones, not SLA.
Not wishing to score points - I'm aware that the Web 2.0 webinar was sponsored by Dow Jones. However it was advertised and promoted via the SLA and not SCIP yet would have been of interest and relevant to a lot of SCIP members. If it was independent of the SLA why couldn't SCIP also promote it? Further, according to the SLA web-site, their CI program is accredited - by IACET (the same organisation that accredits the Academy of CI courses).

My aim in mentioning these is to show that SCIP now has a competitor that's rapidly moving into the space that should be firmly owned by SCIP. The fact that the SLA does promote CI training and events should raise serious alarm bells within SCIP. The SLA would not be promoting CI activity if there wasn't a need for it among their members. That these people don't join SCIP suggests that SCIP is not addressing the needs of a large number of potential members.

I know that some people will dismiss them as "librarians" and not "CI professionals". However when you go down that road, you'll end up not having any members at all. My background is marketing - not intelligence. I guess therefore I can't be a competitve intelligence professional. Then there are others that have information science / KM backgrounds, or academic backgrounds, or .... We need to be inclusive and if there is a sizable segment that feels that SCIP doesn't address their needs then rather than dismiss them, they should be welcomed.

As a 10-year plus member I value the organisation and believe it is needed but despair that instead of increasing interest in competitive intelligence it's losing it - as evidenced by the member decline. I'm not a change-management guru - but know that when something isn't working, hoping it'll improve with the economy is a false dream (especially as the decline occurred during an economic boom). In other words, major change is needed to stimulate interest - but I don't see this happening. Yet!
Hey August. The call for Board of Director nominations is a great way to frame the discussion as it gives people a way to channel their ideas (and frustrations) into concrete steps and suggestions. At a previous job, we had the mantra that "to criticize is to volunteer." That is, if someone feels strongly enough about an issue to voice it publicly, then they should also be the first to help make the necessary changes. Running for the SCIP Board (or other volunteer positions) is a great way to do this. SCIP wouldn't exist without volunteers, and there are a number of people on this discussion forum (and on this thread) who have given a lot of their time to the Society in recent years to help make improvements. I know that I've learned a lot during my time on the Board, and encourage anyone with a strong interest to put their name (and their ideas) forward.
I would echo Bill's comments. I can tell you that the interaction and knowledge you get from Board service adds a high degree of context (as well as colour) to one's understanding of how the association can and cannot serve its members. SCIP has been around for over 30 years, many of them highly successful, others far less so. It has already passed that threshold that many associations never pass -- getting beyond those most difficult early years. Having said that, it will always face the challenge of staying relevant, or even ahead of meeting the needs of its members. The best way to ensure that it does meet the challenge is for concerned individuals with good ideas and an understanding of how to execute them in a multi-constituent (vendors, corporate practitioners, consultants, clients/customers, academics, etc.) volunteer environment to step forward, be heard and counted. I'd be happy to speak with any interested parties about my experiences on the SCIP Board and answer questions about potential service if it would help.
I am including a presentation I did for the SCIP Great Lakes chapter in my last month as President of SCIP in 2006. It was designed to look at the past, present, and future of SCIP. It represented a sense of where I thought it had been, was, and was going at that point in time. I thought it might be of interest to our group members and would welcome any comment.
Having served as the Chair of the EAC for the past year, I can concur that SCIP needs to understand its environment to be as relevant as possible to the members. Doing a SWOT on SCIP every year - and building this into the planning process with categories to be addressed such as education, certification, member value and other quantifiable items seems like a good idea. We should not be afraid to look at the ugly parts as well as the beautiful ones - the threats and well as the opportunities. I would definitely support that idea. I am a firm believer in research and have incorporated that into planning for future SCIP events - we recently interviewed a number of key practitioners in reference to a potential meeting for 2009 for example.

SCIP definitely does not yet provide the breadth of education to CI personnel that other groups do today, and we are working to "catch up" ... but we are also working to look at how we can leapfrog ahead. This year we did provide many new webinars including up to two per month for the second half of the year. In addition, we launched the first ever call for proposals for a new SCIP course (instead of tapping speakers on the shoulder from among a small pool of regulars) and are presenting a new course on Starting and Managing the CI Function for the first time in September. All future courses will use the RFP process so that we can have a wider range of speaker opportunities for members. We have made mistakes too, but have learned from them including putting a session of a course in Boston in Feb and not checking local course offerings for our UK course in 2008. Sometimes when you are focusing on the strategic picture you forget the important details. So for that reason, we are attempting to develop and ongoing tracking system that will help guide us to prevent these mistakes. (See below).

Next year's strategic plan for education and the education calendar along with new courses to meet the needs of the community -- based on competitive offerings and the Body of Knowledge - is currently in the works. One element of that plan the committee is working on is a template for education planning that takes into account educational results data to date, other market offerings based on location and timing, the Body of Knowledge, the results of an education survey we did this year to prioritize future topics, etc. We also hope to provide this back to SCIP for continued tracking and future use. If you can think of anything else we need to incorporate, let me know.

Most of the EAC will be leaving at the end of this year, so if you want to make a difference in this regard - per Craig and others - call Sandy Skipper or Ken Garrison and volunteer.

The industry frustration regarding certification is loud and clear and I think will be addressed in 2009. I can't say more now, but I certainly hope so!

On several points I strongly agree. First, all major changes should at the very least be communicated well with the rationale (including financial necessity where this applies) but it would be even better if we can use a process like the one August outlined to at least show the association is listening, even if necessity outweighs desire in the end. It is even worse when changes are made and the constituents don't feel they had a say in the matter. Especially if the change affects them negatively. As a result of the association raising fees for vendors to advertise and doing away with the partner program, I am actually working with some independents in the US to form an alliance that can pool its resources and exhibit at the conference. Independents and smaller consulting firms don't have a good forum for creating visibility now with SCIP. SCIP may be working on a solution, but we have an optional solution that doesn't involve SCIP changing its policy.

I also feel strongly that marketing the association, presenting its value and programs to the CI community, identifying more ways to add value to the membership are all important.

On the point of SCIP staff however, in working with them on a day to day basis, I have not seen anyone who is underutilized. For many months we had one person managing all education programs including development, on site, the conference, etc. We have also had major staff turnover, which usually doesn't happen when staff has too little to do. Some of the staff wear multiple hats. The education staff and the business development staff both produce revenue.

I think that having an open forum like this and addressing these issues is a good idea and should continue. I imagine the SCIP board and staff will try to take some of the ideas and make SCIP better. Keep the thoughts, criticisms, and ideas coming. I am sure someone is listening!


"We have also had major staff turnover .. " At the start of my career I was given some very good advice, which has proved to be very accurate. When applying for a job, the first thing you should check out is the turnover rate of their key decision makers. If it is high, then the organisation cannot avoid contracting that debilitating and costly corporate disease, 'fast forgetting'. This is the polar opposite of what most efficient and effective organisations try to achieve by progressing up the learning curve. Fast forgetting leads to the non resolution of problems, repetition of mistakes and basic managerial erorrs. There is nobody there to tell the new guys that what is being suggested has all been done before. There is no organisational memory. The second thing you check out is the rate of staff turnover. If that is high, it is as good a sign as you will ever get that all is not well. High staff turnover is rarely indicative of everybody being blissfuly happy and working hard. Rather, they are working hard at getting out and getting out quick. Maybe the root and branch review suggested by others, needs to start closer to home.


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