Competitive Intelligence

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

Design a CI Professional Organization from the Ground-Up

Let's assume for a second that SCIP did not exist and we were trying to create a professional organization for Competitive Intelligence professionals from the ground-up. What would you as a charter member of this organization want to see and how would you recommend going about that with a complete clean slate?

I'll go first...

* Define a broad, multi-disciplinary scope of interest to incorporate competitive analysis, market intelligence, general intelligence practices and management/strategic consulting. Make it broad but try to keep it sufficiently defined to avoid becoming everything but the kitchen sink.

* Leverage existing informal networks for a broad interactive network of activity.

* Incorporate a high degree of digital interaction to support global participation. Physical meetings would be the supplements to Internet-based interaction.

* Foster a community of interaction among vendors and practitioners and the collaborative definition of a shared knowledge base. Te organization would eschew the division of the community into groups of "experts" and "the unwashed masses." Everybody would be learning from everyone else constantly, and that interaction itself will be the main value that all members will get from participation. The more members, the higher the value of participating for everyone involved.

* Create tiers of content: freely available (for brand-building, promotion and education of Competitive Intelligence customers), members-only content (paying members must log-in or register for on-line content and receive subscriptions to physical publications) and premium content.

* Broaden the scope of the information-sharing to include professional development relevant to practitioners, vendors and aspiring practitioners.

* Actively reach out to the academic community and establish a curriculum to business schools to promote Competitive Intelligence as a necessary element of any comprehensive business degree program.

* Encourage members to write articles on Competitive Intelligence for publication in general business publications including Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal among many others (note: I confess that this list is US-centric-- I look to our international participants to recommend the appropriate publications for their market).

* Track coverage of the Competitive Intelligence practice in the mainstream media and actively encourage members to respond with letters to the editor to congratulate good coverage and educate poor coverage.

* Serve as a source for journalists attempting to understand the Competitive Intelligence practice. Have standard press kits available that will address the most common questions, including a freely-available Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the organization's web site.

* Plug in to new social networks as they are created. Promiscuously promote the practice in other on-line communities, including re-purposing the freely-available content as needed and as necessary.

* Establish a code of ethical practice of competitive intelligence that reflect the various cultural global concerns. Establish a clear distinction between certain practices that will not be sanctioned and universally regarded as unethical (random examples: dumpster-diving, theft, illicit recordings).

* Educate and promote the application of new technologies into intelligence practices.

* Establish analysis and reporting as the critical value add of quality competitive intelligence. To that end align the practice more closely with practices and frameworks that are commonly applied in management consulting practices.

Those are just some thoughts off the top of my head. What would you recommend? What would your revenue model be? How would you recruit members? What would the meetings and events look like? Let's give it a go...

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August, you've got to leave a couple ideas for the rest of us! That is a ludicrously complete list, if you ask me.

The big theme you have here is global and connected and interactive and responsive. Boom shakalaka. Couldn't agree more.

Once again, with feeling, the world's organizations need professionalized intelligence more than ever. So let's get talking.
Hi guys - I think the key line in August's list above is:

"Leverage existing informal networks for a broad interactive network of activity."

If you read "The Starfish and the Spider" from a couple of years back, the thing about any decisively oriented "organization" is the overhead drag of associated governance and cost structures that often tends to create more friction and bureaucracy than it's worth while also generating a great deal more controversy in satisfying the will of all its members unanimously.

The only real solution is to create a set of circumstances where those structures are unnecessary.

In an era where sites like Ning enable the connectedness of people and ideas in ways that old organizational models were once required to access, I would question the idea that any formal organization is necessarily needed at all. We seem to have have several such bodies now specifically designed for the efficient administration of their own budgets so as to eek out whatever meager living they can achieve under the scrutiny of a membership obsessed with being a customer instead of a pure enthusiast. It strikes me that there's just a lot of friction and drag on that efficiency if the enthusiasts' network (however informal) incorporates and imposes a governance structure on a membership that requires fees to support.

If we can keep a site more or less cost-free then there's no overhead or governance structure to support with a breakeven point for a P&L. The result is, the "members" (such as they are) themselves can make their own decisions about how to expend their resources in pursuit of their topic. Such a scheme needn't lack in physical interaction either. By way of example, geographic or topical subsets of members could pool funds for last-minute, spontaneous come-as-you-are meetups for drinks or dinner or a presentation in the back room at Starbucks somewhere when they're all on the road, all of which happens already.

Somewhat more formally, if someone wants to participate in a paid workshop (such as the discussion about the SCIP09 workshop comp-reorg recently), I personally wouldn't have an issue with someone promoting their workshop goings-on wherever it may be on a site like this and let the members decide if it's worth their $250 or $1250 or $2500 (or whatever) plus travel to make the trek and learn something new at the knee of an expert. We are all our own brand these days anyhow, eh?

Finally, in having examined Ning's back-end (ew!) I can say (with feeling, Eric!) that Ning and other service-oriented tools can integrate third-party code and feeds to enable many of those infrastructure features now free of charge. A Ning-based (for authentication and identity management plus a few basic features) mashup pulling in code/feeds from other sites like Plazes, Twitter, MeetUp and others can help remove the friction a formal governance and corresponding P&L would impose in furnishing that infrastructure to its members.

What does this mean for organizations like SCIP? Well, value proposition and positioning becomes extremely important to them. As a former member of SCIP's board myself and a firm believer that SCIP does have a very important role to play, it compels a fundamental reexamination of SCIP's value proposition for members and its associated cost structure.

My analysis would suggest that, SCIP would need to trade on the scarce resource - in a word, TRUST! Trust of a membership that could come to rely on SCIP as arbiter of CI's role in the world. As Eric suggests in another post SCIP's strategy needs to concentrate on unmet needs that the market cannot furnish for itself. And that's a continuing discussion we can certainly help - perhaps as a mini-focus group - to engage in here...

Just a thought...
Comparing old models of organisations with more modern methods of communications, Arik comments "I would question the idea that any formal organization is necessarily needed at all", and as I also said in one of the other forum topics, "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'?. At what point will it be realised that a root and branch change is not only essential but critically overdue?

Thanks for the thoughtful post. Getting to the question of trust, something I firmly believe the CI profession is in desperate need of is a mechanism to enable customers of CI services to have appropriate expectations of what CI can do and what constitutes "good" CI-- even at a most basic level. I'm an advocate for some form of certification that defines some basic level of skills or capabilities and levels of quality that our customers can expect. Vendors and practitioners alike would benefit from this.

Certification is definitely a function that I'm looking for SCIP to offer. An established non-profit that engenders a degree of trust among non-CI types is the most likely candidate to offer certification that will resonate with our customers. I know that this has been a major topic of debate on the Foundation for some time, and there are obviously significant details and areas for contention in such a concept. Our profession, I am convinced, needs this if we are not to be supplanted by more general management consultants or market researchers expanding the scope of their own practice.

To put my motives for creating this forum into context: often in work discussions I have seen something I call "the tyranny of the established." Participants of a discussion will be eager to say "We can't do X because of such-and-such issue with a fulfillment system" and so-on and so-forth. One of the ways I've found success overcoming this tyranny and negativity is to ask "OK, if we didn't have anything in place right now, how would we design a solution or product from scratch?" This changes the conversation and often reveals options that ARE possible even in the current situation.
Have you looked at the CI Certification thread in the Academic Forum? I reported on a meeting which was held at SCIP 08 to discuss precisely this. The truth is that SLA has an accredited programme, ICI in Germany has an accredited programme, ACI has an accredited programme. Acadia University has two online distance learning programmes, the CIM in the UK has an accredited course in its CPD offering, and there are many other one-off courses offered in Universities world wide, all accredited as they have to go through strict formal processes before being offered. This is something about which those outside academia have little knowledge. It is not just a case of coming up with a 250 word description, "three take-ways" and hoping it sells on the back of an e-mail campaign. Genuine validation documents can be upwards of 200 pages thick. They take months to prepare, are academically and pedagogically rigorous, vetted by a panel of (typically) 5-6 very critical, internal and external experts. You need a pre-meeting to iron out the bumps and then a full validation meeting can take all day. It is a major achievement when a programme gets the go-ahead. Coming late to a market, strategy tells us that you have to offer something pretty wonderful to win customers. Any idea what SCIP can bring to the party?
I couldn't agree more August - a certification credential offered by SCIP is precisely the kind of value proposition that I suggest above.

But that credential must be coveted to be valued - e.g., it must be challenging to obtain and respected once achieved. For that to happen, it must be also require a rigorous testing of the applicant that truly does represent the state of the art in benchmarking the skills and expert calibre of the professional who pursues it.

Inextricably connected with this, another primary objective of the Foundation in that regard is the Body of Knowledge, without which, codifying a standard of competence is sketchy at best, meaningless at worst. That effort is ongoing this year and is making great progress as well.

Exploring the aspects of this trust-based core competence will lead to a far more productive professional society in SCIP as well as a more vibrant exchange of ideas beyond it.

Expanding CI's relevance is the collective, strategic goal of the enthusiasts (whether they make their living from CI and can be called professionals or not) both here (corporate practitioners, academics and services vendors alike) and everywhere, and using SCIP in its most productive sense as a vehicle for that expansion is a major potential outcome of this debate.

The "what if" context of designing from the ground up as you suggest August is a useful lens for thinking beyond our current structural constraints and something from which I think we can take a list of priorities to make CI (and SCIP) more relevant going forward.
It's an interesting scenario you pose, August, and I appreciate this thinking and the responses.

I think the biggest change if there were no SCIP is that CI connection and communication would be done more through social networking like Ning, LI, blogs, and other low cost ways to connect 24 by 7.

My major concern with SCIP's perception today is that we are losing and not attracting many young people since programs haven't changed enough to attract and retain youth. I think they're more geared today to retain old people like me, who don't have electronic nimbleness.

For example, should CI conduct a conference via the Internet like Marketing Profs and other organizations do? While you miss the personal contact, which is a big miss to old people like me, who like to shake hands and hear voices, many people could be included through this form of media who don't have the time or budget to travel.

Just a few thoughts to add to your extensive list, August!

Just back from a couple of weeks in Chicago helping my husband sell art at outdoor art festivals. It's great to put on a totally unrelated hat from CI. Hope everyone is enjoying the last bit of summer who lives on this side of the globe! We are in the 40's today in Conifer with a second day of uncharacteristic rain! Yes the heat is on, in August!
Hi Ellen - I love the idea of a completely online event of any kind - not a webinar, per se - something altogether more interactive. It's possible to do a kind of virtual conference with multiple speakers of course, even with tools like GotoMeeting/GotoWebinar.


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