Competitive Intelligence

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

Competitive Intelligence Certification- Is it worth it?

Hi Guys,

The CI function at my organization has really taken off. I found a way to deliver actionable CI to our Executives and BU communities in a way that fits our culture.
As a thought on my growing the CI function, I was wondering if obtaining a CI certification is a good idea? Do you think it would be useful? And if so, which programs are the best?

What are your thoughts?

Thanks again for your help,
Sam

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Samantha,

Hello again, and in a word, I'd say NO. These certifications mean very little in actual practice, and they still dont mean that a person that took the training is going to be a successful analyst regardless of the fact they paid a hefty price tag in many instances. Frankly, if you are savvy you can find everything you are going to learn in most of those courses available online in a variety of forums for the low, low price of free.

That said, I've seen the training materials from a variety of organizations offering CI training and end certs, and while they teach the basic analytical frameworks, source collection, basics of elicitation in some instances-- at the end of the day - in 13 years of advanced CI production and management, my experience has been that successful analysts have three attributes and they cant be taught, and that in 99% of instances, day to day analysis production doesn't utilize all these frameworks. It comes down to seeing linkage, correct signal interpretation, and the ability to communicate. You cant teach those in my opinion and they are the keys.

Regards,
Monica

Hi Samantha

 

I m in total agreement with what Monica has said. And nowhere else, but in a country like mine, have we seen that no amounts of certifications or education in terms of degrees and diploma come handy.

The only thing that matters is the hands on experience that makes a difference in terms of relevance to an organisation. At the end of the day, as long as what you do, if does not add up to the bottomline and topline, the degree, diploma or certification that you hold for the employer is as good as a piece of paper.

 

Regards

Pradhuman

Monica,

 

What was your experience like going from producing CI to managing a CI unit?  There is always a learning curve between doing something, and then having to train and coordinate other people to do that something. 

Hi Sam,

 

I don't know how much education you have in competitive intelligence. If you are starting out, it might be worthwhile to get certified or to take some courses in CI. The Fuld/Gilad/Herring Academy has a good reputation, and you can take some of the courses on line to save some time and money. Actually they do have a course on communication of CI given by Prof Daniel Mulligan of Mercyhurst College, a Dale Carnegie graduate. 

 

Another source for certification is the Competitive Intelligence Institute led by Rainer Michaeli. He advertises their courses on this CI Ning under Events.

 

SCIP does not have a certification process, but SLA does, and some of that can be done online as well. SLA's CI certificate program is on hiatus this year, not sure why. SCIP's annual conference is a good source of learning, especially the workshops on May 9 and 10

 

I think you need to decide if it's worth the time and effort given your workload, and if being certified will help you make a better impression with your company's management. When I started in CI, I took some courses and it did help me shape my role as a CI manager.

 

HTH,

 

Ellen Naylor

 

 

I was going to post a follow on comment to my original post that covers the point Ellen astutely touched on. So, here it is:

Indeed, what is the real reason driving your consideration of getting a certification? That it will lead to credibility with management, or an increased ability to produce intelligence or?

If the idea is to increase credibility or ability to produce meaningful CI, I'd say forget it; inline with my original post. If its for your own general edification, well alright.

As to SLA stopping offering a CI Certification, all I can say on that one is its pretty darn funny that they would try and offer one in the first place in my professional opinion. I mean really, librarians instructing on how to do CI? Sure, if its for strictly secondary source, tactical-reactive, one off request handling (not how you want your CI team to function if its going to succeed); but can/do librarians produce the real future forward competitive insights, SEW and HUMINT those of us that are Senior Analysts are expected to generate ? Never in my experience, and I could only hope that this is why they aren't offering a CI certification now; that no one took their supposed CI cert at all seriously because their role is limited in scope as it relates to CI overall and actually in contravention to how successful CI teams should function.


Regards
MN

Hi Monica,

As a member of the SLA's CI Division, which is quite healthy with over 580 members, I thought I'd respond to the issue of librarians performing CI. I'll defer to your expertise in the area as I am relatively new to the profession. In fact, I am one of those librarians aspiring to work in competitive intelligence so I appreciate the opportunity to enter this discussion about who is equipped to perform CI.

 

I have not taken the SLA ClickU CI certification courses and I frankly do not know anyone who has so I am not defending the quality, or lack thereof, of the program. However, I would like to speak to why I think it is being offered. It is designed for librarians who are increasingly taking on the role of using information to give their companies a competitive advantage. Whether librarians are proactively trying to develop a CI function as a natural outgrowth of the information centers or research departments they work for, or whether they are being asked by their companies to take on this role, it behooves the organization representing the profession (the SLA) to offer a form of continuing education to support the profession's evolution.

 

Perhaps you're objection is to the fact that it calls itself "CI certification" when it fact true CI does not concern itself with the tactical strategies of a company. Yet isn't there a place for both tactical and strategic CI (even if the latter is "better") and can't those two roles be played by two different professions? Or have CI pros had awful experiences with librarians at their companies who presumed to know how to conduct CI and failed miserably?

 

I'll be honest, you ask a really good question that I think the librarianship profession needs to seriously ask itself: "Can/do librarians produce the real future forward competitive insights...those of us that are Senior Analysts are expected to generate?" I would suspect the answer will be yes, but perhaps not just yet. Or should I say, my hope is that this will be the case. I think it is a natural role for them to play as they have traditionally been the gatekeepers and go-to-people for company information, are known for their excellent secondary research skills, and as experienced practitioners of the reference interview are perhaps as good at elicitation as anyone.

 

Sorry Sam. I didn't mean to divert the topic away from your original question about the value of CI certification but I felt I had to jump in here.

 

Chad

I would prefer we use this forum more constructively. Please let's not use this forum to put down other people or organizations.Like Chad I feel I need to express some facts about the CI division at SLA, where there is a lot of learning & camaraderie.  

 

Last year, I taught 2 of the sessions for SLA's CI certificate program. As you know I am not a librarian, but a seasoned CI professional since 1985. These courses were on CI tools and techniques, and much of the course material came from two of the best competitive intelligence tools & techniques books I own and know of: Business & Competitive Analysis and Strategic & Competitive Analysis both by internationally acclaimed CI authors, Craig Fleisher and Babette Bensoussan. We also used Harvard Business School case studies to reinforce the learning.

 

I don't understand why CI people put down librarians, when many of them are so smart! Some are there to transition to CI. Some of my students attended the course since their boss knew me from SCIP, and SCIP doesn't offer CI certification. Well there are lots of reasons why people do things, and I think it's unfortunate to jump to conclusions that are boilerplate. 

 

Please accept my apologies Sam, for going off topic, but I don't like people putting down other professions and organizations.

 

Ellen Naylor

 

 

Hi, Monica,

 

I replied to Sam regarding her questions, but I feel I need to clarify some misconceptions and points you’ve made regarding SLA’s CI Certificates program. As introduction and to provide some context, I helped SLA create their program in response to very real changes members have been facing:  the need to support their organizations’ CI efforts through better literature research/information services and/or through developing a number of CI functions and services. These certificates aim to help SLA members (comprised of many types of information/knowledge professionals) transition into CI services in whole or in part, depending on their professional goals or the expectations of their managers. Many of these members have been tapped on the shoulder by their managers to provide CI services or find that their interests and talents are moving them towards CI; however, they weren’t finding adequate and affordable resources to help them gain the knowledge and skills they need toward building the depth of experience that CI requires.  This program aims to get them started on the right foot and to provide them a no-risk environment in which to develop essential CI skills and experience.

 

The efforts of the SLA CI Certificates program and the CI Division have helped to dispel myths and misinformation about CI (e.g.  CI = competitor research), develop the CI mindset for participants, enhance practices in every CI process function, bridge the research and analysis functions within organizations, etc. This is in part due to a carefully considered and well-designed curriculum, programming, and services, and to the involvement of seasoned and notable intel pros like Ellen Naylor, Jan Herring, Ken Sawka, Arik Johnson, Jen Swanson, Bonnie Hohhof, Fred Wergeles, and others who have brought their expertise, time, and appreciation for greater cross-functional practices.

 

There are many program participants who have found new internal and external professional opportunities by applying what they’ve learned through the program. This includes SEW and HUMINT, as well as various types of analysis and CI program management. There are also experienced SLA members who provide strategic and tactical support services, and who have not needed the certificates program to help propel them. Many, like me, are also SCIP members. These are not our parents’ librarians, and we would be wise to embrace their skills and talents.

 

As any experienced practitioner and SCIP member understands, there are many paths to a CI career, and I hope we can be supportive of colleagues who bring a range of skills, abilities, and perspectives. It serves to foster a greater range of expertise, it can create a more cohesive intel process within organizations, and it enriches our profession.

 

[Incidentally, the SLA CI Certificates program, in its usual January to November cycle, is on hiatus for this year for economic and ­­administrative reasons; but the program cycle is slated to resume in January of 2012. Two certificate program elective courses are being offered at the SLA Conference this year in June.]

 

Very best,

Cynthia

Trip,

RE: What was your experience like going from producing CI to managing a CI unit? There is always a learning curve between doing something, and then having to train and coordinate other people to do that something.

Well, where to start with this; the biggest challenge(s) for me were that the company had never had CI before and didn't really understand CI, that initially the unit was also not properly functionally located for its intended purpose, that the culture was very tactical/reactive, etc. Training folks and coordinating weren't the major issues. I didn't hire anybody I had to train inline with my previous comments, and coordination was child's play compared to the bigger functional, cultural and internal education issues.

Frankly, I would never want to be a CI Manager again. I personally like and am best at producing strategic Intel. Being a manager and particularly in a start up Ci function you wear so many different hats-manager, educator, analyst, not to mention shifting between strategic and tactical imperatives, that I'd rather just be an individual contributor, I'll let someone else fight all the other battles. I can do it, I would just prefer not to.

Regards,
MN
Chad, Ellen:

First, Ellen it was not my intention to put down the SLA, and the librarians I know are indeed awesome at what they do and highly intelligent in my experience, but what they do doesn't resemble in any way, shape or form what the CI teams I've been a part of do; and I am not saying that one is better or worse just DIFFERENT and that both librarians and CI folks perform essential roles.

Chad: No,I haven't seen librarians do strategic CI successfully although perhaps they can make the transition. Most CI teams in large firms have both strategic and tactical arms, which serve different audiences and purposes both essential, with necessary liaison interplay. I see librarians roles entirely differently. Great at finding people secondary information and working largely in a reactive mode; BUT the information you really need about competitors and future actions is not online, Ci doesn't work when its just in a reactive drag and drop /one point in time mode-- what really makes for good CI is pro-activity, following things over time systematically that's how you get deep, how you get the historical context and perspective and the librarian way of working runs entirely counter to this.

Just my perspective

M

Monica, Ellen, Chad, Trip and Pradhuman,

 

Thank you for responding to my post. As you know, I am new to the CI field as is my organization. I have been fighting many battles within my org to show the need and value for CI and explain the difference from Market research. Our company has many Market Researchers (most call themselves analyst but they dont analyze anything just send out articles) so it has been difficult to get the teams to understand there is a big difference in what I can provide and what they do. Executives were not willing to provide me the strategic direction or answer KITs so I had to formulate what I thought the BU community needed. After researching and talking to people, I  have provided several different competitor intel (including but not limited to forward looking strategy, capabilities,differentiators, quoting tactics and ways we can compete) and they have finally seen the light! Executives are impressed and wondering why we didnt do this before. Of course, now Marketing wants a piece of the pie and all the credit (when they didn't want anything to do with it and me before) but that's another topic. :)

The reason for asking about the CI certifications is that I wasn't sure if it was recognized as an industry standard or must-have- sort of like CPA for Accounting. I saw so many advertisements for it that I wanted ascertain if there was a real need for it. I understand from your responses that it is not a must-have but if I wanted to take a course or two to learn something new it wouldn't be a bad idea.  

 

Again, thank you all for responding. I am learning so much from you all and love that this group provides a sounding board for ideas and questions.

I think that's probably the right assessment, Sam - nice-to-have, but unnecessary. The real measure of any professional certification is whether and how it helps you career-wise - is it required to do the work? Absolutely not. Will it help you get a job? Well... probably not, but who knows? In the end, I'd far rather have an experienced analyst who can demo their skills in an interview situation one-on-one (even if imperfect) than to trust somebody else's piece of paper that they passed a test, even a rigorous one. The criteria for pursuing any professional credential should be how long will it take you to recoup your investment in increased compensation. Unless and until you can quantify that metric, spend your time doing the work instead of studying to do it.

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