Competitive Intelligence

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

I am starting up the Competitor Intelligence function within an EMS organization. I have created some basic profiles on our competitors but am not sure about what an Advanced Profile should look like. Also, our C-levels do not see the value in it and I need to show them value somehow. Does anyone have an example of an advanced CI profile? Or know the best way to sell it to the executives?

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This is hard to answer without knowing more about the particulars of your company, and the executive culture in particular. Mostly they are motivated around new opportunities to make money, and competitive threats can challenge that. It's hard to share an advanced competitor profile due to the proprietary nature of this work. However, if you have a copy of Strategic and Competitive Analysis by Craig Fleisher and Babette Bensoussan, p. 147 will give you an idea of what should be included in a competitor profile. I notice that you're setting up a CI process, and both their books on techniques are excellent for your CI library to use and have on hand as reference. The other is Business and Competitive Analysis.

Keep in mind that other competitive intelligence deliverables might be more beneficial to help your executives achieve their goals. You need to know what they are, and how they plan to get there, and then suggest how you might be able to help. If you want to talk off line, let's connect at answers at thebisource.com. Good luck!

Ellen Naylor
Samantha,

As a Director of Intelligence & Principal Strategic Intelligence analyst (12+ yrs) who reported directly to the SR VP and CEO level within large multinationals and who had strong cross organizational/ cross functional influence-- let me say the problem here is that your audience is correct.

Frankly, competitor profiles, even those that are detailed, tend to be of low utility/value; and if they are basic-suffice it to say they are as useless as a toilet paper raincoat in monsoon season. Why? Rarely is there anything in them that is actionable; although they might be educational. So, if I may be so bold as to say, your problem isn't building a better profile, its that you aren't providing the meaningful intelligence the C level suite wants and needs. That information, more often that not, doesn't get packaged into standardized, templated "profiles." In my experience, the most impactful intel I have provided to Fortune 10, Global 400 employers was in a well crafted, detailed piece of proactive analysis, leveraging triangulated HUMINT and my historical depth on the competitor for perspective about how we might derail a given competitor. BAM! that's what hits them between the eyes and then you'll find yourself sitting at the Executive conference table or in the CEO's office in a moment's flat with them saying let's move forward and give me more of that....

My advice? Drop the profiles. Get in the CEO's office or the Sr VP of strategy's office and get a solid list of KITs/KIQs.

Regards,

Monica Nixon
Dear Samantha

We have developed a template for Advanced Competitor Profiles for our clients and our own research. If you are interested in receiving a copy, please do not hesitate to contact me www.i-intelligence.eu.

Corine
Thanks Tak!

Right, they are a good start if sufficiently detailed, and maintained to have a good look into a competitor's business from a 360 degree perspective for those unfamiliar. But thats just it, they are really just a basis reference point.
Hello Samantha..... my two cents is....given you are doing this for C-level execs.....

I suggest you differentiate between CI profiles to meet the needs of LOB execs and CI profiles for corporate execs; and I think you are focused on corporate execs based on your comments.

If the above is true, the most significant CI profile is a line-of-business matchup comparing your company and (for example) your top ten corporate-level competitors.

To compare your company with its most significant competitors, develop a matrix of your Lines-of-Business (for the rows) and your top ten competitors (for the columns).

Filling the cells with estimated revenues will likely be the most requested report by the execs, even though it's not the most strategic report. (They like it because it gives an objective measure of who's winning and who's losing the market share races, by product/service line.)
.
Alan, Samantha,

Wow, I intend no offense here Alan but never ONCE in my 12 years of being a Senior Strategic Intelligence Analyst within a $100B+ company, Manager of Strategic CI ( reporting directly to the CEO/Exec VP of Strategy) at a $27B firm, and a Director of CI have I ever had the C level audience ask me for a matrix with market shares or revenues by LOB. I have to assume your CI experience has been more on the tactical/sales side?

With this in mind, Samantha: if you want to see your CI unit fail miserably and yourself dismissed, go give this type of profile to your C level executives. Point here is this: this is extremely, and I do mean extremely, low value material and it isnt why you are in a CI role reporting to the C level. Frankly, the LOB marketing managers and those with P/L responsibility in their PM/RDR meetings etc present these types of figures and they make their way around the org hence there is no value in them coming from YOU.... no, you are supposed to be a strategic adviser to the C level staff, this is the capacity in which CI is intended to serve if it reports at the C level.

What the C level audience REALLY wants from you- amongst other items too numerous to list here....

1. SEWS-strategic early warning so they can proactively plan, and see things coming and not be surprised.
2. HUMINT-
a. whats really happening inside competitor's walls
b. how well are things playing out in advance of market share reports
c. a, b above leading to where can we capitalize ?

3. Critical analysis and in-depth perspective on competitor's category/corporate/IP strategies and tactics, with your expert insights on what your company should do.

Regards,

Monica Nixon
Hi Monica,
Strongly agreed. Good punch line. Indeed CxOs do not want data but want to make decision between well oiled and well prepared choices.
CI Profiles (company, product, market) are tactical tools that should be used within corporations so that most operational managers access up-to-date data on a consistent basis.
Chris.
I agree that most of the time executives don't go for detailed competitor profiles. However...not every executive has the same personality. I found this out the hard way, thinking they would all be in a hurry and impatient for me to get through. Some are more of a micro-manager than others and like to have more detail to support their decisions. I have found it's good to give them a short snappy deliverable as you describe Monica, but then be ready for the questions (grilling) and to provide them the detail they ask for, which could very well be buried in one of those detailed competitor or industry profiles.

This is particularly useful when you're giving a pitch to take action like an acquisition, and the board isn't in agreement about which candidate you should acquire. You want to have some good and detailed back-up to support the candidate you recommend, as well as why not to acquire the other one(s).
No worries Ellen, most of modern CI system include mechanisms that allow upper management drilling down to the details: whether through PowerPoint slide decks, charts, graphs, complimentary notes or templates.
That's true that larger companies usually have the budget for CI systems, etc. These detailed types might like to access this type of info, but my point was that you as the CI professional need to be prepared for this personality type when you present or deliver CI "stuff" to them. They might not want to go drill down themselves even though they can...they expect you to have the answers right on the spot. I don't know if I am making sense...but I have been grilled for detail by senior types who I thought wouldn't care about this level of detail, and I was glad I knew my stuff and had that detail right with me, "just in case." It's kind of like going for a sales call for the first time and never dreaming that they'll buy, but always having a blank contract in case they do. That's happened to me too.

BTW, I hope you have a successful show at SCIP Europe!
Hi Ellen, Completely agreed: The CI professional would better brings evidences when meeting with upper management whether they are in the form of powerpoint, pile of paper documents, or in a structured database.

PS: Thank you for your kind note about SCIP europe. Should be a great show based on most recent edition in the USA.
Hi Samantha,
A similar discussion started on LinkedIn few weeks ago and my comments was that competitor profiles should be designed so that the time required to set then up, to update them, and to share them remain minimal.
Independently from the content, if you have multiple profiles to handle and information to update quite often, you may to think about profiles you can share easily and that may be updated automatically (at least partially).
Web-based profiles connected to RSS feeds for instance is a first option.
Chris

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