Competitive Intelligence

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In another CI Ning discussion "The cost of not knowing" Ellen Naylor suggested to hear from CI departments that are actually well equipped to weather the current economic storm.

I'd like to start and hope that we can collect many ideas for other CI practitioners to find applicable anchors and value for their own CI groups to add as benefits to their companies.

Situation 2009
It couldn't be worse:
- 8 year downturn as a company
- Reduction of global employee base from 23'000 to 13'000
- Currently being taken over by the largest chemicals company on the planet (who got hit by the crisis too)
- 30% FTE reduction in our group (corp. marketing) early 2009
- Freeze of all budgets, consultancy and cash out

...YET: CI is the ONLY area with a 6-digit budget and no layoffs!

Why?
- Embedded in crucial processes (all planning processes)
- Interlinked with many other programs (CI is pre-requisite for pricing programs, marketing plans, CRM procedures) and firm part of standard templates and tool landscape
- Our own cost of not knowing hit us the day the Lehman crash was announced: our biggest competitor offered to buy us
- We all know: we don't know (in a strange way: this helps!)
- Our KITs are defined by standard business planning processes and designed as taxonomy base for our market monitoring and early warnings system (users of this web based application surveyed: 93% won't do without in future)
- Very strong branding of CI program
- Global M&S board supports CI as a standard enabler
- CI has evolved into an internal consulting facility
- Interlinkage of CTI and CI

Most importantly though:- CI has always shifted towards current needs
- As is supports pricing programs one day it equips marketers for the anticipated takeover another day
- There is a focus of intelligence to be fed back into the decision making: to be acted upon AND results/learnings are shared

There are no guarantees in this world and nobody can say for sure whether above examples might be enough to stay alive if further cuts are needed. But up until now we have survived an economic nightmare scenario lasting almost ten years.

Can you add on why your company sticks to CI?

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Hi Jens,

My answer in the other CI Ning discussion "The cost of not knowing" might have found a better place in this discussion.
The reasons invoked in your post and explaining the success/sustainability of your CI group are very close to the reasons my customers could justify to remain in position and even to invest more in CI tools.
I wish to reemphasize on the importance CI professionals can play in the downturn economy helping their company to better serve and focus on their existing customers. This has to deal with brand management.

How would you estimate the cost of not knowing?
Cheers.
In good times and bad, it's always important to stay close to the revenue stream. While long-term planning and forward-looking analysis are very important (and great fun) a good portion of your work should always have a strong link to bringing money in the door.
Jens - Thanks for starting this discussion. WIth all the bad news flying around, it would be great to hear about how companies are using CI to weather the downturn. Your example is great. The theme in your story is being embedded - CI's linkages to so many other important corporate functions (pricing, marketing, CRM) makes it awfully hard to cut it, especially now.

I have a client who fortuitously repositioned its CI function from conducting long, ponderous in-depth market studies on request (it's amazing how quickly the appetite for those CI products disappears when there are no budgets) to an early warning posture, providing regular warning updates to the C-suite on emerging competitive and industry trends. Top management is addicted to these alerts and would never think to do away with them. For the first time, the CI function is being brought into the strategic planning process and is expected to provide a point of view on prevailing business trends five years out that the company's strategy must address.

I'd love to hear of other success stories. Let's show the world the value of CI and what it can do to help companies emerge from the recession stronger and competitively well positioned.
Ken - Your example is very relevant and I do see the same trends: More Digimind customers get our tools now for strategic planning purposes.

I wish though to mention we have customers getting CI tools to help them making short-term savings decisions.
I have in mind an example of a customer monitoring the web-buzz (12,000 blogs, tweet and forums in that case) and deciding every week whether a press or ads campaigns are needed:
- If a negative buzz grows, a press release is sent to fix or to mitigate the situation.
- If a positive buzz surfaces, a press release is sent to emphasize it.
- In the situation, a corporate event may jeopardize the company image but no buzz shows up then no press campaign is launched. Savings can reach 6 figures.

Pragmatic CI for pragmatic marketing.
I have drafted an article for the Outward Insights monthly marketing newsletter that captures some of the experiences share here. I'd welcome your comments before I disseminate the article later this week. Also, please let me know if anyone would like to be quoted by name. A draft of the article is attached.
Attachments:
Hi Ken

As usual you have delivered a concise paper on why CI should and can survive. Well done. I really enjoy reading your Outward Insights. In fact, I even refer to them sometimes in our newsletters!

Best
Babette
Hi all

Here's one example: I have a client at the moment who has beefed up their CI unit for one reason only - M&A. Senior executives believe this is the time to buy up struggling companies at cheap prices. The CI unit is focused on sourcing acquisitions. In the meantime, they are implementing a training program for their sales force to help keep an eye on competitors so that this focus does not drop off. Like you, CI efforts has shifted towards current needs.

I believe the key reason that CI has survived and is surviving so well in this particular client is the relationship between the CI Manager and the decision makers. FYI the CI Manager is also responsible for Strategic Planning at this company. She has provided a number of early warnings which has given her great credibility at the decision making table. There is no branding, no templates, no system.

So what makes CI stick in this company:

1. Relationships
2. Understanding the key issues the company faces at all times (being responsible for strategic planning does not hurt!)
3. Delivering insights and early warning on agreed upon issues to key decision makers

Oh, yes, a good education in CI.

Cheers
Babette

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