Competitive Intelligence

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

Ideas on how to start CI function for my EMS firm???

I work for an EMS firm and am having a difficult time starting up the CI function. The Officers of the company see the need but are not willing to assist. I have asked for them to share the company's strategy, future direction, industry we are focusing on, etc but they are unwilling to provide this information for one reason or another. They also do not want competitor profiles. Our marketing department will not provide their assistance with putting together a CI Newsletter ( I am not allowed to publish one without their input and need their web space).  I have started an alert email (called The Buzz) that goes out fortnightly that includes a presentation (5 to 7 slides) on a competitor, strategy and how to combative tactics as well as other tools to assist in quoting. This, by the way, has receive positive feedback. However, I am at a loss on what else to do... Can anyone provide some suggestions??


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Hi Sam,
There are few ways to proceed. Few examples below (my ten cents):
1 - Run an internal survey (Monkey survey) to know what employees want to know about clients, competitors, suppliers, technology, patents and in which form: email, newsletter, report, intranet posting, or dashboards
2 - If the response rate is high, then this is good news and you can start following the guidelines from this survey starting from the simplest need. At least you will be able to show evidence there is an internal demand for intelligence beyond officers.

If the internal survey is not an viable option (because of marketing directives), then try tactical intelligence (quick wins). E.g.:
- Send alerts to each sales rep about their top 10 tier clients (Key people nomination, M&A, trade-show attendance, plant opening/closing, financial reports), they generally love it.
- Try alerts about competitors the sales and marketing teams can quickly leverage on: product launch, consumer complaints, product recalls, litigation, patents, hiring.

You describe a difficult situation. It is entirely possible that, despite your best efforts, competitive intelligence will never be appreciated (never mind actively supported) by the organization. On the other hand, if you have time and energy, you might be able to patiently begin delivering benefit that changes the atmosphere.

I have a series of articles on practical steps for starting CI. Perhaps something in them will apply to your situation. The series is called "The Human Side of Competitive Intelligence."

Hope this helps.

Tom Hawes
JTHawes Consulting
Strategically Thinking Blog
CI Case Studies
CI Case Studies Blog
Thank you Tom. I will definitely check this out!
Sam -

Best to start slow and make small wins. Approach the Marketing department and offer to help on a RFP response by researching what other competitors might also be bidding on the work - then do an analysis of who you propose will win the work and why and therefore what your dept has to do to outbid everyone else. In this way, you will "profile" your competitors in a way that forces the officers to see the value you can bring whether you actually win the bid or not. Similarly, scan the news constantly and alert your officers to items that might be of interest related to what you think the strategy might be. Send articles with a short (one or two line) statement of the potential implications or even just a "thought you might be interested". This will show the management that you understand their business, are proactive and looking to collaborate.

I recently wrote an article in PM Magazine - geared to those in Professional Services Marketing about pitching CI - let me know if you'd like a copy.

Zena, great article in PM Forum, by the way!

Thanks Zena.
Yes, please send me a copy of your article. I would love to read it.
Precisely Sam,

You need to focus on what Value Addition your organisation can bring to your OEM partners.

I hope you get the drift.

Undertake RBV Analysis for OEM's and competitors of your OEM's and use it as a business development pitch to develop Intellectual Property for your OEM's.

"What Next" can you do for your OEM's to enable them to derive competitive advantage.
I agree with Sam. Once senior consultants at my company saw the CI benefits, I was able to set up additional initiatives supported by CI fuction. Start sending them alerts of interest, and by the way, mention that they can find a summary of the xyz at the following link (I assume you have an intranet or other knowledge share tool). Make sure you do not send generalised e-mail to everyone. Create focus groups by practice and send them only relevant alerts. Aks to sit at senior planning sessions to understand how you can support strategy and planning with CI tools. Regards, Olga
To make matters worse...Each industry that we manufacture for has their own market research analyst. Therefore, that analyst is working closely with their sector and its customers. They are providing intelligence on the market, the customer and their competitors. It leaves me with only being able to look at the big picture which unfortunately no one is willing to share.
However, am I missing something? Is there something I can provide that I am not seeing?

When you say "each [industry] has its own market research analyst" I think you're striking on a way to perhaps reframe the value of competitive intelligence to your colleagues.

CI isn't market research otherwise...well...y'know...there wouldn't be a need for TWO TERMS to describe both. By providing a higher-level analysis of competitors and the industry dynamic in general, you will give your top management a perspective that they would never get otherwise from market research alone. Your MR analysts, if they are like 99% of the people in that position, are laser-focused on their own vertical, on today's products, last quarter's sales, and very little else.

Competitive intelligence can do what marketing an market research usually can't:

- Describe new actions of competitors in ALL your various verticals, and make comparisons
- Track potential new entrants in the market, or non-direct competitors who are offering customers similar value
- Give benchmarks of your direct competitors about how they go to market through primary research
- Describe future trends that will disrupt the market dynamic on which your colleagues are focused on a tactical level
- ANALYZE what all of this means, providing greater insight than any of the data by itself

Yes, it can be very frustrating to be in a position of providing this kind of insight without lots of buy-in. I wager that EVERYBODY reading this has had that experience. Do your best, and good luck.
Hi Sam

I tend to agree with Tim Hawes. You certainly seem to have asked your executives all the right questions, but based on their unwillingness to co-operate you may be 'beating a dead horse'. Many (most??) executives, similar to government policymakers, are not comfortable having their perspectives challenged. Intelligence, for them, is an intrusion into their thinking and agendas (both corporate and personal).

Perhaps you need to start from the beginning again. Insist, if you can, upon one-on-one meetings with your executives where the aim would be to determine what you could provide that might help/support their decision challenges.

Douglas Bernhardt
Attached is the article I referenced that appeared in the November issue of PM Magazine.



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