Capitalism being based on equity and all I don't think I'm entirely clear on the ownership issue. What is the ultimate legal structure of the merged organization? Who are the shareholders and what classes of stock are being issued and to whom? Do the members buy a share when they pay their dues or how does this work?
My problem with this proposed merger is the lack of information about the F&S Institute. It's not only the SCIP letter that gives minimal information but also the Frost web-site, as pointed out already. The institute has no web-site of its own, or even a dedicated page on the Frost site so it seems a bit ephemeral. From what i can tell it's also new (i.e. within the last year) as it's not mentioned on the equivalent Frost & Sullivan pages archived on the "wayback machine".
Had we been give more information about the F&S Institute i'd have felt encouraged that this could be a way forward for SCIP. The lack of information puts up my CI antenna - on the principal that if you'd expect to find information and it's not there, then there is a reason for it being hidden. In this case i can think of no positive reason to hide information about an organisation that is in being put across as the saviour of SCIP.
I totally agree with Bill Fiora that we should position ourselves for recovery and be positive. I also believe in turning negatives into positives. Unfortunately i don't see this "merger" (or takeover) doing either of these. Due diligence requires information. Moving forward and positioning for recovery requires a marketing plan and financial plan. In this case neither has been presented. I can see no reason why not, at least in a summary format, if they existed and were beneficial to members.
Nevertheless, I believe that an organisation representing CI Professionals globally is needed. This organisation should have a code of ethics and provide the ability for members to network and share experiences, knowledge and best practice. I also believe that this organisation should (must) be independent of any commercial organisation and interests - and be seen as such. Otherwise the reputation of CI as a discipline is at risk.
From all i've seen so far, the F&S Institute solution doesn't address these issues. All it addresses is SCIP's lack of money. (OK - we've been told that "business will be as usual" but this is nonsense. "Business as usual" has led to the current situation so things are going to have to change. The issue is that we've not been told what these changes will be). The lack of independence is a serious problem for me - as i think it risks damaging the overall reputation of the CI Professional if their representative body is seen as having commercial interests that link to a company.
The alternative option presented - i.e. to let SCIP as it currently exists die could be better for the CI Profession overall. There would be a hiatus - but i believe that the need for a representative organisation will allow (force) people to formulate something new that will work and not need the budgets currently required by SCIP. For example the Ning web-site could be expanded and promoted. Before being allowed to become a member, people could be expected to subscribe to a code of ethics like SCIPs. This would provide the core purposes - and instead of a membership magazine, people would be able to blog articles and so on. Local CI chapters could be formed where members would arrange to meet and network in the real-world. Then using Ning (or a similar site) such chapters could liase and create a new phoenix like SCIP without the same levels of admin required by the current incarnation. Essentially a new SCIP would be formed that reflects the world in 2009 - with virtual meetings, global interconnections and a fluidity that didn't exist when SCIP was founded.
SCIP's failure was that it never really adapted to the 21st century world. The fact that this ning site exists and is flourishing independently of SCIP shows this - as this sort of forum should have been established by SCIP but wasn't.
I think all your points are well taken. I have all the same disclosure concerns you do, and the same radar. SCIP "could" have initiated the online professional community here the way that Arik did. I believe it was free or nearly so. SCIP's path is full of "should have", "could have" alternatives.
I have my own ideas about why growth under SCIP is stifled, and my own ideas why I fear this won't change anything. However, I'm not sure there is a downside here in the short term.
If F&S proves to be a benign parent and SCIP is able to rise from its own ashes, then we have a viable society again. If F&S proves to be a meddlesome parent, or if SCIP cannot find its way through to a solvent sustainable future, then I get a second vote: I drop my membership and network with fellow vocal dissidents (aka the revolutionaries) to form a different Society with a different model. We have always had a vote on the society's actions via our annual renewal.
The funny thing is that this very active non-SCIP social network (the NING community) might become the cattle prod to get SCIP to change course...or to become the organizing framework for a successor group.
I'm inclined to vote in favor (already done) and adopt a "show me" attitude of cautious optimism. If this experiment works...all of us are better off. If it doesn't...we always have other options.
I honestly think the folks who should be nervous about this combination are consulting firms who have benefitted under the society's umbrella. One dark scenario could have F&S Institute transforming SCIP into a captive "in house" entity.
A lot of members have simply gone along over the years letting SCIP go where it wishes to go. But I do believe there is now a LOT of scepticism and oversight that's never been there before....people watching very closely to see what happens next. This is potentially screwing with our livelihoods and the collective reputation of our profession. We need them to get it right.
I'm very concerned about the F&S Institute option. I think that those voting yes are doing it because they want to see SCIP continue and recognise the value of the SCIP brand and what it's achieved over the last 20+ years. I want that too.
My problem is that I fail to see why any solvent organisation would pump in $1000s into something that has run out of money, and has barely been able to keep its head above water for years, without expecting a LOT in return. We've not been told what this is, and how it will benefit SCIP members. (We've just been told "trust us - it will").
You can say you have a second vote by later on not renewing if it turns out not to be in our interests, but that's not totally true. In reality F&S will have purchased the rights to the SCIP logo, SCIP content and even the SCIP code of ethics. They will own the SCIP brand which membership has built up over 20 years so that SCIP is the point of contact for people wanting to know about competitive intelligence.
Anybody starting something new will as a result be starting from zero - and won't be able to use any of this brand equity, content, recognition, etc. as all of it will be owned by F&S. By putting the society into abeyance, and in trust for members, all of this could be restarted - but not if F&S owns it. Worse, what is the status of things like the SCIP code of ethics if the rights to use it / state that you subscribe to it are owned by a commercial interest. How will such basics be viewed by the world at large - as an independent guide to best practice, or as a commercial "our standards" type statement. Would any new venture be able to use such an ethical code if the F&S merger fails to represent member interests? (Or would F&S Lawyers stifle anything remotely like the current code).
Yet a further concern is data protection. When I joined SCIP I gave personal details - but did not give SCIP the rights to pass these onto third parties / commercial entitites without my permission. What happens to these details, and those of other members (as well as anybody else on SCIP's databases including lapsed members) after a merger. Will they be passed to other bits of Frost & Sullivan?
Another question - not yet addressed. What will constitute an acceptable vote? What happens if they get 200 yes votes and 20 no votes - with 2800 people not voting. Is that a "yes" or a "no". In my book it's an overwhelming vote saying "I can't decide so i'm not going to vote". I suspect though that it will be interpreted as a massive "yes vote".
I personally think the SCIP Board of Directors should have consulted members - and asked for a discussion such as this - before making the decision. They could then have addressed the relevant issues and concerns - and got an honest, informed, vote. They may even have galvanised members into coming up with something else that would be acceptable and offer true choice. Instead they are offering us a "merge or die" option. That is intellectually dishonest to all concerned and a betrayal of the members who voted them in.
I think your concerns about branding, initiative of the Ethics statement and potential aggressive stifling by F&S lawyers are well-made.
But, Microsoft's share of the internet browser market was just 20 percent at the end of the fourth quarter of 1996, when Netscape held 73 percent of the browser business, according to Dataquest. (CNET News 11/26/97) At one point not long before that Netscape had 90%+ share. Now Netscape has no share and is no longer supported by its author/owners.
As for the SCIP Ethics Statement...it's pretty lame as far as it goes. A stronger statement could easily supercede it in the professional practice. I love the idea of the headline accompanying F&S stomping on a different ethical code: F&S DEFENDS WEAKER ETHICS, or F&S CLAIM PROPRIETARY RIGHT TO ETHICS.
There's no question this is a "revoltin' development" and we should have been given more information and more decision time. One of my gripes with SCIP has always been the central control fixation of their approach, and the tendency towards a top-down version of "Everything that is not forbidden is mandatory".
SCIP has refused to put a link to the DFW Chapter website because it didn't conform to the same LOOK AND FEEL as the national site. I didn't note that requirement on the many OTHER links on their website. We referred to those involved with the local chapter as "members of the DFW Chapter"...SCIP told us to change the language because chapters do not have members. We began referring to the chapter chair as the "Chapter President" and were told to remove that designation and not to use President, nor to refer to our committee as our board. After SCIP changed the title of Chapter Coordinator to Chapter Chair, I began referring in emails to the Chairman position (email@example.com) and they took issue with THAT. Apparently CHAIR did not imply CHAIRMAN, CHAIRWOMAN, or CHAIRPERSON. Leading me to the conclusion that they thought chapters were run by furniture.
The main thing I'm trying to show here is that the culture has long been autocratic and petty. Argue about titles and web "look and feel" while bankruptcy looms. When was the last time you saw a letter from SCIP with a financial statement attached? Even in the broadest summary form?
So, I agree...there be dragons in this settlement. But since it's the only game in town, I'll wait and see.
Some years ago, Puget Sound SCIP Chapter and Edmonton SCIP Chapter both opted for independence from SCIP. They ran successfully for a while that way. At different times, we considered the same thing in Dallas. Would a nucleus of 3 or 4 independent chapters be enough to form a competing society? Maybe.
So if in the Hobbesian world of SCIP Version 2.0 we get an insufferable parent, then we have our options. SCIP derives its leadership FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED. That has always been the case. This disruption may result in a change of leadership. It may not. Change will happen with a single crystalizing event, and it MAY NOT BE the change that SCIP & F&S anticipate.
I've long felt change was needed at SCIP. This is their opportunity to do that. If they don't, they are not the only avenue to the future. Someone just mentioned the CI Division at Special Libraries Association (SCOTT BROWN here is the chairman of that division). The American Marketing Association has a Market Research SIG, and some breakaway CI folks could easily develop a Competitive Intelligence SIG. Or a Competitive Intelligence specialty within the Association for Strategic Planners (ASP).
There will be alternatives. Let's give this a chance to see what happens.
It appears there are many questions that need answers. With the intellectual/analytical "horsepower" of our SCIP membership, it seems we should be asking even more questions.
As we have always said in this society, healthy skepticism helps to ensure the best possible decisions. You will remember we've been told to ask "why, why, why, why, why?" .....and "so what, so what, so what, so what, so what?" ......and "now what?"
Interestingly, the SCIP Fellows are having a conference call with the SCIP board and staff tomorrow (Monday) at 12:00. The leader of the Fellows, Mark Lilttle, has asked for a list of questions. Please post your questions, and I will guarantee they are communicated.
Interesting bit of news and surprising too..The initial feeling was the same as what Woz Ahmed stated - how an engineer would feel if IEEE got acquired by say the non-profit arm of Google (God forbid!).
But after the initial shock, being a CI practitioner outside the US, it just really did not matter.
SCIP has / had no relevance here till date and if F&S can change that status quo - well and good, if not its life as usual!
Arthur Weiss' idea of using a NING like forum to create an organization for CI is pretty interesting and maybe hold more value for members outside the US.
I'm surprised at the 'political correctness' which seems to characterize so much of the discussion regarding Frost & Sullivan's TAKEOVER of SCIP. Aren't intelligence people duty bound to 'call a spade a spade'??
Let's face it, over the past eight or nine years those tasked with growing and managing SCIP have clearly failed. Whatever their excuses or reasons, the result, unfortunately, is that whatever the strategies, and however implemented, it just hasn't worked. First they took away the excellent journal "Competitive Intelligence Review" (because they were unable to negotiate a new deal with the publisher?), and then membership fees were doubled (which, unsurprisingly, triggered decline in the number of members). It doesn't require an MBA to understand that charging 'customers' more for less value is hardly a recipe for success.
Recently, SCIP has also served more as an advertising medium for a handful of CI consultancies than it has as a forum for real discussion about our craft. In contrast, the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE), for one-third the membership fee, provides a dynamic, 24/7 forum for discussion and debate regarding all aspects of the intelligence discipline. Moreover, any IAFIE member can be, and many are, involved in discussion via the Internet on a day-to-day basis.
Frost & Sullivan Institute? Look at their website (http://www.frost.com/prod/servlet/frost-home.pag); they focus on “industries and markets”, rather than professional disciplines per se, and although they claim to offer global reach they have no presence on the continent of Africa (where I am now based, and which, last time I looked, still featured prominently on our planet). It seems that the American way, which in times past was proudly anchored in the notion of a ‘win some, lose some’ free enterprise philosophy, is now one where the operative word is ‘bailout’. If a big company fails, Washington, DC will happily agree to dip into taxpayers’ funds to cover the losses, and do little more than scold the executives responsible for bad behaviour. And as SCIP fails, it runs, with begging bowl in hand, to Frost & Sullivan for its own rescue. In this instance the SCIP board have acted rather more like the former Soviet Union’s secretitive politburo than a competent leadership team. And insofar as the “SCIP Member Benefits” we're told to expect from the TAKEOVER, most of the benefits are those which, in theory, SCIP members were meant to be enjoying anyway.
I recall that I first joined SCIP in 1991 or 1992. Today, some 17 years later, when more than at any time before executive decision-makers need the foresight and insight that only intelligence can deliver, SCIP has failed to meet the educational and advocacy needs of its membership (i.e. CI practitioners) and the profession generally. This wasn’t always the case but, again in my view, it has been since the early part of the decade. Maybe it’s time for a fresh start. Maybe CI professionals should be thinking in terms of innovation rather than resuscitation. Perhaps a new, globally-oriented organization, made up of CI professionals who care more about developing their craft than they do about “allowing the overall staff structure and expertise” [of the Society’s office] to remain in place”, is the smarter option.