Competitive Intelligence

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

So, what do we think about this? I've got no dog at all in this race, just sincerely curious about what others think.

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Just brilliant. Thanks for sharing this solution.
I'm not a copyright lawyer or anything but do authors of works distributed by publishers such as SCIP retain their right to republish their own work elsewhere or do they surrender that when they submit the IP (e.g., it become the IP of the publisher)? If the former, is it legal for authors to republish their work then elsewhere to ensure it remains available beyond the pubisher's ability (or lack thereof) to distribute it? If the latter, why would anyone in their right mind do anything other than publish under the CC?
Since F&SI has a limited tenure and let us say they join with SCIP when their IRS status runs out, what do they do? Use SCIP as the reason they need another exemption? Takeover SCIP? (Remember that SCIP has a Foundation of their own). Can you make sense of this somehow, Mark, and put it in your questions? Thanks, Carolyn
I see references to CI embedded in SLA. It is vital to make clear that in my view and practice, CI is much closer to business strategy and marketing strategy than to information expertise. We have to make sure that we are positioned in the front of business activity and that is what CI is all about. Therefore, let us focus on moving CI in that direction and what is the best way to do it.
Avner, here's an idea I've been ruminating on for some time now that is probably better served as a separate discussion and represents only my own casual observation rather than a fully reasoned analysis, but I think the SLA is looking at CI from a very relevant point of view - and very different from SCIP's traditional perspective. I also think it's the source of their success, so what the hell... here goes.

The rise of the information center (aka "corporate library" if you're old school) as the arbiter of secondary sources and technology is unmistakeable. Even as the CI team has "moved up market" to try and compete for executive management attention span with M&A, R&D, product development, market research and other related analytical disciplines in a drive to add value to the information they're producing, the library has been tasked to take on a much simpler, but very urgent legal and compliance priority: managing the intellectual assets being brought in under various terms of copyright and made available to staff throughout the company. Compliance issues will almost always trump strategy planning, at least so long as the secretary of your board of directors is also your general counsel and the chairman's top risk mitigator.

This more urgent priority (compliance with contracts from info vendors in this example) has meant that the library has emerged as a place where managers can turn for CI somewhat more casually and with less ... I dunno, commitment(?) as the "corporate CI practitioner" has tended to overshoot the mainstream need in their (internal) customer market(s)... which, by the way, were pretty ill-defined in the first place. What business worth its claim on survival would go about as CI has serving willy-nilly the whims of stick-throwing decision makers at every level? I argue that successful practitioners have concentrated their efforts on a very small (perhaps only one) key client (person or office) in order to survive and thrive.

My hypothesis here is as speculative as it is stereotypical, of course, and not intended to reflect the whole of the "field" (such as it is), but I think the value added (e.g. what the customer gets without specifically paying for it) of CI produced by the library tends to be a side-effect of their regular activities rather than the primary value proposition of their labor. By contrast, the traditional CI department has, more or less, asked managers to outsource (or "insource") their brain and let the CI team do their thinking for them; the library primarily manages requested information inputs and lets its customers continue to do their own strategic thinking, which I believe is simply more appealing from a client service standpoint.

For this reason, I really think there have emerged at least three (3) tiers of corporate CI practitioners and SCIP has tended to serve the segment in the middle (not coincidentally, the one competing with other management decision support services mentioned above). With all due respect, SCIP's corporate practitioners are, of course, the heart of the field and no doubt always will be... at least as long as they can't be outsourced or automated.

More importantly however in terms of CI's value, managers themselves as well as the other analytical specialists mentioned above don't like the idea of insourcing their thinking to the smarty-pants CI team... would you? After all, decision making is itself primarily a process of analytics - perhaps this is why CI teams always complain about not getting management support? The proposition of hiring somebody, even somebody highly qualified, to do your thinking for you is unpalatable in the extreme for anyone with an ego.

Anyhow, my point is, the library doesn't come to the table suggesting that managers should let them do their thinking for them and I'll suggest this is a very different proposition from the CI team that often does.

No wonder then that they can't any respect... their advertised value proposition could arguably be interpreted as an insult to their clients' intelligence!

Michael Treacy's comments in Chicago a couple of weeks back about Rodney Dangerfield syndrome notwithstanding, "corporate CI practitioners" are as diverse a psychographic as the "vendors and consultants" are. Understanding the dynamics of how the CI "profession" itself is evolving being my own first priority as a humble peddler in this marketplace, I would argue we all have a lot to learn from SLA in this regard. Whether by accident or intention, their message is more attractive to the customers who pay the bills.

If we want to take this discussion forward, maybe Scott or Cynthia could host it? If you like, I'm happy to assist in getting it started.

As the manager of a corporate library, I agree with you. In fact, that was a key point in my presentation at SCIP 2008 – recognizing where the unique expertise of the internal customer, CI practitioner, and information professional each should be applied. (My corresponding article was supposed to be published in CIM months ago, but it hasn’t been yet. I’m assured that it will be…when?) You’re right, internal customers don’t feel warmly toward the “smarty-pants CI team” who tries to tell them what decisions to make in areas where those customers believe they, themselves, are the experts. I have met too many CI practitioners in corporations doing the work of their internal customers or the library staff instead of using their unique skills to add value. They’re much too busy, as you say, “serving willy-nilly the whims of stick-throwing decision makers at every level.”

I also agree that ONE of the roles of the library could be termed as compliance, which you describe as being, “…tasked to take on a much simpler, but very urgent legal and compliance priority: managing the intellectual assets being brought in under various terms of copyright and made available to staff throughout the company.” I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, but this also could imply that the library’s job is easy and the CI team’s job is hard – unfortunately a common assumption among CI practitioners I have met. When describing either being patronized or ordered about by CI, I’ve heard more than one information professional say, “CI thinks that we all (i.e., the entire company) work for them”…in other words, the CI group can have a multi-directional smarty-pants stance that destroys their credibility with all of their potential allies, not only with the executives.

Libraries certainly do provide a bread-and-butter role in acquiring literature, managing contracts and copyright compliance, and maintaining the OPAC. But, high performing library professionals also have strategic, consulting, and analytical skills and apply them to understanding knowledge and information trends and flows, as well as the tools, environments, and infrastructure that will not only keep things compliant, but spark innovation, boost efficiencies, and help users to be highly effective in their own work. Doing this well is every bit as complex and challenging as CI work, because, at the core, library and CI professionals both are dealing with the uncertainty of human behavior as a key variable in what we are trying to analyze and predict.

The difference is that CI teams can be really lacking in customer service skills, which may be intensified because they have such difficulty accepting that they are, in fact, service groups, just like libraries. So many corporate libraries were hacked away in the last major economic downturn or eliminated in favor of Google that the survivors learned the practical lessons of customer service orientation and adding unique value – NOT competing. I can’t compete with Google for basic searching, so I don’t try. I integrate what the internal customer can do using Google with what I can do uniquely for them. Nobody is insulted, and everyone adds value.

SCIP is long overdue to redefine itself on many levels, and I hope that the merger crisis will give it impetus to do so. I’m hoping that the near-miss extinction of SCIP will wake the membership and leadership up to deciding quite clearly what it wants to be going forward. Although, since I find Frost & Sullivan to be generally vague about their own purpose, I question how much guidance they can provide to SCIP. But, any change can be leveraged, so let’s hope we can leverage this one to improve SCIP.
Thanks so much Michelle for your fine-tuning of my earlier message and I regret that I missed your session in Chicago! I appreciate your insight having "been there and done that" and the knowledge of its subtleties you've shared.

Back when I was an undergrad, I used to ride home from college some weekends with a high school librarian of mine who was earning her MLS from UW-Madison in the late 80's and I was always fascinated by the subjects we talked about her studying on our 3+ hour trip home. Since then, I've gotten to know many career librarians who have mastered analytics as well, but as you say, don't focus on it as their definition of value. Client service is a higher priority.

Finally, I had the opportunity to speak at SLA in Denver a couple of years ago and really gained an appreciation for some of the pragmatic differences between audiences out there that run a lot deeper than my casual observations.

I'm looking forward to your continued insights,

- Arik
Thanks. Just to clarify, my session was in San Diego at SCIP 2008 -- like everyone else, I had no travel budget for SCIP 2009.
I would like to support the role of librarians in the CI field. Service as Michelle mentions is one key difference. Often in CI there is so much confusion about what we do, that we ram our way into places where we don't belong somewhat in desperation.

We can learn from librarians about good service, which is a lot what I believe is behind the practice of cooperative intelligence, which promotes a spirit of giving by integrating the practices of leadership, connection and communication. Many of us in CI are very good at digging up good insightful data and providing relevant analysis. We're not so good at the human issues of connection and communication, which is where librarians run circles around many of us. They learn about this in librarian school and MLS.

Many librarians don't have our analytical skills, while some do. I have been disturbed over the years by how some in our field seem to put down the library science field, when it's the first step in most CI projects, and the librarian can be one of the major sources of fuel to feed the CI process so we can spend more time connecting with primary sources and doing the analysis and communication to help our companies be more competitive.

I learned to value librarians back in 1985 when I started our CI function at Bell Atlantic, now part of Verizon. Our corporate librarian was an important part of my CI team, and she threw more good stuff my way...yes, this was before the Internet, email and voice librarians can do so much more, and watch a librarian connect on social networks. This is just an extension of what they already have been doing for years.

I think these are some of the reasons that SLA's CI division is so successful. Librarians get where their role is in the company, that it's evolving and provide it with a spirit of service and giving.
Ellen makes fine points about cooperation and people-centered business. If businesses could transform competition (especially internally) into cooperation, think of what could be accomplished!

I need to further clarify the role of information professionals, however. We’re kind of summing this up into librarians have customer service skills and CI professionals have analytical skills. I have met people with varied combinations of these skills in every profession. I’ve also met librarians lacking customer service skills and CI analysts lacking analytical skills.

There is a generalization made by CI professionals that the library is one of many “raw materials” suppliers to CI, or, as Ellen puts it, “the first step in our CI process.” Well, yes, one basic service of the library is to help you assemble information. It is also very disappointing when the CI team fails to see the library or other functional groups as anything other than feeders into the CI process, some extra hands to do the lower level work. It is a very competitive, not cooperative, outlook. Instead, the CI team should consider the library as a partner. Partners mutually respect each other’s equally valuable professional expertise. CI teams that fail to see the partnering opportunity with the library and with other peer functions are missing opportunities. (Libraries/others often miss this opportunity, too. Our natural instinct is to be the center of our own universe.)

As service groups, both the library and CI teams have a choice to act and allow themselves to be treated in either a servile or a consulting way. Servants are considered expendable and garner little respect. Acting as a consultant has a better value proposition for both the company and the professional. We all know which consultants are worthwhile…neither the arrogant and inexperienced recent ivy-league grad who tells the CEO how to run a company, nor the used-car-salesman type who tells you whatever you want to hear but offers no insight, but the consultant who works in partnership with you and offers expertise in complement to yours. Your library can be integrated into your CI process as a partner, or it can be an information vending machine. Which will better help the CI team and company to succeed?

High performing librarians are internal consultants whose expertise is in understanding and managing information/knowledge environments, not simply supplying literature.

CI professionals also can forget that analysis is not specific to CI work. Analytical thinking is applied in many disciplines and is a foundation of “intelligence” with a small “i” (in the intellectual sense). My degree is in chemistry, and being a scientist (and many other professions) requires rigorous analytical skills. So, when I made the point that high-performing librarians have analytical skills, I wasn’t referring to CI analysis, but how librarians apply analytical thinking to understand, predict, and leverage knowledge and information flows, directions, needs, behaviors, probabilities, contingencies, and opportunities.

So, what can be learned from all of this? Lately, librarians, IT professionals, and others directly impacted by the information age have all learned to reinvent themselves the hard way when parts of their jobs that used to be their exclusive domains became mainstream. More than a decade ago, I told my library staff that we wouldn’t be primarily doing information searches, ordering literature, or maintaining the OPAC anymore. They thought I was trying to eliminate their jobs – and I was, replacing old work with new responsibilities as consultants, coaches, and designers in a brave new information world. And, as our internal customers gained both new user-friendly information tools and competence in using them, as literature became digitally available, and as automatic linking between interfaces and holdings strengthened, all reducing the need for “old” library services, my team created value in new ways. Today, my team will tell you that not only did letting go of old paradigms save their jobs, but made them fun, interesting, and challenging again. Furthermore, our internal customers are invested in our success (they fight for us to get resources and make sure we full members of – not merely resources to – the hot project teams) and we have leadership support. We are partners in the enterprise because – in agreement with Ellen’s comments – we continue to evolve our role to address new unmet needs of customers. THAT’s how we approach customer service – we not only play nice, we play smart. (Sorry, Ellen, words like “service and giving” don’t apply to non-altruistic me. I do, however, feel I must focus on providing real value to the customer if I want both a sense of accomplishment and a paycheck.)

I believe that is what today’s SLA is trying to promote among its membership: a diverse community coming at information from different perspectives and sharing ways to leverage the very dynamic information environment. Ellen says it well, “I think these are some of the reasons that SLA's CI division is so successful. Librarians get where their role is in the company, that it's evolving and provide it with a spirit of service and giving”…I would add, “and partnership.” Maybe CI has reached the mainstream too, and it’s time for some disruption. SCIP, like SLA, can reinvent itself and its membership.

My intent in trying over the years to get SCIP to look at the SLA was to get them to appreciate the wide spread of subjects that can legitimately fall under the aegis of CI.

This is not to say that there cannot be other nuances, but SCIP's notion that CI is a narrow field, understood, by only a limited and select few, has helped bring about the situation where SCIP is supported only by an increasingly limited and select few.

And as you know, this kind of narrow elitism has prevailed in the past with regard to CI-related organizations in other countries too, and with similar results - sharp drops in membership, and a feeling of unease on the part of those who were not considered to be "CI" material, and were thereby excluded - if not actively, then at least tacitly.

One point about the SLA, and for example, its Information Outlook magazine, is that they have at least consistently understood far better than SCIP how to reach out to a much wide(r) range of people, with many different backgrounds, capabilities, and career paths. And this in itself is often more suited to the eclectic range of those who now find themselves having to deal with their external competitive environment.
Once my father told me, when you are upset with something sleep it over. He didn't mention situation when sleeping is not an option :). That's why I kept quiet for some time :).

At my previous jobs I was involved a lot in M&A's from CI/Business development side. We felt „special“ not only beacuse it was very interesting work and we had an excellent team involved but also we had information that others didn't :) sounds familiar. When we would finish our due dilligence stuff and responsible people would sign the contract some parts of company, usually sales and marketing related would be (politely said )unhappy about it. The main reason was often just because they were not informed on time or were not fully briefed.
There are many reasons I guess for this and I kind of partially understand it. Sometimes you are pressed by time, sometimes by the opposite side, etc.

For curiosity I visited the website of F&S. Something I would do anyway if I was to analyse their intentions as part of my normal work. If one goes there and runs a search on „competitive intelligence“ you would get „221“ hits
(by the way business development 792, R&D 679, market research 503, investor 423, sales 332, marketing 215). Which one is next? :)
Why I'm using these keywords?

I read somewhere on their website „We accelerate growth“. I checked the presentation „The Chairman's series on Growth: The Role of Competitive Intelligence on the Growth Team“. Among other things they mention their „Growth Acceleration System“ which they promote as a service to CEO's and their teams. They use very strong statements for CI importance like „If growth is the oxygen of the company then Competitive Intelligence is adrenalin“. They promote CI to be in the CEO's growth team together with VP's for sales, marketing, business development, R&D and market research and investors (I guess relations). That's were I got those keywords from.
Among those 221 hits there are lot of past and future CI related events on which many respected SCIP members speak and participate.

So the commercial interest of F&S in CI from my point of view is very clear. They promote CI as something very important to CEO and his/her team, they have conferences and events about it, they probably need credibility. Not to mention that their CEO is very proud to state that he started his career in CI. I would just hope that they are not seeking some kind of monopol positions or opportunities. How will this relationship be managed separately from F&S Institute (I don't mean on paper but in heads), I hope for the best.

Apart for my analysis (:) )I don't feel I can add something of value to this conversation on global level, but looking at this from perspective of attempts to organise some CI community on local level (in my homecountry Croatia or more regionally in Eastern Europe) I'm worried that latest events could hurt its image over here (which is anyway not as one would hope, even though everyone involved in CI here knows about SCIP).

Couple of years ago when we started some local activites (with intention to organise an affiliate) promoting CI, organising some informal meetings and in doing so we promoted SCIP, we (three of us) managed to bring in (register as members) more than 20 people in relatively short time (less than half a year). As we didn't believe we can find 30 people quickly which are doing CI only we decided to involve other professions (PR, MR, strategy consulting, IT,….). Also we believed that we should not close in but open up to other professions and societies (just to mention that they view SCIP as competitor) and find synergies between ourselves. Anyway after 1 year most of the people didn't renew their subscription as they didn't found the value in being members (and some openly told me so). I'm not a member now either but that is purely for financial considerations.
So maybe a change in approach is needed when approaching countries and regions where CI communities are not that visible. Certainly I can not hope that small countries as Croatia would be on priority list but when goals and priorities are communicated it is easier to build own local approach, otherwise we will have many little non connected "societies". I believe some form of global society is needed and I feel I learned and gained a lot since I became member of SCIP and start communicating with other members.
Change is good as long as we know were we are heading at least on the level of vision and general direction. So I hope for positive changes that will be benefitial to us as people doing CI as well as those who will be doing it in the future.


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