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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It strikes me when I read many of your comments that it is as if we need SCIP. The opposite situation is much truer, SCIP needs us, in fact we are SCIP, we form most of its content. (I have not been a member for the past few years, but have always been part of the network) If F&S decides to buy SCIP then they are buying us. Their income mainly consists of membership fees and conference fees. Its a little bit like Facebook, they expect members to change network when a better alternative appears or is developed.

There is also a question of economies of scale here. if the network is replaced by a number of smaller networks then the sum of its values will diminish. or in other words, it is better for the industry if we stick together. Now for me as an academic that has become more difficult after SCIP decided to redraw its peer reviewed journal. By doing so they forced all researchers over into a series of other networks, ECIS, SIIE, EBRF etc. A successful new network is one that is able to bring all these networks together. But to do so you also need to be truly global and you must be able to show impartiality.
To paraphrase a term that has emerged to describe meetings where PowerPoint is banned (the "unconference") are you suggesting a kind of "un-network" - or impartial non-society?

Does the absence of a legal identity/brand (such as SCIP, SLA, ECIS, SIEE, EBRF, etc.) mean the individual identities of the members (both organizations and pratitioners) can simply agree to affiliate based on their shared enthusiasm for the study and application of the ideas, rather than competing interests of various sub-groups?

Is "CI" cohesive enough an idea or discipline that it can survive strictly from the bottom up like that or does there need to be a more formal operating entity, with all the formalities that accompany it (articles of incorporation, budget/revenue, prime directive, etc.)? Or can we pool the interests of sub-groups who have such identities together to share knowledge and engagement across societies?
Good questions, Arik. I am not sure I have all the answers. On your first question I think that any CI or BI organization, especially if it wants to attract academics, needs to show a clear impartiality. On the second, I think it is a shame if we cannot gather around a major interest organization, simply because that is often a better way of preserving the interests of the industry. The last question is a very interesting one indeed, and one that has always been discussed. We can follow the development of the field just by looking at the popularity of specific search words, from corporate intelligence to business intelligence, competitor i, competitive i, marketing i, and now market i. It is as though we see a return to marketing over the past 2 years. Besides that BI has developed into a field of its own with their own journals and different academics. Many academics treat this within decision Support. As an economist I am hardly let into the field of BI anymore by my computer sciences colleagues. They already know much better. At the same time there is the whole intelligence culture parallel to preserve which marketing does not have, and there is the often forgotten field of geopolitics and now geoeconomics, which my political science colleagues like to claim as theirs. But I guess this is all taking us too far away fro the main discussion here.


To be more specific, yes the intelligence services parallel is cohesive and interesting enough by itself to build a coherent discipline, as we indeed have, but I think it must be multidisciplinary to prosper. The large amount of technical solutions for BI is a good example of that. I think both professionals and academics will profit from gathering under the same umbrella organization as both groups are helping to move the field forward.

Greeting from Southern Sweden, where the rapeseed is now blossoming, Klaus

The value of a network (reverting to my telecom hat) is not really economies of scale. The proper term is network externality. The value of a network is in the potential number of connections. If it was always the case that a larger network is more valuable because of the sum of its value, the case could be made that there should only be one network and it should include everyone. However, that only happens if you assume all connections are equally valuable.

There are several negatives to a larger network. Lack of shared purpose. Congestion costs. Distraction from central values. There is also the implicit assumption that we're only talking about direct connections. But if you make allowances for the fact that I don't have to connect directly to everyone, the policy result is dramatically different. It's often quite valuable for me to connect with you...and you in turn connect to Europe for me.

The main point of this is that there is plenty of value in several small networks all interconnected. My job prospects in Dallas aren't helped a lot by having someone in Zagreb or Tbilisi in my network. In fact, if shared purpose is important, interconnected local networks may be much more valuable.

The implications for SCIP would make a profound difference if more emphasis was given to local networks. I recall again that the word CHAPTER does not appear in any form in the SCIP Strategic Plan. One could imagine WALMART without the word STORE or COMMUNITY in the strategic plan. The result would be ludicrous. We think of WalMart as an international behemoth, and in some respects it is. But without the local stores, there is no behemoth.

Job listings on the SCIP site are very helpful. But if the employer isn't willing to consider relocation, it is not of much value. In fact, the high price of job listing on a national site might DISCOURAGE job listings where the employer is only interested in local candidates. So in this case the stress on the NATIONAL or INTERNATIONAL network is a potential distraction from the local objective of finding a CI job.
[half kidding]

Maybe we should see if the folks over at the QRCA will hold some focus group with CI vendors, corporate practitioners and academics and offer them something in trade, like, hmmm. Well, they are a happy bunch of folks over there; they'd probably settle for a couple of drinks after the groups.

[/half kidding]

Seriously though, one commonality to shared by many posts in this thread is that we as CI folk just don't know what we want out of a society. Perhaps we should first define that and then look for congruities with other associations and disciplines.
Kieran,

I welcome this constructionist approach. There are three possible active solutions here, either we form our own new SCIP-like organization (1), or we try to find another part for a cooperation (2) or we accepted the merger (3). I think that what is important is that the community does not split into too many parts.

If we decide to look for other established partner, there are many that come to mind. If we narrow it down to those with a focus on CI one of the more dynamic is ATELIS in France. http://www.atelis.org/Version_ang/index.htm It is also possible to enlarge the field, to say knowledge management, decision support, market research, library science, or strategy, all with established fields of research, journals, conferences etc. But this is also connected with a number of risks and negative consequences. At the end it could be argued that what is the CI environment proper is the parallel to the vast number of state and public Intelligence Communities. We are so to say the private, open-source, within-the-law, analysis-focused and user friendly version of that vast community. As such we are already showing how intelligence work can be done more efficiently. What in my experience is most valued by customers of CI is not so much the librarian side as the analyses. On this part I am sure even many of the consultants could need some more training too, and there are courses.

It is worth mentioning that there is already a close cooperation/connection between BI (Software) and CI, between futurology/future studies and CI, and another one, even though weaker, between Geoeconomics/Geopolitics and CI. BI has been taken over by software engineers and Geopolitics is run largely by Political Scientists, Geographers and Historians, but we do manage to find mutual benefits of cooperation in research.

The strength of SCIP in the beginning was that there was an understanding of the value of having both practitioners and academics like myself under the same roof learning from each other. That I am convinced will create both better method development and more consultancy income.

Klaus
Klaus

I have been involved in competitive intelligence, and before that special intelligence-related services for a state-owned defence manufacturer, for nearly 25 years. When I first joined SCIP about 17 years ago I discovered an organisation that almost perfectly matched my needs and expectations for a professional body; it's mission seemed clear, its peer-reviewed flagship journal (Competitive Intelligence Review) was outstanding in every respect, the membership represented smart, enthusiastic CI professionals (a balanced mix of academics, former government intelligence officers, consultants, and down-in-the trenches practitioners), it was growing fast, it was fun, and most of all it was inspiring. It did not behave like a commercial organisation; happily at the time, and true to its charter, it behaved like a not-for-profit society of professionals with common purpose and needs.

I do not propose, here, to regurgitate all the arguments for and against the TAKEOVER of SCIP by F&S. To continue the debate over the decisions made by the SCIP board and office, together with their co-conspirators at F&S, is almost pointless. The Chair's letter of 7th May simply informed the world, no doubt 'for the record' of what was, in effect, a fait accompli. Indeed, it reminded me of the typical scene in a police drama where, in the final confrontation, the cops warn the villains with options "hands up, or we'll shoot!"

Assuming that a global organisation which represents and advances the interests of Competitive Intelligence as a profession is the best way to go, then you're absolutely right: the community will fragment, and will likely end up as a constellation of small nationally- and regionally-based parts. This may not be a bad thing, but we certainly should consider the implications. Some argue that global corporate giants are too big to be effective; that a better model would involve smaller, independent companies. Would firms like IBM, P&G, and SABMiller produce greater value if, for example, their brands were spun off as stand-alone business entities? Or are they more powerful, and do they deliver greater value to their stakeholders as they are? I'm simply posing the questions, like any good consultant I do not definitive answers.

Personally, as a lecturer in competitive intelligence at business schools in South Africa and Europe, I feel most at home with the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE). SCIP offers nothing that compares with the knowledge value gained in the 24/7 real-time discussion, forums, and web links that IAFIE provides. And all for about $100! Although IAFIE is, of course, geared toward those who teach intelligence (thus matching my specific professional interests), it certainly represents one model that deserves some thought. It works, and it's largely web based (although there is an annual conference, which costs half as much as the annual SCIP events).

Perhaps it would be more constructive if we now focus our future energies, as you put it, on "constructive solutions".

Regards
Douglas Bernhardt
Dear Douglas

It is good to see you here. Your 1993 book is well known. It may be as you say that it is a fait accompli, in which case the discussion is more one of staying or leaving. I think personally that the fact that this must have been well known to the board before the Chicago meeting and that there were no discussion then speaks much for itself.

For those leaving there are a number of possibilities. I will not back any one horse here, but I am curious whether or not this will end up back into the classical Anglo-Saxon vs French vs German vs Chinese camps, or whether or not we who are the advocates of open sources take the opportunity to gather in a more global constellation. I really hope so, and think it would do the profession much good, both academically and financially.

As previously announced, on the request of some ex SCIP members here, the topic of organization will be discussed during the ECIS 2009 Conference in Stockholm this summer. http://www.atelis.org/Version_ang/pages/evenements_3colloque_europe...

In the meantime I am pleased that the topic has opened up such a large discussion here on the ning and welcome its continuity.

Klaus
Hi Klaus - I'm really interested in your (and others) take-aways from the Stockholm meeting. I had sincerely planned to attend (for the first time) but unfortunately have just too many conpeting prorities elsewhere in the world. I wish you great success at your meeting and look forward to any observations or advice that result.

- Arik
It seems that in this thread, people (myself included) are discussing whether to keep SCIP as an umbrella organization or whether we as a community will splinter into a myriad of competing organizations. I wonder if that decision has not already been made - it seems that with the declining SCIP membership and the declining attendance at the annual meeting, people are already seeking alternatives. So the question becomes: does this merger provide SCIP the chance to re-emerge as an organization at the forefront of CI or not?
It took me a while to think about this one before posting again.

After the SCIP conference call with chapter chairs yesterday I felt much better about the merger terms. I still have concerns, and feel that SCIP is unlikely to change many of the things I feel need changed. If that is the case the merger will not achieve the benefits that were promised. But then, a rough rule of thumb is that 2/3 of mergers fail to achieve the promised benefits. My personal rule of thumb is to consider shorting any company that engages in a merger. Non-profit mergers are pretty rare...so not much track record.

SCIP hasn't really responded to the idea of providing written copies of any of the documents I was interested in. So it's a matter of trusting their assurances. Many folks won't accept that. It leaves me with a high degree of skepticism as well.

1. Financials - SCIP indicates they had a negative net worth at the end of 2008. This could be verified with financials filed with the IRS, but the documents were not provided. They claim they had a net worth of ($264k). Combined with general attendance downturn and much worse than expected return from the SCIP Conference in Chicago, SCIP determined they had no choice but the merger. Attempts to obtain financing and/or mergers with partners with more natural "match" were unsuccessful. No indication that I heard of the amount of cash infusion. It sounded as if the amount was somewhat in flux, depending on results through the coming months.

2. I'm not aware of any "document" addressing vendor neutrality. However, SCIP staff & Kelsey Hare (Chapter Liaison from the Board) indicated this was one of the key concerns addressed in all discussions. An extensive interview with David Frigstad is contained in the Board minutes, and strong assurances were given that vendor neutrality was understood and accepted.

3. Anticipated budgetary measures (and any money saving initiatives by SCIP) were not addressed. SCIP is aware that there is a likelihood of some staff reductions, but they also indicate an awareness that they cannot cut benefits and hope to stimulate membership.

4. Concern for SCIP's intellectual property, including articles and courses owned by SCIP was expressed. Since F&SI is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and SCIP is a 501(c)6 nonprofit, there is an IRS rule indicating assets and proceeds of a non-profit may not inure to any profit-making entity, individual, or corporation. If at some future point SCIP or F&SI were to cease to exist, all assets would have to be transferred (donated) to another non-profit.

5. What does Frost get out of this? Still not adequately answered. Frost (corporate) benefits from the existence of a strong CI community. Frost & Sullivan Institute will get two seats on the board, bringing the board to 13, and they will get to review and/or veto significant financial transactions. This last is obviously designed not to strangle SCIP, but to assure that the subordinate organization will exercise responsible financial controls, and to assure that Frost has a voice in key decision making. That is most reasonable. Beyond that into the vague area of "synergies"...darned if I can see anything like that. SCIP has said a shared services approach will help them save money. This strikes me as utter cattle crap, since F&SI currently doesn't have any operations whose services COULD be shared. There are promotional opportunities from an association with Frost. But anything SCIP could do to benefit Frost would be a violation of vendor neutrality. Benefits to the Institute would be very limited. F&SI's charitable status is up for renewal at the end of 2009. It's possible that...since F&SI hasn't really done anything to date, their charitable status was in jeopardy unless they actually do something. I am not a lawyer, but it strikes me that this is something that might help F&SI maintain their non-profit status. That is pure speculation on my part.

All these discussions left me with a much better feeling. I believe that the worst outcomes from this are unlikely or not possible. It did not leave me a raving fan of the merger. I still think "how we got here" is because of authoritarian rigid adherence to procedures and a refusal to consider change. I believe the growth model of SCIP is flawed and the chapter model is broken.

The society may easily yet fail sometime in 2010 or beyond. For a short-run measure, this merger may serve. The key (my own view) will be willingness to try things that have always been "we can't do that" previously. SCIP will need to accomplish this while some in the society and/or non-member practitioners will be moving to competitor societies or starting up competitive alternatives. SCIP ain't the only game in town.

I believe the merger vote will be in favor. While it's widely considered unethical to cite the direction before the vote is in, SCIP has been reporting 90%/10% acceptance. This may have the result of generating bandwagon effect, but it seems like an unethical manipulation of the result to me.

SCIP has done an extraordinarily crappy job of communicating the substance of this agreement. Rather than put together a full information package so the vote could be informed, they put together a statement with loads of holes in it, did no anticipation of likely questions, and half-answered questions. They indicate financials can be obtained from the IRS with FOIA request, but didn't make those documents available as a link off the website or a summary mailing to key volunteers. Rather than inform key volunteers who they KNEW would be deluged with questions, they didn't meet or discuss with us until the vote was half-over.

I believe SCIP hoped to get approval with the minimum amount of disclosure they could get away with...and that was interpreted by many viewers as an indicator that something nefarious was afoot. It is SUPPOSED to be a key attribute of CI analysts to be naturally suspicious. Everyone could easily see the proposal was put together in a slipshod hasty fashion.

In this case, I believe the clumsiness was not deception...but merely clumsiness. Try not to look for conspiracy when mere stupidity is an adequate explanation. A week more preparation to announce and inform, followed by a better defined voting period would have likely defused many concerns. Oh well. Blew that one. If SCIP wasn't in the habit of making mistakes, they probably wouldn't be in this fix anyhow.

SCIP has promised (not on our call, but in the call Monday with SCIP FELLOWS) an "Obama-like" transparency. I don't know if Obama-like is acceptable...but every bit of transparency will help...if they really mean it. It's time consuming to summarize and inform...but it makes a huge difference in buy in and client/member cooperation. It would be a HUGE departure for SCIP to actually adopt transparency.

Like everything else in this proposal...we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

And now....I must get some work done. This controversy has consumed WAY too much time for me the last week, and I'm behind on a project.

Mark Johnson
Thanks a lot Mark - for those of us still seeking clarity that was very helpful to get your input.

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