Competitive Intelligence

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

This morning - Apr 9th there was a very active discussion on the Intel Collab teleconference regarding the creation of a CI Wiki.  There were a lot of great ideas bounced around, and we have a limited list of "path forward" action items.  We are looking for ideas, as well as for people who would be interested in becoming active as administrators, editors, authors, and reviewers.

FIRST LIST OF ACTION ITEMS:

1. Find hosting options

2. Taxonomy of participation (editors, authors, contributors)

3. Possible seed topics?


If you have comments or additional action items, let us hear about it.  We are starting to move forward with the idea, and this is a very collaborative effort.  We need as many folks to become involved as possible for this to be successful.

I have a Wiki already established, which we can treat as a "playground" experimental area.  Go to http://www.cijedi.com and create a user account to experiment with.  And please share your ideas for the items above...or anything else that may be on your mind.  We also have a Google wave discussion on this topic already.  If you're a Google Wave user, contact us for an invite, and if not, email us and we will arrange for you to get an invitation to join Google Wave as well.

Let us know how you think the effort should proceed.

mark

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Replies to This Discussion

Just to add to Mark's discussion, we decided to start small with seed topics, and experiment with our wiki project and then gradually expand to a much larger initiative, ultimately to be a repository of intelligence publications around the world.

But we want to start small and work smart to build a good process that we can then roll out, sort of like starting a CI process and getting that first key deliverable and tweaking for the next one.

I just got onto Google wave so I have all kinds of invitations I can send out. Here is the connection to today's wiki discussion for those of you who are on Google Wave.

Here is the link to the recorded conversation which is about an hour long.
We'd be happy to contribute a license to the CI Community.

I think that being over-involved in supporting, hosting, etc... could be counterproductive. A set of people or organizations would need to commit to serve as admins and to help front the cost of hosting - whether we actually host it (via amazon cloud) or another organization hosts it out of their own infrastructure.

As for "seed topics" I think there should be a goal to create a wiki that covers a certain CI domain of interest. I think its important for the CI community to define competitive models, strategies, terms, processes and so on. Basically, it should span the set of information you may want to learn in a CI 101/201 course, or even many parts of an MBA course.

There should be companion forum and companion literature bookmarks facilities, including cross referencing between wiki pages and relevant supporting literature links or forum discussions.
On the idea of rating people. Handle with care. In the wrong context, it can be a fast ticket to a popularity contest and, in systems where you want to encourage people to contribute, it can be counterproductive.
Hi Jordan - I added you to the Wave for Friday's call by the way, so check your Wave Inbox. I think your background would be critical in getting this effort off the ground if you have any advice for the ad hoc task force that's assembling.
We use a lot of wikis at Mercyhurst so, for what it is worth, here are a few thoughts:

Hosting options: We like wikispaces.com. The software is dead easy to use which helps overcome the "adoption problem" so common to most wiki projects. It has three options. The first is total public access (viewing and editing). The second is publicly viewable but only editable by "members" and "organizers". These first two levels are no cost. The third level is private viewing and private editing. There is a a modest fee associated with this third option.

Another option appears to be to stay inside Ning. There is a rudimentary wiki function here with the "pages" tab. My only concern is that there does not appear to be a way to allow collaborative editing of a page (although there is an option for comments so it could simply be the originator's responsibility to incorporate relevant comments). The value of staying in Ning is that it is one less place to have to go, one less password to keep and it makes this forum even more useful. Not insubstantial considerations in my opinion.

A third option and one which is particularly good if you anticipate writing encyclopedic style entries is just do it on Wikipedia as a Wikiproject (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiProject). If your intent is to share your knowledge as broadly as possible, why not put it where the world will see it? In addition, the structure and format are already there for you to use. I have my students write articles for Wikipedia because I have found the intel articles to be very sparse. Adding to this body of knowledge helps more than just CI professionals.

Taxonomy and seed topics. If you are starting from scratch, I would not try to impose too much order. Adoption -- getting people to actually use a wiki regularly -- is the most important early hurdle to overcome in our experience. The typically wiki follows an S curve. It gains ground slowly and then, once there is a critical mass of stuff, it takes off. You need to be prepared for the slow start and have patience. Too many rules will stifle these critical early contributions.

As for roles, you might want to look at the wiki called Wikipatterns. They have tried to define the different kinds of people and behavior one sees in a wiki (http://www.wikipatterns.com/display/wikipatterns/Wikipatterns). They differ slightly from other projects. Wiki gardeners and wiki gnomes, for example, are critical to the success of a wiki but do not have easily identifiable counterparts in more traditional projects.
Personally I would support any MediaWiki-based initiative, but I have to say I would be keen to keep this project away from Wikipedia. In my long experience of Wikipedia, the most destructive force is not the schoolkids who inject profanities into established articles, but the administrators who throw their weight around deleting well-intentioned articles. These admins behave as if they are all-powerful.

Do exactly what you have done: create a wiki running MediaWiki software, kept well away from the reach of Wikipedia admins.
Kris, thanks for the details. The WikiProject is an interesting possibility. It is appealing because of Wikipedia's omnipresence. It has a huge audience. Its pages rank high in search engines. It eliminates operational overhead. The licenses and standards are in place.

One question I have about Wikipedia is that I have heard many disparage Wikipedia as a source. In some academic environments Wikipedia is verboten. Would we be compromising any authority for the project by having it associated with Wikipedia? Would there be any methods for countering those perceptions?
You are correct that many academics are concerned about the reliability of Wikipedia. I will also say that many of those fears are unfounded. Some, in fact, are simply based (in my opinion) on prejudice against anything "wiki". In this sense, a stand alone CI wiki will not solve that problem nor will it derive any of the benefits you mention concerning association with Wikipedia.

The truth is that Wikipedia is a tertiary source of first resort for most of us. Care is called for but care is called for with any source.

What many people do not know is that Wikipedia has a fairly robust system for evaluating and assessing articles, particularly within WikiProjects. I would point you to the Military History WikiProject as an example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Military_history It has a well developed structure, provides templates and other resources to its contributors and even has a system for providing awards and graded assessments (to see these, one has to know to go to the discussion tab of a wiki page. In fact, many of the concerns about accuracy could be answered if readers would also check out the discussion tab on every wikipedia page they visit). Featured Article Status is another indicator of excellence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Featured_article_criteria

In addition, there are automatic systems for scoring a wikipedia page such as wikitrust (http://wikitrust.soe.ucsc.edu/home). These systems will never satisfy the hard line anti-wikipedians but I think they will satisfy the generally tech-savvy CI professional.
I want to echo Kristan's comments that while Wiki's get a lot of criticisms, there have also been a lot of studies to indicate that Wikipedia in particular is at least as good as popular media in terms of accuracy, and may rival encyclopedias and even science journals in some areas. There is a great unbiased Wikipedia article: a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia" target="_blank">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia>

The key, I believe, is the group of volunteers who act to review the entries and correct those which are incomplete, self-serving, inaccurate, or "web-vandalism". The part of this which is difficult to assess is the degree to which a voluntary resource is "self-healing". It would never be perfect...but life and CI are never a game of perfect. the discipline is about reviewing imperfect information, and deciding which bits of information are important, and which are misleading or irrelevant.

Traditional publishing sources don't have any obvious way of improvement over time. The book is published and all the errors remain until the next edition of the book...if they are caught. In some disciplines, (it's been documented in Chess publications) errors in transcription get copied from one book to another book for generations.

The key benefits of a wiki are that consumers of the information can get what they want with little overhead whenever they want. Those with good insights can advance the discipline at will...though some of these will always be false trails. The whole open source software movement is losing its stigma of being lower quality than commercial software. In the long run, I believe wikis may be the front wave of a trend towards open knowledge structures.
About seed topics on the Wiki - I would like to discuss the possibility of contributing (alone or together with some other member) an article on the topic "Defining the competition / competitors". An introduction to the topic of how to determine what companies or other entitities actually are competitors to a Target company. The answer to this question affects the implementation of the entire Intelligence Cycle in any CI-exercise when sizing up a Target against its competitors. I've noted that in many company databases that produce lists of "competitors" to a Target company, the companies offered as "competitors" may on closer scrutiny not be competitors at all. The fact that a company shares a high-level category label with another company does not as such imply a competitive relationship. Challenges arise also when the Target provides some elusive service as its offering (e.g. "business consultancy services"). The challenge there is to find those companies that offer the same specialization of "business consultancy services" to the same extent as the Target does, so that these two companies can be called competitors. A third and a fourth example of challenges in identifying the competitors is when the competition comes from substitute products or services, or from potential new market entrants (who are not on the market yet, but who could be quickly because of few/no entry barriers).

It would be interesting to discuss this topic here, and as I said, maybe to write collaboratively an article on this topic with a fellow IntelCollab member. I look forward to hear your thoughts on this,

Best regards,
Ari
There's been some recent discussion on taxonomy here. I'll throw a few cents on how a system may be organized.

- Terms: Competitor, Intelligence, Competitive Intelligence, Market, Market Research, Information, Ethics, Ethics in CI, KIT, KIQ
- Models: Intelligence Cycle, KIT Model, 5 Forces, 4 Ps
- People: Jan Herring, Arik Johnson
- Organization Types and Organizations: Software Companies, Consulting Companies, Market Research Companies, Traction Software, Strategy, Comintelli AuroraWDC, Fuld & Company

You need several these pieces to handle wiki scenarios such as a case where you talk about Jan Herring's introduction of KITs and implement a KIT Model to as a basis for your Competitive Intelligence effort.

I think an overall "wiki" should have a few components in different spaces:

- CI Wiki - CI definitions, concepts, organizations.

- Bookmark references to Journal and Media. Supports referencing from Wiki pages and Forum discussion.

- Forum for discussing CI in general with references to bookmarks and wiki pages.

- CI "courseware" - Following MIT Open Courseware, something that provides course material could leverage the wiki pages and help expand and reinforce the community.

In consideration of all these spaces and related content, a tagging strategy is useful as a means to help organize content by topic in a way that is easily understood and can be replicated in each space.
PATH FORWARD.

Several folks have been engaged with the weekly Intel Collab conference call in talking about Wiki plans. You can access the WAVE with description of current actions using this URL: http://bit.ly/bGMelR

The key item before our next call is for folks who are potential contributors to:
1. Access the wiki at http://www.cijedi.com/wiki/ . Create an account and try to post an article.
2. Note any difficulties. This particular WIKI is being used as a testbed. Some articles may eventually be incorporated in a "prime time" version, but that's not our immediate objective. We're trying to kick the wheels and test drive the concept.
3. Participate in discussion (access via COMMUNITY PORTAL link on left menu).
4. Discuss your expectations for the content and interaction potential of the wiki.
5. Especially contribute your ideas on how to engage potential contributors, potential readers, and those outside of our community.

This is not the full list of "TODO" items, but you can see the full list on the WAVE. If you don't have access to the WAVE, Arik will be glad to issue you an invite.

Mark

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