Competitive Intelligence

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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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I think this is a great opportunity to further SCIP's goals and to extend the reach of competitive intelligence. Since I was president of the board in 2003 - 2004, I have watched the financial vulnerablity of SCIP limit the ways that SCIP can add value to practitioners and the broader business universe. I am, personally, really excited about the opportunities that this merger creates.

I'm digging out of a pile of work (this is a running-to-stand-still kind of day) but did want to quickly share my thoughts and why I voted yes for the merger. I have three main reasons for having done so:

1. Infusion of cash. SCIP entered the year with a deficit, and Chicago was not the financial success we wanted it to be. It was what it was in this economic environment, but it just didn't generate enough cash to build a bridge over the chasm for SCIP. Like a lot of associations SCIP operates somewhat from paycheck to paycheck, and the take-home pay from this one wasn't what it needed to be. I get a lot of value from SCIP, and I don't want it to go away.

2. Access to technology. I have been on SCIP about this one that their approach to web technologies is behind the times and makes it a challenge for them to deliver value to members. Frost & Sullivan have a technical infrastructure and expertise that will provide a platform and knowledge transfer to enable SCIP to improve the delivery of on-line services. I intend to be a very strong advocate for taking advantage of these new tools and expertise to drive member value and higher profitability (for starters SCIP will likely have a much more attractive cost base for their webinars).

3. Marketing. Frost has a big customer list, CRM platform and marketing savvy that SCIP cannot replicate. This will help us drive membership, drive attendance and drive participation.

Frost & Sullivan bring more to the table than just a cash investment. They bring real assets, expertise and scale that can drive real member value. I know the Frost guys are savvy enough to realize the importance of a vibrant ecosystem of CI vendors and practitioners. Rather than simply dominate or try to monopolize the space they are smart enough to understand that they have an important part to play in raising the tide that will lift all boats (to paraphrase the recently departed Jack Kemp).

(Disclaimer: My employer is a Frost client and I spoke at their Competitive Intelligence MindXChange this past January and received free registration to the event in exchange for that presentation.)
A principle called "the ethical imperative" was once put forward by cybernetician Heinz von Foerster which states that one should always strive to increase the number of alternatives. Yet in the present case, for whatever reason, it appears that SCIP members are being offered essentially no alternatives - either vote for a merger with F&S Institute, whatever that may be, or cease to exist.

Am I alone in thinking that both these options will ultimately bring about the same result?

When, some years ago, I suggested to a number of SCIP directors that they might (as people ostensibly interested in their competitive environment) consider looking at what the SLA (Special Libraries Association) were up to, the response I received was "who or what are the SLA?"

In the meantime, those SCIP directors have no doubt learnt who and what the SLA are, how widespread they are, and what a multplicity of activities and members' interests they encompass, and, how interesting their magazine is. SCIP may even have noticed, though I'm not certain they really have, that the SLA set up a Competitive Intelligence Division a few years ago, which rapidly became its fastest growing division.

But by and large it appears that SCIP have ignored their own competitive environment until it got up and bit them - hard.

Sad ...


Just two things come to my mind:

I would really have appreciated some information about this during the Chicago gathering. It is quite surprising.
Can an association "merge" with a private company?

I share the worry about the future.

Eliana hi

I'm surprised that you're surprised - the signs have been there for years ...

There's a saying that the shoemaker always goes barefoot - in this case, SCIP "forgot" or chose not to "do" any CI about its own position in the market place, and did not want to listen to those who have been consistently pressing it to do so.

Where's the surprise?


Hi Michael,

You may be true. But I mean I am surprised due to the fact that the Chicago summit was not used as an opportunity to talk about this crucial issue among all the members that travelled there.

We were totally kept away from the problem. Now, there is nothing we can do.

Agree with you fully.
Very disapointed that this is the only option made available to SCIP members. As past SCIP member I still felt proud there was an official body representing our profession, whether I chose to belong to it or not. But now, I'm not sure I can relate. And despite our arguments for/against including in the definition infopros/librarians/market analysts, I can't understand why CI pros have more in common with F&S than with the SLA's CI division.
Still, there is never a vacuum, and I'm assuming CI pros will continue to interact under different organizations and either spin off eventually, or go on to found a new association. And when that takes place, there's a bit we can learn from the likes of the Association for Independent Information Professionals; from the volunteering opportunities, to the low budget, and especially, to the high value it provides its members.
Though I'm no longer a member of AAIP either, the experience was an eye-opener in regards to how things CAN be.
I'll be voting yes. Basically, from what I understand, it boils down to this: no merger, no SCIP. I'm sure the Board has explored all other alternatives, and we as members need to trust their judgment (we did elect them, after all, and if you don't vote in board elections then your bad) that they are operating in the best interests of the membership. When I was on the board in 1999-2001, there was not a board meeting at which the words "is this in the best interests of the members" were not spoken. SCIP has operated on the financial ropes for many years, and in this economy there really is no way out. I think the F&S Institute is a great partner -- certainly better than others that could have been under consideration -- and that the members will benefit from this decision.

SCIP is unique in that it has a relatively narrow focus, unlike SLA which includes librarians and information professionals of many stripes. SCIP reminds me of the old Planning Forum, which went under about 10 years ago and has really yet to re-emerge to its past glory under its successor organization the Association for Strategic Planning. Better that the Board avoided the complete demise of the organization and sought out a merger with what I understand to be a very effective and stable organization.
Ken hi

You're right of course that SCIP has a narrow focus, but this is not always the advantage that it is made out to be. It has excluded and ignored many who could now be partners, or members.

I have been urging for years that SCIP at least take a look at SPIE - the Society of PhotoOptical Engineers, which started with ex-government missile engineers seeking an open forum, and has over the years broadened its brief to deal with any aspect of vision, optics, imaging, whether in industry, medicine, sport, or space.

SCIP has always seen itself as so special that no one who was not actually in CI - as defined by SCIP - would feel at ease there. And it is now paying the price for this somewhat arrogant, hugely US-centric, and shortsighted example of over-focusing.


Let me add an idea I got in the CI 2020 session in Chicago, Michael:

SCIP is obviously an institution for and of CI specialists. Too often this positioning excludes practitioners who are responsible for CI tasks only as a part of their jobs. Those CI part-timers are a huge market of potential members we systematically neglect when we perpetuate the self-image of being an organization of experts and specialists.
Very true, Andreas,

But a few years ago when SCIP still did a lot of user demographic and salary surveys, the majority of SCIP members were either lone practitioners, part-timers, or free-lancers.

When they started the recent webinar series with $95 for an hour per site, I pointed out that was fine if you had 4 or 5 practitioners at a single location, but prohibitive for the lone CI manager or the free-lancer.

Let's just say my observations did NOT lead to a change in policy.

I also asked if they had a simple way for a chapter to establish a webinar location and have members come to a central location, so the webinar could be followed by local interaction and discussion. I was told they did not have anything set up for that.

You might also the SCIP strategic plan, the word CHAPTER does not appear. Not in any context.
Mark - please don't get me wrong on this. In my opinion SCIP is a member-driven society. I don't know member demographics in the US - I just stated an impression derived from the last conference.

Being a member-driven institution means that a whole lot of initiatives have to come from the grass roots level. I always think it's better to do something and say you're sorry after you did it than to ask for permission in advance. So in this case I don't see any obstacles for local chapters to establish after-webinar discussions just the way they want to.

But this is only one small issue. We have to take care that we do not follow an attitude of expecting services of an anonymous society. I think we are SCIP - and everyone of us should act in the best interest of our fellow members.

I also know many of the current board and staff members and I know that they are highly committed and invest a huge amount of work which goes far beyond normal terms. I am also convinced that there is no alternative to vote with YES in this issue - and that this is a great opportunity for SCIP as a society and also for the members to make several steps forward.


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