I’ll put in an unsolicited plug for my buddy Ken Sawka at Outward Insights, and direct you to a recent article of his called “The Death of the CI Professional.” [www.outwardinsights.com
This is a concept that has been bouncing around in my head for years, and which has been discussed at SCIP Board meetings. Is the future of CI in a relatively small group of full-time practitioners, or in a huge group of general business managers who can benefit from having CI skills and an “intelligence mindset”? Obviously, it will be some combination of the two, but I (and Ken) argue that the future lies more with the latter group. If we are correct, the profession will look very different in the future than it does today. Depending on how we react, it can be either a huge boon for us, or we can choose to fight it and watch the world pass us by.
For the last 15 years or so, I would argue that CI has become more and more diffuse within organizations. In general terms, we went from a centralized CI team serving the executive suite to a hub and spoke model of a small centralized function that connected with CI contacts in individual business units. Next, we started to see CI professionals who acted as internal consultants for their organizations – producing some CI, but mostly facilitating the process, and acting as a subject-matter expert for one-off exercises in scenario planning, war gaming, conference collection, etc. In each instance, the number of full-time CI practitioners grew smaller, while the reach of CI in the organization grew wider. The next logical step in some organizations may be for the full-time CI professional to disappear altogether.
If we are honest with ourselves, I think we will see that organizations are not necessarily worse off as a result of this trend. The “CI virus,” if you will, has spread throughout the organization, which still gets most of the CI that it needs. While one may argue that this CI is not as good as a full-time practioner would provide, this is akin to arguing that vinyl records are superior to CDs/MP3s in audio quality. Yes they are, but that difference is lost on the consumer, who is more concerned with convenience and portability.
Our customers – senior decisionmakers – don’t care about distinctions between CI, market research, library research, etc. They just want the information they need, and they will get it in the most efficient way possible. Compounding this trend are demographic factors. The decision makers of today grew up doing their own online research, and know better how to leverage their contacts for CI. Intelligence is more in their nature than it was for their predecessors. We’ve certainly seen this in many of the successful Silicon Valley and tech start ups. Many of these companies have never had a formalized CI function, or if they did, it was started only after these companies became so large that someone needed to manage the process.