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5 Key Concepts of Competitive Intelligence

Part of the Competitive Intelligence For Dummies Cheat Sheet

To perform competitive intelligence (CI) effectively, you need to have a solid understanding of what CI is and what it's not. By spending a few moments reviewing the following list of key concepts and committing them to memory, you'll be well on your way to CI mastery:

  • CI isn't spying. Professionals don't participate in or condone the use of illegal or unethical means of gathering competitor intelligence. True CI involves maintaining a standard of "integrity above reproach."

  • Competitive intelligence isn't just competitor intelligence. Although part of CI's job is to keep an eye on the competition, it also needs to keep an eye on other forces that drive the market and the industry, including technology, economic conditions, ideologies, the media, and changes in laws and regulations.

  • The CI process involves four essential steps: planning, gathering, analyzing, and executing. The CI team must plan what kind of questions it wants to answer and develop a strategy for gathering the necessary info. The CI team then gathers relevant information from a variety of sources, and one or more analysts on the team interpret its meaning. Finally, the CI team presents the analyzed intelligence to the organization's leaders who decide whether and how to act on it. If any of these steps is missing or performed poorly, the value of the CI is compromised or nonexistent.

  • CI is serviceoriented. Think of CI as a product and your organization's decision makers as clients. Part of the CI team's role is to find out the type of intelligence the organization's decision-makers need in order to gain a competitive edge.

  • CI seeks to capitalize on a constant succession of momentary advantages. Successful companies are agile. They respond quickly in order to capitalize on emerging opportunities and avoid potential pitfalls. They don't rely solely on what brought them success in the past.

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