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Competitive Intelligence: How to Decide if You Have Enough Data

How much information is enough? There are hard and fast rules to determine how effective your research is for competitive question. To help you determine if you have enough data, here are three questions that can help you find the answer on your own.

To determine whether the information you have meets the minimum criteria for effective analysis, answer these three questions:

  • Have you identified the key areas of information related to the company or topic you’re investigating?

    For example, assume it’s 2013 and you want to gather information about where the cellular business is going. A search of the major competitors may be helpful, but a deeper dig into related technologies, especially those that are emerging in Japan and China, may provide you a lot more information about where that industry is really going.

  • Do you have sufficient breadth and depth of coverage on the topic you’re studying? Breadth and depth of research ensure that you consider issues related to your research focus:

    • Breadth: Cast a wide net to accommodate anything on the fringe that may be relevant. For example, if you’re researching tablet computers, looking at just tablets may not give you the correct information. What impact will cloud computing have on the use of tablets? What about the portable keyboards for tablets?

      Will tablets of the future work just like desktops of today? Will they use cloud-based software? Will computers with head-mounted displays, such as Google Glass, supplant the need for tablet computers and even smartphones? You need to start thinking about how consumers are likely to use computers in the future and what features they’ll consider most important.

    • Depth: To perform in-depth research, follow all the underlying trails that branch off from your primary focus area. As an example, think about nanotechnology (miniaturization) of computers. If you track it far enough and dig deep enough, you may find indications that nanotechnology is likely to fuel the development of a new product called the super tablet. This “deep dive” research yields the most accurate and valuable information.

    Don’t measure the volume of data in pages or words or the number of articles you find. Sometimes, the best surprises come in tiny packages — perhaps an off-the-cuff comment by a competitor’s CEO or rumors of an emerging technology.

  • Have you reached a point at which you’re encountering repetitive information on the key topics? At the beginning, the hunt for information is stimulating as you uncover valuable nuggets of new information. Near the end, though, you start to get the feeling of been there, done that.

    If your research continues to simply reinforce what you’ve already uncovered, your search is likely near its end because you probably found all the critical information related to the topic.

If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, you’re ready to move forward to consider whether your information is time relevant.

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