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How to Analyze Competitive Intelligence Information

In the world of competitive intelligence, analysis transforms raw information into knowledge and insight, shedding light on future action your organization must take in order to capitalize on opportunities and avoid potential threats and costly mistakes. No single method is best for conducting analysis. You need to master several strategies and techniques to fully exploit the value of the intelligence information you’ve gathered, including the following:

  • Triangulation: Test or challenge the validity of information you have against information from at least two other reliable sources. Be skeptical of whatever you read or hear.

  • See-mean-do (SMD) analysis: Describe what you see without reading anything into it, figure out what it means or the motive that’s driving a particular decision or action, and then figure out what your organization needs to do in response to the developing situation.

  • OODA loops: Observe information without reading anything into it, orient by assessing what the opponent’s motives or projected outcomes may be (based on what you’ve observed), decide how your organization should respond, act on that decision, and loop back to the beginning to continue to observe (monitor) the situation.

  • Weak-signal analysis: When ambiguous information (a weak signal) indicates the possible occurrence of a high-impact event, you need to engage your executive team, R&D, and marketing to assess the situation and obtain additional information.

  • When dealing with weak signals (ambiguity), interrogate the data: Ask who, what, where, when, why, and how questions to dig deeper and clear up any ambiguity.

  • Strong-signal analysis: When information clearly indicates the possibility of a high-impact event, you need to gauge the urgency of taking action and develop a suitable response.

  • Ten-forces analysis: Monitor the ten forces that tend to impact businesses to spot emerging opportunities and threats early enough to gain first-mover advantage.

  • War-game simulations: Create two or more teams to serve as competing firms and see how each team responds to an imaginary situation.

  • Scenarios: Imagine three or more possible outcomes, such as worst-case, expected-case, and best-case scenarios, and develop recommendations of how your organization should respond in each case.

  • CEO profiling: Examine your competitors’ CEOs carefully to gauge just how predictable their decisions and actions are and what direction they’re likely to go in any given situation.

  • Competitor profiling: Rate your organization and your competitors on a scale from 1 (least aggressive) to 5 (most aggressive) in the following seven categories to see how you stack up against your competitors and to predict how they’re likely to change over the next three years:

    • Marketing

    • Innovation

    • Management

    • Culture

    • Structure

    • Decision systems

    • Strategic planning

  • Market forecasting: Examine information in the context of the state of the industry or segment in which you’re operating; for example, an event that occurs in an emerging market may call for a much different course of action than the same event occurring in a mature or declining market.

Steer clear of traditional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, which tends to be present-focused and not future-focused. SWOT usually avoids or misses the complexity and velocity of change and can lead to highly flawed conclusions. For analysis to be useful, it must shed light on the future.

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