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How to Develop a Competitive Intelligence Information Repository

Before you start gathering competitive intelligence information, you need somewhere to put it — ideally, a secure, centralized database that enables anyone within the organization to input and extract information. What this somewhere looks like and where it resides varies according to your needs and budget, but it should meet the following requirements:

  • Ability to store and index different types of digital content, including text, images, audio, and video

  • Easily accessible for anyone in the organization to input or extract data

  • Ability to search and filter results depending on your intelligence needs

  • Secure against external threats from malware and malicious hackers

  • Ability to set user privileges, restrict access to certain information, and monitor users

What your information repository looks like varies according to the technologies you choose or have at your disposal. Here are a few options:

  • A searchable database: You can create a custom database by using any database program, such as Microsoft Access. In Access, you can input text documents, images, audio and video clips, PDFs, and more; and create retrieval tags to help find entries later. This is a great, cheap way for smaller organizations to create an information repository.

  • Data warehousing solutions: If your organization is large and comprised of many departments, each of which has a different system for entering and storing information, consider a more robust data warehousing solution.

    A data warehouse (DW or DWH) is a large central database that stores data from various sources and enables authorized personnel from anywhere in the organization to access the data, produce reports, and perform analysis. An added advantage of a data warehouse is that it increases security, enabling you to assign different levels of access to different people.

    Consider cloud-based (cloud computing) solutions, which provide easier access to data from anywhere in the world and are much less likely than any internal database solution to encounter storage limitations.

  • A filing system on a centralized computer or a folder on the organization’s network: Subfolders can be used to organize information by category.

  • An internal website with search capabilities: An internal website can provide the same search and retrieval functions as a standard website, while providing access only to authorized personnel.

The ideal solution for you will likely be born through a collaboration between CI and IT. Explain to IT what you need and work with them to evaluate the various options.

Plan ahead. Consider how the people in your organization are likely to access the information in the repository. In most cases, personnel are going to look for information on specific competitors, product segments, or competitive segments (such as country, region, or customer base).

How to enter competitive intelligence information into the system

When you receive information (content), you need to enter it into the system. The steps vary depending on the system you’re using. In some cases, you may enter everything into a database. In other cases, you may create a separate folder and save all related documents and information to that folder.

If your internal source hasn’t supplied you with a competitive intelligence briefing sheet, create one before you enter information into the system. This sheet contains the area of study, a summary of the information, a list of sources, any recommendations for action, and so forth. Your briefing sheet provides guidance on what you need to enter into the system.

How to categorize competitive intelligence information

One way to organize information to facilitate retrieval is to categorize it according to CI or department needs. For example, certain information may be more relevant to marketing or sales, whereas other information deals more with distribution or manufacturing.

If you’re using a database or website to organize your information repository, you can use field entries to categorize each entry. If you’re using a file system, you can create a separate folder for each category.

Another way to categorize entries is by which of the ten forces they pertain to. The ten forces are market, technology, economy, ideology, politics/government, media, psycho/social, moral/ethical, environment, and law/regulations.

When organizing data, consider how your clients (your internal CI customers) will retrieve and use it. In most cases, they’ll access the information repository to extract information related to the following:

  • Competitors

  • Product segments

  • Competitive segments (country, region, or customer base, for example)

How to tag competitive intelligence entries

In many systems, including databases and internal websites, you can tag entries with keywords to facilitate searches. In Microsoft Windows, for example, you can tag content that doesn’t contain text, such as images, audio, and video files, in such a way that Windows can index them. When you search Windows for a file, tagged entries appear along with indexed entries.

Likewise, in most content management systems (CMSs) that are used to manage web content, you can tag pages so they appear in the results when you search the site for specific content.

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