How to Enhance Competitive Intelligence’s Value Proposition and Image

Most organizations don’t have a value proposition for each of their internal functional units. (A value proposition simply states how the unit or department contributes to the organization’s ongoing success.) With CI, creating and living a value proposition can help the team serve the organization in a significant and meaningful way and earn the respect it deserves. Develop a value proposition for CI along the lines of the following example:

We will gather, analyze, and distribute meaningful, actionable intelligence to our internal constituencies by
  • Focusing foremost on serving our internal customers

  • Operating with integrity, transparency, and altruism (seeking the best for others in the organization)

  • Keeping our internal clients informed of unexpected, discontinuous events that may be developing in our future

  • Ensuring that our only goal is to be a trusted partner in helping our internal clients succeed

After establishing your value proposition, look for ways to enhance the CI team’s value proposition.

How to apply continuous improvement to the competitive intelligence function

Many Japanese companies operate according to a business philosophy they call kaizen, which means continuous improvement. CI should embrace and embody kaizen in the following ways:

  • Query internal clients regularly to identify their CI needs, any concerns they may have, and any competitor initiatives they’re aware of.

  • Continually upgrade intelligence analysis and methodologies. Continuing education is key. Active membership in Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), the organization for CI professionals, can help you keep abreast of developments in the profession.

  • Track changes and advances in internal and external analytics applications. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your technologies.

  • Use internal client questionnaires and brainstorming sessions to measure their perception and how much they value CI services.

As part of an integrated kaizen effort, the head of the CI team should follow up each intel briefing with the internal customer who’s been briefed to obtain the customer’s unvarnished impression of the intelligence that’s been delivered. Doing so continues the dialogue and enables the CI team leader to ask about other information needs.

How to enhance competitive intelligence services

Brainstorming with a mixed group of individuals from different areas of the organization is a great way to come up with ideas on how to more effectively serve your internal customers. Your brainstorming session should focus on identifying the next little things and the next big things that are likely to appear in the market or a specific sector.

The idea is to engage participants in an “over the horizon” exercise that will help you better serve them.

You can brainstorm through a questionnaire or online discussion, but results are usually better if you meet in person.

To conduct a brainstorming session, perform the following steps:

  1. Gather a group of internal customers (a mixed group representing different areas in your organization).

  2. List your organization’s major product offerings.

  3. Ask participants to envision what the next little thing in each product area is going to be.

    Have fun. Encourage participants to be creative and suggest ideas that are really out there. Consider drawing a mind map on a whiteboard to track the path of ideas or have participants come to the front to write their ideas.

    Leave enough room for summaries at the end of your discussions.

  4. At the end of the discussion, ask participants to summarize the group’s thinking with a list of conclusions or key points.

    Don’t just jot down the conclusions or key points as you see them. Your job as facilitator is to encourage participant interaction and lead the group to consensus.

  5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4, shifting the focus to identifying competitors and what they’re likely to introduce as their next little things.

  6. Repeat Steps 3 to 5, asking participants to give their thoughts about the next big thing in each area. Use the same exact format, discussing products first and then competitors.

  7. Conduct an out-of-the-blue exercise: Ask the group to discuss possible issues that could arise in reference to products and competitors that would surprise them.

    Ask participants to also consider potential competitors from other markets or sectors that may try to expand into your organization’s space.

  8. Wrap up the meeting, thank everyone for their contributions, and set them free.

  9. When you return to your office, create a mind map for each segment of the discussion and send a copy of the mind maps, including the group’s conclusions and comments, to each participant.

    You can draw a mind map in nearly any graphics program or even using Microsoft Word’s drawing tools. If you want something that’s more sophisticated and can perform some of the work for you, consider using a dedicated mind mapping software, such as XMind. You can find more information and download a shareware copy of the program on the website.

How to foster innovation in competitive intelligence offerings

CI is just as susceptible as other departments to experiencing stagnation and resistance to change. To keep members of the team sharp and foster innovation within the CI team, engage in the following activities:

  • Reward people who create or discover novel approaches to doing CI or approaching certain issues.

  • Create opportunities with other departments (such as information technology and the marketing department) that foster creative thinking and discovery.

  • Routinely move CI people out of CI to other departments for exposure to other disciplines. Use these opportunities to bring fresh perspectives back into the unit.

How to expand competitive intelligence awareness through bringing in personnel from other departments

Just as CI can benefit from rotating personnel into other departments, it can benefit from rotating personnel from other departments into CI to build awareness of what CI does and its value. Here are a couple ways to expand awareness of CI by involving more people in its operations:

  • Set up a program that brings key departmental personnel into short-term assignments in the CI department.

  • Develop a plan that involves rotating potential sponsors and internal customers into the sponsor group.

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