How to Get Competitive Intelligence Information from Executive and Manufacturing Teams
One of each department's job duties should be to gather relevant information and pass it along to competitive intelligence. After all, intelligence is a team sport, and every department represents a key player on that team. However, the type of information that each of those players collects and passes along to CI is likely to differ.
To be sure that CI is getting the information it needs, every department must have a clear understanding of the intelligence activities it must engage in.
How to get competitive intelligence from executives
All executives in your organization have a role to play in CI. If nothing else, each executive should be happy to provide you with a five-minute debriefing on a monthly or quarterly basis. Here are just a few ways the executives of the company can help with the CI effort:
The CEO often has the only access to special briefings, reports, or conferences where industry or technology trends are discussed, so a briefing from the CEO to the CI group can be invaluable.
The CFO can be a resource when it comes to economic, competitor, or industry trends that often include CI.
The CTO (chief technology officer) often receives information from technology providers that deal with emerging or future technologies.
Every C-level executive, such as the chief marketing officer (CMO), has access to associations that focus on competitive issues that may be emerging in the industry.
What all these people have is a wealth of information, and it's the CI unit's goal to mine that data.
During your debriefings, listen closely and try to identify questions or problems that the executive is struggling with and that CI may be able to answer or solve. By helping to answer those questions or solve those problems, you demonstrate CI's value and earn future cooperation and support.
Inviting manufacturing to the intel party
Your organization's manufacturing department may be a valuable source of information related to suppliers, technology, processes, and even the competition:
Suppliers: Manufacturing should be constantly searching for new suppliers to lower costs and improve efficiency and reliability. They should also be constantly monitoring current suppliers for signs of any problems, such as financial troubles that could force a key supplier out of business or a supplier becoming an acquisition target for a competing company.
Technology: Marketing personnel need to monitor emerging technologies for innovations that may lower costs or improve quality and efficiency.
Vendor or supplier sales reps are often valuable resources for the latest information on emerging technologies. In an effort to sell the latest equipment, sales reps are often eager to tell customers about what competitors are buying or doing; it's a sort of "keeping up with the Joneses" approach to selling products.
Processes: Changes in processes may improve efficiency, lower costs, reduce waste, and perhaps even help your company save money by adhering to certain regulations. Decision makers in manufacturing need to stay abreast of any changes in the industry that could improve processes.
Competitors: Vendor or supplier sales reps often know a lot about what the competition is up to regarding future products, credit problems, and other issues.
People in manufacturing may not realize how strategically significant the information they have really is. Encourage them to pass their information and insights along to the CI team.
If vendors talk freely about your competitors to you, they'll talk about you to your competitors, as well. Remind the manufacturing department not to share sensitive information with suppliers or vendors who may pass the information along to competitors.