How to Organize Competitive Intelligence Data for Analysis

A large collection of competitive intelligence data can quickly become unwieldy, regardless of whether you store it in a computer or a filing cabinet. As you begin to think about storing data, keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to be able to easily retrieve specific information whenever you or others happen to need it.

Always keep your customers — all the people who will be accessing and using that information later — at the forefront of your mind.

Strategic sector indeces

A few of the first categories to consider are strategic sectors and the critical success factors related to each sector. A strategic sector is a segment of the total market for a particular product; for example, if your company sells laptop computers, strategic sectors including business users, teachers, and college students.

Critical success factors comprise everything you need to do to satisfy the needs of any given strategic sector, as in the following examples:

  • Business users may need laptops that are more compact, weigh less, run a long time between charges, and are physically durable. They also need processing power, speed, storage, and connectivity so they can take everything they need with them on the road and remain in contact with their home office.

  • Teachers may be in the market for less-expensive alternatives that are easy to use and compatible with their school system’s current technology.

  • College students want something that looks cool and can access the college’s Wi-Fi, run basic applications, play games, store and display photos, and store and play music and video. They also want something that will last for at least four years.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that you need to segregate information according to each different strategic sector. Here’s how:

  1. List the various strategic sectors that represent the people who buy your products and services.

  2. For each strategic sector, list its critical success factors.

    Analyzing sectors based on critical success factors is important because it enables you to focus on the unique needs and demands of consumers in each sector; if the demands/needs are different, the offerings must be different. If you try to make a product that’s all things to all consumers, you could end up with dissatisfied groups.

  3. Consider combining strategic sectors that share the same or similar critical success factors; for example, business users and rocket scientists may comprise a single strategic sector for power users.

Indexing data by product

You probably already classify a lot of information by product, including sales data, production data, distribution details, and so on. Consider classifying other information by product, as well.

Compare information related to each product to find out which products are generating the most revenue, which are generating the least revenue, and why. These types of comparisons often serve as a starting point for competitive-analysis projects.

Competitor indexes

Although competitive intelligence isn’t restricted to competitor analysis, you should keep a dossier on each of your competitors so you know what they’re up to and what they’re planning. Here are just a few ways that having sufficient competitor intelligence can benefit the CI analysis:

  • Profiles of key leaders — their tendencies, characteristics, and history — can help you predict the direction their organization will take, especially when an industry is facing new challenges.

  • Knowing the financial health (or weaknesses) of competitors may indicate to you the firm’s ability or inability to engage in costly strategic initiatives.

  • Having a handle on your competitor’s product quality and market perception can provide important insights into how you can effectively exploit its weaknesses.

  • Early warning of new competitor strategic initiatives can help you formulate a strategic response before it’s too late.

Competitor information is often the most important from an operational standpoint. Understanding as much as possible about your competitors enables you to develop a list of most likely future moves by each competitor. This type of information can be invaluable to the strategic planning team.

Technology indexes

One of the most important aspects of competitive intelligence is determining which technology will emerge as the next standard. In most cases, companies can’t afford to invest heavily in all possible technologies for each different area, and nobody wants to do that even if they can afford it!

To save your organization a chunk of change, try to develop reliable (and predictive) inferences from competitive intelligence. When classifying data by technology, answer the following three questions:

  • What are the prevailing current technologies?

  • What are the weak signals telling you about future technologies?

  • Do your technology categories cover both present and emerging technologies? If not, they should.

Geographical market indexes

If you operate in different geographic markets, consider classifying information you gather according to the market it’s most pertinent to. Different geographical markets often vary significantly in terms of economy, ideology, politics, legislation, media, environment, and legal and regulatory factors. You need to take these differences into consideration when indexing data.

Customer indexes

If more than 5 percent of your organization’s revenues are from a single customer, you need to create a special category or subcategory for each customer that meets that criteria. In addition, CI should have an active intelligence-gathering initiative centered on those key customers.

10 forces indexes

Another way to index the information you collect is to create categories around the following ten forces:

  • Market

  • Technology

  • Economic conditions

  • Ideological forces

  • Political and governmental

  • Media

  • Psychological/social

  • Moral/ethical

  • Environmental

  • Legal/regulatory

Maintaining an active library around the ten forces is very important for assisting the corporate level executive team, especially if your organization can’t afford to hire an expert on each of the ten forces.

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