How to Position Competitive Intelligence as a Service Center
One of the best ways to convince anyone of the value of competitive intelligence is to prove it. Position CI as a service center, and then take steps to serve the decision makers in a way that improves their success. Here are several ways you can prove CI’s value:
Be a servant. Operate as an internal customer service center, where decision makers can go to have their questions answered and their concerns addressed. Make serving others in your organization your priority — don’t let your ego get in the way.
Stick to the facts. Present data and your analysis of it without developing an emotional attachment to any point of view.
Build strong collaborative relationships with the CEO and internal sponsors and customers. You earn allies, especially your internal customers, by helping them become more successful.
Being able to communicate openly and effectively with the CEO is most important. Just as internal audits generally flow through the CEO, you should route your intel through the CEO. Reporting directly to the CEO and having her sponsor CI’s work helps you circumvent power struggles and political issues.
Stay on top of changes. Keep abreast of the ever-changing needs of your internal customers — typically executives and managers who have the power to act on the intelligence you provide. Consider maintaining a watch or needs map and notifying your internal customers of any developments in areas they’ve asked the CI team to monitor.
Keep everyone in the loop. Distribute regular intelligence briefings to all personnel to increase awareness of key events in the industry or particular markets and to encourage personnel to share any information they discover with CI.
At the beginning of every year, create a contact/briefing calendar to remind yourself to keep your internal customers posted.
Act professionally. Be confident, firm, and professional — in other words, conduct yourself the way a trusted advisor should. Embrace and embody the values of unquestioned integrity, transparency, and altruism (seeking the best for others).
Don’t get caught up in political battles or power struggles. Always propose that internal customers communicate directly with each other (rather than through you) when addressing areas of potential conflict.
Share the accolades. Wherever possible, give public credit and recognition to people who help you do your job better, including other members of the CI team and individuals who share valuable information with the team.
Even if you succeed in positioning CI as a service center, CI faces several potential internal threats — namely the ones I present in the following list. An awareness of these threats improves your ability to avoid them.
Turf battles: CI and marketing may bump heads when their responsibilities overlap. A senior marketing manager may perceive CI as pulling personnel and other resources that should be allocated to the marketing department. Careful coordination between marketing and CI can help avoid this problem.
Additionally, CI may reveal weaknesses in someone’s pet project. If the person isn’t humble enough to accept the CI team’s input and implement changes to address its concerns, conflict may arise, not least of which is that certain individuals or departments may try to keep any future plans secret from CI.
Empire building: Empire building occurs when an individual attempts to achieve power by adding functions, such as CI, to his area of responsibility. It may dilute CI’s role and result in conflicted messages being sent to the CEO or other senior executives.
Downsizing: Organizations often target CI in their downsizing efforts, which is usually a big mistake, as explained in the nearby sidebar.