10 Questions to Help You Assess Competitive Intelligence Effectiveness - dummies

10 Questions to Help You Assess Competitive Intelligence Effectiveness

By James D. Underwood

Auditing competitive intelligence is an ongoing process with the ultimate goal of achieving and maintaining best-in-class CI capabilities. Below are 10 questions that you need to consider when gauging how effective and efficient your CI program really is.

Do your leaders have a healthy case of intuitive paranoia?

Intuitive paranoia is a sixth sense that enables an individual to immediately recognize potential threats without having to gather a bunch of information and analyze it. If your organization’s leaders aren’t intuitively paranoid, they should be.

Although the definition of paranoia technically refers to an irrational and unsubstantiated fear of being harmed, not being afraid of threats in an ever-changing competitive environment is truly irrational. Your organization needs to continually adapt to changes in the industry or in specific markets — or else suffer certain extinction.

Intuitive paranoia keeps everyone on their toes and on the lookout for opportunities and threats.

Has management adopted a momentary-advantage mindset?

There are two types of organizations: those that adopt a momentary-advantage mindset and those that attempt to build a strategy based on their historic competitive advantage — what they’ve always done well and succeeded at doing.

For CI to be successful, decision makers need to adopt the momentary-advantage mindset, which is an awareness that the playing field is in a constant state of change that continually produces new opportunities and threats. They need to lead the organization to take advantage of opportunities and respond to potential threats in ways that increase profits and market share incrementally.

Are you confident in the quantity, quality, and depth of your data?

In CI, if you start with insufficient or inaccurate data, you’re probably going to end up drawing faulty conclusions.

Before moving from data collection to analysis, you need to be confident that your data is valuable in relation to the following qualities:

  • Quantity: Do you have a sufficient amount of data to analyze? If you’re not confident that you can draw accurate conclusions from the data, you need to do additional research.

  • Accuracy: Triangulate to verify the data you have against at least two other reliable sources.

  • Breadth: Cast a wide net to catch anything on the fringe of an issue that may impact it.

  • Depth: Interrogate the data to make sure that you’ve investigated all relevant factors.

  • Time relevance: Is your data future focused? Does it enable you to predict an opportunity or threat far enough into the future to capitalize on the opportunity or avoid the threat?

  • Clarity: How certain are you of the conclusions you’ve reached? If clarity is low, you’re dealing with ambiguity, which requires additional research and perhaps more time to clarify.

Do your intelligence analysts have the right stuff?

Although skilled analysts may seem to have psychic powers, they actually have a combination of innate abilities and training that uniquely qualifies them to conduct analysis. To ensure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck from your analysts, make sure they exhibit the following qualities:

  • Natural curiosity

  • Hypervigilance

  • Tendency to notice things in information that others overlook

  • Ability to see the big picture as well as the details

  • Skeptical attitude toward information

  • Capacity for skimming large volumes of information

  • Logic and critical thinking

Is competitive intelligence systematic?

Although CI is valuable for answering a specific question, solving a problem, or double-checking whether a certain decision is best, it’s more valuable when it’s continuous and systematic. CI is a continuous four-step process:

  1. Planning

  2. Gathering

  3. Analyzing

  4. Executing

All four steps are essential, but Step 4 seems the most difficult because people tend to be change averse.

Is competitive intelligence future focused?

Companies often get bogged down in sales numbers, profit estimates, and a host of other data that’s historical or focused on present conditions. None of this data is of much use in formulating a strategy that’s likely to lead to success one to three years down the road.

Do senior managers test their conclusions?

Executives and senior managers are often driven more by ego or emotion than by fact and reason. Organizations that embrace humility rarely encounter problems in this area, because leaders actively seek out input and insight from others and test their conclusions against reality.

Is your competitive intelligence team adept at predicting future outcomes from foggy data?

Often you pick up weak signals that provide only a foggy glimpse of what may be an opportunity or threat. These weak, ambiguous signals are what really test your CI team’s predictive prowess.

To transform weak signals into strong signals, interrogate the data and follow your leads.

Do you have solid competitive intelligence support from executives and managers?

Three of the four stages of the CI process require support from executives and managers — planning, gathering, and executing. Without leadership support, you may not get all the information you need to conduct analysis, and you won’t have the support you need to put your intel in action. In short, before you try to engage in any heavy-duty CI, get some influential leaders on board.

Is your CEO active and visible in supporting the competitive intelligence mission and team?

The CEO has the power and visibility to engage everyone in the organization in CI activities and to drive the engine of change in the direction that CI points. If your CEO also serves as your CIO (chief intelligence officer), CI’s achievements can far surpass anything it can possibly accomplish without the backing of the CEO.

The CEO doesn’t necessarily make or break the CI team’s efforts. If the CI team has at least one (preferably more) influential champion throughout the organization, it can still succeed, with or without support from the CEO.

Having one or more senior managers sponsoring the CI team is key to establishing continued success if the current CEO departs for whatever reason; these sponsors can sing the CI team’s praises to the next CEO.