How to Create a Competitive Intelligence War Room - dummies

How to Create a Competitive Intelligence War Room

By James D. Underwood

A competitive intelligence war room serves a similar purpose to war rooms like those depicted in old war movies, but it looks a little different — more like a conference room. Rather than maps of the battlefield, your intelligence war room probably has a whiteboard and a projector screen for presentations. However you choose to furnish it, your intelligence war room serves two primary purposes:

  • It’s a central location for key players to meet to discuss urgent events and formulate strategic plans.

  • It’s a kiosk for intel and related information.

How to set up a physical facility for competitive intelligence

A conference room or similar space is ideal for use as an intelligence war room. It just needs the following furnishings:

  • A conference table and chairs so people can sit around and bounce ideas off of one another

  • One or more computers and filing cabinets for storing and accessing your organization’s intel. If you use digital storage (and you should), you can use

    • Local or network database storage

    • Secure, cloud-based storage of all information at a remote service facility (numerous companies operate highly secure server operations where a company can store and access its critical information)

    Digitize any critical physical data (paperwork, photos, audio and video recordings, and so on) and back up digital data at a different location so you can recover it in the event of a fire or other disaster.

  • Videoconferencing and document-sharing capabilities to consult with offsite experts

  • Back-up communications capabilities in the event of local power outages

  • A whiteboard

  • A projector and screen for presentations

Unlike a standard conference room, your war room must be secure to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive intelligence. If you can’t keep the door locked, at least encrypt and password-protect the information and keep any filing cabinets locked. Also, make sure that at least two people have access to the information, just in case something happens to one of them.

How to create a virtual competitive intelligence war room

Even if your organization has a physical war room, it also needs a virtual war room — an online version where the CI team and decision makers can meet even when they’re on the road or working from remote locations. With rare exception, executives are frequent travelers, and in many cases, they may not even have a physical office at the firm’s home base.

Except for the conference room, table, chairs, and filing cabinets, your virtual war room needs the same amenities as its physical counterpart: secure storage (and a remote backup) of intel that’s accessible for everyone involved, videoconferencing and document-sharing capabilities, backup communications, a virtual whiteboard, and a way to deliver and share presentations.

How to populate your competitive intelligence war room with resources

No war room is complete without a collection of white papers about key issues and profiles of competitors and their CEOs.

In addition to getting your hands on relevant published white papers, for key issues that are of critical importance to your organization, you should also compose white papers that organize and summarize all the intelligence related to those issues. A solid white paper includes the following:

  • An introductory abstract of the material in the paper

  • An organized discussion of the key elements of the issue

  • A summary and conclusion that reveals the most probable outcomes (if they can be determined) or any specific developments that may indicate a need for urgency or further study

White papers serve a number of purposes. Most important, the CI author of the paper may be able to bring a much higher level of analysis to the overall research. Second, because a white paper is a synthesis of many articles in most cases, a 5- to 15-page summary of all resources can be invaluable to a time-constrained executive who has little time to make a decision.