How to implement a successful competitive intelligence strategy in 5 steps

Sep 22 2015

Competitive intelligence, a strategic challenge for the company

In a global economy which is highly competitive and in a constant evolution, the competitive intelligence is a must have for any organization wanting to ensure its sustainability.

Investing time and money in a competitive intelligence strategy allows to:

  • Anticipate changes
  • Spot opportunities
  • Detect threats

Whether it concerns the size of the market and competition, the existing or emerging technologies, or even the consumer trends, investing in a competitive intelligence strategy may allow you to keep a head start, or avoid you being one step behind which could turn out to be fatal to your business.

Unfortunately, most of the time, the competitive intelligence activity is not done well because of the lack of resources and / or time and we usually consider that collecting information will suffice. But it's not enough. The competitive intelligence is "the observation and analysis of the environment followed by a well aimed broadcast of the information selected and treated, useful to the strategic decision making." (François Jakobiak) 

In fact, the competitive intelligence is valuable only if the raw information collected is enriched by several analysis, which are then synthesized, broadcasted and capitalized in order to help decision making. Untreated information makes your competitive intelligence practically useless, seeing as your work will be difficult to actually exploit.

Consider the competitive intelligence as a project

To succeed your competitive intelligence project, it is important to define its needs, objectives and priorities:

  • Why do it? 
  • For whom?
  • What are the channels?
  • How often?

If these points are not set correctly, then we risk collecting too much information. Information overload must be avoided at all costs. 

Prioritizing is important in order to facilitate the work of selection, organization and storage of information. Wanting to list everything is a bad practice because in most of cases it drifts the competitive intelligence project away from its original objectives.

5 steps for an efficient competitive intelligence

To set up a structured competitive intelligence activity, the following steps are recommended:

  • Select: Alerts, personal and professional social networks, RSS (possible via flow aggregators), tools such as Google News or search engines
  • Analyse and process: it is imperative to synthesize all the information in order to make it exploitable
  • Broadcast: the results should be communicated through newsletters or reports / summaries. A competitive intelligence is useless if no one is aware of its results.
  • Capitalize: centralize knowledge in knowledge bases in order to share it and make the most of it.
  • Evaluate: compare the results of the competitive intelligence with its initial objectives and make the required adjustments. Taking feedback from the teams about the results' usefulness is good practice. Keep in mind that the competitive intelligence is not only useful to the company, but also to the relevant teams within the organization.

People at the heart of the competitive intelligence strategy

Today, many solutions for the data collection automation (crawlers) are available. However, there are no automated solutions for data processing.

Indeed, the selecting, organizing and analyzing phases are mainly based on human skills: it is people that allow the enhancement of information by interpreting it and making it useful for the decision-making process.

To be able to capitalize the knowledge, it is important to integrate knowledge management in the competitive intelligence process:

  • Where to store the knowledge?
  • Who can manage the knowledge?
  • Who has access to the knowledge?
  • How to transfer/share the knowledge? With whom?

In order to allow the teams in charge of the competitive intelligence to work in optimal conditions and allow them to develop and share their work, you need the right tools.

The wiki, a key tool to capitalize on the competitive intelligence and to manage knowledge

A wiki is a software solution that proved its utility for the knowledge management through the famous Wikipedia, which no longer needs to be explained. 

In companies, the needs for a knowledge management are more demanding, more accurate and more structured than some mere articles. It is therefore necessary to identify the features that are essential to manage your competitive intelligence operationally:

  • Manage/Create knowledge with the ability to Edit/Modify/Save the content
  • Find information using a search engine (possibly multi-criteria), tag clouds, etc.
  • Store in a knowledge database
  • Share knowledge through sharing features on social networks, sending emails or exporting documents
  • Secure content by defining who has access to what (rights management)
  • Keep your employees up to date thanks to a notification system and alerts
  • Access information from anywhere, from any device
  • Exchange on different topics through comments, annotations, forum, FAQ
  • Integrate it into the existing tool through an open API, and compatibility with industry standards

XWiki Collaboration Suite (XCS) natively meets these needs.

Do not hesitate to contact the XWiki team to learn more about the competitive intelligence projects that we have implemented for our customers.

XCS is a tool for capitalization and visualization, adapted to most of the knowledge management needs for the competitive intelligence.