Episode 73: – 6 Essential Truths of Competitive Intelligence Collection and Analysis
During this podcast we cover the six essential truths of competitive intelligence collection and analysis:
- What someone thinks about the competitive intelligence collection and analysis effort is going to deeply impact how they go about conducting the effort.
- Intelligence failures do not come from a failure to connect A to B to C but from a failure to look at underlying trends, forces, and assumptions.
- Good analysis makes the complex comprehensible which is not the same thing as simple.
- There is no substitute for knowing the domain, industry, etc. that you are doing analysis on.
- Intelligence starts when we stop reporting on events and start explaining them.
- Managers of intelligence teams get the behavior they reward – reward explanation over simple reportage.
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Welcome to another episode of the B2B Market Research podcast. In this podcast episode, we’re going to actually return briefly to an article we mentioned a few podcast episodes ago. We’re going to talk this time about the six essential truths of competitive intelligence and intelligence work. Before we do that, I want to talk about a few brief programming notes.
First, if you want to find past episodes of this podcast, you can do that on iTunes, on Stitcher Radio, on TuneIn and you can also find them on our site at CascadeInsights.com/resources where you’ll also find some of our e-books, our blog posts and some other resources that we’ve made available in terms of free training and the like. If you also have any questions about this podcast, feel free to drop me a line at Sean@cascadeinsights.com. With that, let’s go ahead and get into the podcast.
The article that I’m referring to here is basically entitled “Forty Years of Competitive Intelligence” or “Intelligence Expertise Distilled.” It comes from the public sector. It’s actually available from the CIA Center for Intelligence Studies. I brought it up before talking about the first part of the article, that’s the Five Fundamental Truths of Intelligence Collection, which had a lot of really strong things to say. Now we’re going to talk about the six essential truths that the article goes into.
How does your thought process affect the mission?
The first is how one thinks about the mission affects deeply how one does the mission. I mean, the simple fact is, competitive intelligence is sometimes stymied in companies simply because leadership or peers that you relate to simply believe something about competitors that just can’t be surmounted even if what they believe is not based in fact. Fundamentally how one thinks about the mission is obviously going to affect it. This goes true for competitive intelligence teams themselves who can sometimes have blinders as to how a given competitor or given market condition may essentially represent itself eventually.
Where do intelligence failures come from?
Next, intelligence failures come from an inability to step back and think about underlying trends, forces and assumptions and not from failing to connect the dots. In other words, connecting the dots is actually almost just kind of a normal part of the job. A leads to B, B leads to C. The trick is really to look at the broader things, the things that aren’t as clear cut as A leads to B and B leads to C and show how those relate, how those impact the actual tapestry of decisions that you have to make.
Does good analysis make the complex simple? Not really…
Next, and this is one of my favorites. I use to actually use this with my MBA students. I use it a lot when I deliver training. Good analysis makes the complex comprehensible which is not the same thing as simple. You see this a lot of times with CI teams that drive to basically build the next battlecard and the next kill sheet and the next kind of pitch deck
If you’re in that mode that’s fine. I mean, organizations do need some of that, but the fact is if all of your CI efforts boil down to one pagers and half pagers and short newsletters and brief 10-page briefings, this is not going to necessarily answer or be able to help with all of the things that you’re facing. Sometimes things are simply complex, they’re not simple to describe and the trick is, you just simply have to make them comprehensible to decision makers. That’s why I think that’s such an important quote.
Where does good CI come from?
No substitute for knowing the domain. As I mentioned before on previous podcasts and we’ve talked about it in blog posts, the fact is good CI comes from a good solid, and I would say even really exceptional, understanding of the industry that that CI unit is operating in. If you don’t know the industry, I can really honestly I think make the case that the CI is going to be much weaker.
You really need to soak yourself in your industry. It’s one of the reasons we have a very clear focus on a given industry sector and the type of CI projects we take on because I just think it really helps make the CI that we do all that much better.
Are you reporting on events? Or explaining them?
Next, intelligence starts when we stop reporting on events in our area and we start explaining them. Again, reportage is one of these insidious things that happens to CI units. They focus so much on reportage. They write out newsletters and they do briefs and they kind of do communiques and they have these long e-mail chains where they’re kind of responding to questions from executives about what a competitor just did yesterday. That’s all reportage.
It’s not that it’s not important. Reportage, you have to report and you have to respond to real-world events. You don’t want to put yourself in an ivory tower but the fact is you have to focus on the explanation not just the reportage. It’s one of the easiest things to tune in your CI function is to look around and say, ‘How much of what we produce is really just reportage or commentary on what’s happening today and how much explaining are we doing? How much actual explaining are we doing that really can help a product development team build a better product or explain in depth how a competitor is driving their sales forward or really understand how a go-to-market strategy should be constructed to really take out that competitor or to gain a new market?’
Behavior drives reward.
Lastly, managers of intelligence analysts get the behavior they reward. This is kind of a corollary to the previous five in a lot of ways. If you keep telling your team, ‘Be really responsive. Be really quick. If the news happens, I want to have an e-mail go out about it as soon as we can.’ Well, you’re going to drift toward reportage.
If you focus so much on supporting sales teams over and over and over again, and deal support and that’s what you tell your team they need to do, you’re going to produce a lot of battlecards. You’re going to produce a lot of kill sheets. You’re going to support a lot of deals, but you’re not going to look at broader things. You’re not going to look at a competitive landscape. You’re not going to look at market forces and market trends because at the end of the day you have to look at both as a CI team. You’re looking for new opportunities and you’re also looking to better understand the competitors that you face so that you can attack them more effectively.
With that, I want to wrap up this podcast. Again, I highly recommend that you take a look at the article. You can also find a presentation we put together that pulls together a few other points from the article into one concise deck. It’s up on our Slideshare account and it’s also up on our blog.
Thanks again for listening and hope to have you along in the next podcast.