This is a transcript of the CI Life Podcast, Episode 34. If you’d rather listen to the podcast, click here.
Sean: Welcome to another episode of “CI Life.” In this episode, we are going to talk about something that the CI community talks about quite a bit. In essence we want to talk about developing the “What,” the “So What” and the “Now What” of your analysis.
With that, let’s talk at a high level about the three.
The “What” this is classic intelligence collection. What are my competitor’s doing? Where have they been? What do they have as assets?
Then you have to develop the “So What.” For example don’t just send in findings that paint a simple picture ala a SWOT analysis. Don’t send in spreadsheets. Do something meaningful with it. Paint a picture and crack the code on the competitor’s business efforts.
Then you get to the “Now What,” which a lot of people talk about however they tend to leave it as a fluffy little cloud. So lets break that down a little bit as well.
Scott: Yeah, definitely. Like you said, the “What” and the “So What” are important. Effectively developing the “So What” means that you are putting the data you have in context and explaining why it matters.
“Now What” is where things get more interesting and challenging. Unfortunately, competitive intelligence, as a discipline, at least historically, has been entirely focused on “What” and “So What” and has really said “Now What” isn’t our problem.
Sean: Let’s unpack that a little bit. Because I think it has to do with kind of where CI fits inside the organization, and sometimes even the archetypes of people who take on the role of leading a CI group.
Scott: Exactly. The general thought about CI is that it informs decision making. It’s a decision support function. It exists to raise the CI IQ of the organization. It raises the odds. But it doesn’t do that simply by presenting information. To a large degree, CI does that by also facilitating structured analysis. It facilitates the digestion of the information and the formation of tactics and strategies to do in response to what’s been learned.
Sean: Right. You need to take the analysis and make it stick to the organization. I don’t think anybody would disagree with us on this.
Scott: You get into things like Scenario Planning, Wargaming, even weighted ranking exercises. There are all kinds of simple things that can be done at the end of a readout again, whether the readout was produced by a vendor or produced internally to get people to digest it and start thinking about what to do with it.
Because here’s the interesting thing. I don’t care what company you are, you have unique advantages. By artifact of the choices you have made over years, things you can do that will be difficult or impossible the competitor either can’t or won’t copy.
You have assets they don’t. You’re differentiated in some way. The problem is a lot of times, people see what the competitor’s doing and the immediate reaction is just to follow it. We can do that too.
You can’t do everything. Think about…One of the most important things is to say OK, if they’re doing that, what can we do that they can’t?
Sean: Right, exactly. I think the other thing about is that not every readout should result in change. If it does it in essence means you have a little bit of a bias in the research or in your readout.
There should be times where you look at the landscape around you, or you look at adjacencies, and you say, I don’t really think we need to change right now.
The trick is to get to a point of decision. Otherwise, what you have is a bunch of data that just sits in inboxes and on internal web portals. Nobody makes a decision with it. Then you can’t evaluate the return on what you did, in terms of the research, and its associated effort. You basically can’t evaluate your ROI on the development of the “What” and the “So What.”
Scott: Yeah. It’s the trap that a lot of internal CI departments fall into. This is the death spiral, is when the CI department becomes a deliverable factory. Because the easiest thing for people to cut, when they’re looking for something to cut, is a deliverable factory that for all they can tell, is just producing shelfware. It’s producing updated competitor profiles. It’s producing this document and that document.
They have an SLA. They update their docs every quarter, blah, blah, blah.
Sean: Also it’s OK to have a factory. It’s OK to have a processing plant. It’s okay to create better process around how you develop intelligence assets. That just means you’re being efficient. But you have to be able to take different paths on the front end when it comes to thinking about why you are doing what your doing.
However most people get so focused on building the machine around the What style of analysis that they never really think well, honestly, the place to build the machine is around the “Now What” of analysis.
Scott: Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. The place to build the machine is around the “Now What”. Facilitating decision making, facilitating structured thinking, facilitating analysis, facilitating strategy formation. The deliverables are just an input to that. You produce what you need, when you need it.
Sean: They almost fall out of the process you know what you need. That’s how that plays out. I think we both probably want to say more on this, but I have a feeling we’re probably out of time.
Scott: Yeah. With that, we should let people back to their day. [music]
Sean: Thanks for listening, everybody. We hope to have you along on the next podcast.
By Sean Campbell
By Scott Swigart