Introduction (Toni Wilson – Chair, SLA CI Division)
By popular demand, members of SLA’s CI Division are again blogging for the FR365 effort during the week of September 26, focused specifically on competitive intelligence processes and applications. We are delighted to provide content and an understanding that will help the FR365 audience understand what CI is and how it can be applied to add value across organizations. Helping ourselves and our organizations become future ready is the ultimate value delivered by a productive and successful competitive intelligence program. We hope you will enjoy and apply some of the concepts and practices we share with you during CI Week.
by Toni Wilson, Cincinnati Chapter, Competitive Intelligence Division
A common message mentioned during nearly every CI Division session at this year’s SLA conference was that competitive intelligence is not about our organization’s competitors, but about keeping our organizations competitive. This is an important clarification, but what does it really mean in practice? A couple of topics, to which we can and should apply our CI process, can have the effect of changing a marketplace as a whole – ultimately impacting our organizations and our existing competitors in the future.
One important topic on which we should focus as part of a CI effort is the role of changing technologies. Consider the role of streaming technology and its effect on cable and satellite TV services providers, as a current example. Huge numbers of individuals and families are cancelling their traditional cable or satellite services to depend on online streaming services for entertainment and/or invest in tools that make the process more convenient (I’m personally a fan of Roku). I’m not aware of the statistics, but this trend must be having an enormous effect on the providers of the traditional services. If these emerging technologies are not an immediate threat to these businesses, they likely will be in the future. Did they see this coming? Maybe…if they were future-looking and their CI functions were focused on the emergence of the streaming technologies, in addition to the activities of their established competitors. If not, they must be struggling to respond to these marketplace changes, which certainly impacts their respective abilities to compete successfully. I’d rather be the intelligence practitioner who brought this trend to the attention of my decision makers years ago than the individual forced to explain why revenues are being eroded today.
Competitive intelligence can also help identify opportunities for organizations, in addition to future threats. An obvious example includes the government legislation and regulations that have been created around the demand for environmental protection and the popularity of sustainability. Related laws were developed over a period of time – a focused CI process could easily identify opportunities for new products and services by using published bill- and regulation-tracking information, among other sources. The laws have impacted a number of industries, the most successful of which identified the related opportunities early and created and executed plans to take advantage of them.
While I’m certainly not recommending this, it’s possible that if the only thing we accomplish is to help our organizations understand the technologies and legal or political trends impacting their ability to compete successfully in the future – even if we don’t focus on individual competitors – we will be successful in adding value and making a real and lasting difference into the future.
Toni Wilson is the principal consultant at MarketSmart Research Services. She is an experienced competitive intelligence practitioner, having performed hundreds of projects over the past 20+ years, in a variety of industries and throughout the world. Prior to establishing MarketSmart Research in 2000, Toni was a corporate intelligence professional at LexisNexis for more than a dozen years. She is an expert in sources, tools and techniques for intelligence collection, and frequently speaks to groups and coaches individuals regarding the CI process. Toni is a volunteer leader, prolific author, enthusiastic mentor and professional award winner. She is the current chair of SLA’s Competitive Intelligence Division.