Intelligence is information that is actionable. When it comes to business, intelligence consists of any actionable information that provides organizations with a competitive advantage, and is thus called competitive intelligence. Competitive intelligence can be anything an organization needs to stay updated on the changing market conditions. It could also be anything that lets them keep a close watch on their competitors and outmaneuver them. For example, fundraising by prospects, management changes at key accounts, new competing products, and other macro industry trends.
The problem with most organizations isn’t that they’re not collecting enough intelligence, but the fact that it remains siloed in only a few departments, and isn’t used by the whole organization as it should be. In fact, more than 50% of organizations don’t leverage the competitive intelligence that they collect in their strategic decision-making. This usually happens when an organization lacks a competitive intelligence process, and thus, there is no culture of knowledge sharing in the organization. In the current environment when innovation and technology are disrupting almost all markets, the lack of competitive intelligence culture can be quite detrimental for an organization.
In this article, let us discuss how organizations can build a culture of competitive intelligence, and why it is important in modern times.
What does a “culture of competitive intelligence” mean?
Well, if you take a look at global organizations that actually have a competitive intelligence culture, you’ll find that they actually have competitive intelligence (CI) embedded in their day to day operations. They have a proper competitive intelligence department or function, with a well-defined CI process. This CI department ensures that the entire organization plays a role in the CI process, and that each function reaps the benefits of competitive intelligence, be it Sales, Marketing, Product, Leadership or any other. The CI department shares intelligence with various departments in the form of newsletters, reports and alerts, and also encourages each individual employee to actively seek out intelligence and share it with the organization. They promote conversations around how the company can be more market intelligent. This is what a culture of competitive intelligence means.
CI professionals understand that competitive intelligence is a process which requires the collective effort of the whole organization, and that is what they try to facilitate by creating a CI culture. A CI culture provides the environment, and processes to enable individuals across the organization to effectively share intelligence, often leveraging technology in the process, like a competitive intelligence platform or tool. CI tools usually have features that enable collaboration between different functions, such as the ability to leave comments on CI deliverables like newsletters, reports, etc.
Now let us understand the components of a competitive intelligence culture, i.e. what makes up a competitively intelligent organization.
The components of a competitive intelligence culture
What makes up a CI culture in an organization? Simply put, a process or a methodology, the people or employees of an organization, and an advanced market and competitive intelligence tool or platform. Another important factor for the success of a competitive intelligence culture in an organization is, of course, how proactively the leadership are supporting the CI efforts. Without constant support and encouragement from the leadership, it can be very difficult to develop an organization into a competitively intelligent one. Anyway, let us discuss these components in a little more detail.
As mentioned before, the common problem with a number of organizations isn't the collection of intelligence. It’s that the intelligence is gathered across the organization on an individual or functional level only, and not shared or deposited in a kind of centralized repository where stakeholders from every function can utilize it as and when needed. Another thing that organizations lack is something that enables collaboration and discussion around intelligence, ideally a CI tool. A CI process should ideally go like this:
- Identifying the competition
- Gathering the information
- Performing a competitive analysis
- Sharing the intelligence
- Turning the insights into action
Out of these 5 steps, the 4th and 5th steps are often missed, which leads to a fragmented or incomplete competitive intelligence process. In order to remedy this, coordinated training needs to be provided across the organization, to ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. A CI tool can decrease manual effort, and enable sharing of intelligence from the tool itself. It can also help graphically visualize data, which can help with identifying trends, patterns and insights, and acting on them. Following a well-defined CI process or methodology is the first component to building a CI culture in an organization.
An organization is nothing without the people that run it. In fact, the most important component of building a culture of competitive intelligence in an organization is to inculcate a sense of responsibility in the individuals that form the organization. Let the employees spread across different functions, levels, and geographies of the organization own and drive this cultural shift. Often the best way to do that is to demonstrate to the employees how a CI culture is going to help grow the organization, but also them on an individual level. Show the key stakeholders how CI can help them win their daily battles.
It’s always better to start with a function that is most responsive to the CI culture - like Sales - as they understand the importance of intelligence the most, and then move on to other functions. Then, break down other departmental silos and develop a spirit of collaboration across the organization. Slowly and steadily, you’ll notice departments working together and sharing intelligence like clockwork.
3. A CI Tool/Software/Platform
We live in an age of technology, where most innovation is driven by the arrival of advanced technologies. The field of market and competitive intelligence is no different. A competitive intelligence tool or software like Contify saves a lot of time and effort that would otherwise be spent manually collecting intelligence. In addition, it provides a centralized repository to organize intelligence in one place, where it can be accessed by stakeholders across different departments. It also acts as a collaboration tool, allowing stakeholders to share information with each other. Thus, a CI tool or software is a very important component in building a CI culture in an organization these days.
How a CI culture benefits all the stakeholders in an organization
Once a CI culture is well-established in an organization, you’ll observe an easily visible, and positive change in each of your functional processes. In fact, you’ll observe a change even as you implement the initial steps. Here’s the impact you can expect across different functions:
- Sales teams will be able to achieve higher win rates, close more deals, and be more confident, as their battlecards are backed by actionable insights.
- Marketing teams will be able to create compelling marketing messaging and create powerful campaigns that differentiate you from the competition and drive pipeline for sales. Overall, you’ll see a higher marketing performance as each member of the team is now much more informed than before.
- Product teams will use competitive intelligence to improve decision-making on the product roadmap, and build superior products, being better informed of the market and competitive landscape.
- The Leadership will be much better informed of any major market shifts in the future, which will help inform their decision-making when building strategy, and providing direction to the organization.
These are just a few examples of how a CI culture will help various functions of an organization. The real possibilities are endless, and depend on how well you integrate this culture into your organization.
Building a culture of competitive intelligence in your organization is no easy task, however, it very much is necessary to sustain your position and growth in these increasingly competitive markets. It does call for a lot of investment of time, effort and money, but the return is well worth it. Not only that, with more and more organizations adopting the CI culture, its lack could be quite disadvantageous for you down the road.
Convince the leadership to invest in a proven competitive intelligence process or methodology, get your organization’s employees the training they need to work effectively with CI, and leverage a CI tool or platform to expedite your CI efforts. With these steps you’ll soon be on your way to building a competitive intelligence culture that provides a lasting competitive advantage to your organization.