Developing a competitive intelligence system that’s both efficient and inclusive can be difficult. You want to provide timely, useful information to as many users as possible, but at the same time, allowing too many people free access to your CI system can quickly lead to issues. To find the best method, it’s important to take into account your company’s existing CI culture, resources, and needs.
Here are three models successful businesses use to manage and distribute competitive intelligence:
Open to all: With this approach, anyone and everyone who uses competitive intelligence has access to the complete CI process, from data collection to curation. Users may want to create their own personalized briefings or dashboards that focus more narrowly on their interests, and they’re free to do so within this model. For instance, members of the sales team might create specific distribution lists for different regions or product lines, excluding information that’s irrelevant to their area or specialty. This approach has the advantage of fostering widespread investment in competitive intelligence, since users are literally taking a hands-on approach to harnessing and manipulating the data that’s gathered.
One downside to giving everyone access is that some users will naturally take ownership of the process, while others may not be so eager to manage their own dashboard. To combat this, companies should invest in an appropriate level of training that takes into account different users’ needs and skills. There should also be some ongoing oversight in the form of a CI manager or analyst, so that users know where to turn if they have technical feedback or questions.
Restricted access: On the other end of the spectrum, there are many companies that manage competitive intelligence through one central person or team. The intelligence manager is usually an expert in intelligence analysis, market research, product research, or another adjacent field that gives them insight into how to harness and distribute intelligence data effectively. This approach ensures that data collection and curation is being handled by a qualified professional, ideally using an automated process to ensure complete, accurate results
Other CI users are dependent on the CI manager or team to keep them up-to-date, and requests to customize the frequency or content of the updates they receive are handled by the manager. In a large organization, this can lead to delays and briefings full of largely irrelevant information. Implementing an easy-to-use feedback system cuts down on this issue, as does using automated collection and distribution software, so that the CI manager’s time isn’t wasted handling low-value, redundant tasks.
Select users: For businesses in search of a happy medium, the best option may be a hybrid system, wherein access to the competitive intelligence process is limited to a few key “power users” who manage the intelligence needs of their own department or business unit. Each stakeholder is empowered to analyze and distribute information as they see fit, and they’re also responsible for responding to user feedback and each team’s changing CI needs. In this model, the overall competitive intelligence manager is responsible for supporting the process technically or financially, not for the content gathered or how it’s used.
In some ways, this model offers the best of both worlds, by combining specialized oversight with company-wide CI investment. However, inconsistent management across departments can lead to inconsistent results, with some teams getting sub-par intelligence from an overly busy (or under-qualified) CI stakeholder.
Regardless of the method you choose, automation can take the burden of data collection and curation off of your intelligence team or manager, freeing them up to perform more high-value tasks. If you're interested in learning more about how to automate your competitive intelligence process, contact CI Radar today.