Competitive Intelligence / Market Research Glossary

Competitive Intelligence Glossary

Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) refers to skills, processes, technologies, applications and practices used to support decision making.

BI technologies provide historical, current, and predictive views of business operations. Common functions of Business Intelligence technologies are reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining, and predictive analytics.

Business Intelligence often aims to support better business decision-making. Thus a BI system can be called a decision support system (DSS). Though the term business intelligence is often used as a synonym for competitive intelligence, because they both support decision making, BI uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyze mostly internal, structured data and business processes while competitive intelligence, is done by gathering, analyzing and disseminating information with or without support from technology and applications, and focuses on all-source information and data (unstructured or structured), mostly external to, but also internal to a company, to support decision making.

Competitive Intelligence

A broad definition of competitive intelligence is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing Intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.

Key points of this definition:

  • Competitive intelligence is an ethical and legal business practice, as opposed to industrial espionage which is illegal.
  • The focus is on the external business environment.
  • There is a process involved in gathering information, converting it into intelligence and then utilizing this in business decision making. CI professionals emphasize that if the intelligence gathered is not usable (or actionable) then it is not intelligence.
A more focused definition of CI regards it as the organizational function responsible for the early identification of risks and opportunities in the market before they become obvious. Experts also call this process the early signal analysis. This definition focuses attention on the difference between dissemination of widely available factual information (such as market statistics, financial reports, newspaper clippings) performed by functions such as libraries and information centers, and competitive intelligence which is a perspective on developments and events aimed at yielding a competitive edge.

The term CI is often viewed as synonymous with competitor analysis, but competitive intelligence is more than analyzing competitors — it is about making the organization more competitive relative to its entire environment and stakeholders: customers, competitors, distributors, technologies, macro-economic data etc.

Competitive Positioning

Competitive positioning is about defining how you’ll “differentiate” your service or offering and create value for your market.  It’s about finding a unique spot in the competitive landscape and focusing your company to execute on that strategy.

Key strategy points includes:

  • Customer segments: groups of customers with similar wants & needs
  • Competitive analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the landscape
  • Market profile: size, competitors, stage of growth
  • Positioning strategy: how you’ll position your offering to focus on opportunities in the market
  • Value proposition: the type of value you’ll deliver to the market
When your market segment clearly sees how your offering is different than that of your competition, it’s easier to generate new prospects and guide them to buy. Without differentiation, it takes more time and money to show prospects why they should choose you; as a result, you often end up competing on price – a tough position to sustain over the long term.

Competitor Analysis

Competitor analysis in marketing and strategic management is an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors. This analysis provides both an offensive and defensive strategic context through which to identify opportunities and threats. Competitor profiling coalesces all of the relevant sources of competitor analysis into one framework in the support of efficient and effective strategy formulation, implementation, monitoring and adjustment.

Given that competitor analysis is an essential component of corporate strategy, it is argued that most firms do not conduct this type of analysis systematically enough. Instead, many enterprises operate on what is called “informal impressions, conjectures, and intuition gained through the tidbits of information about competitors every manager continually receives.” As a result, traditional environmental scanning places many firms at risk of dangerous competitive blind spots due to a lack of robust competitor analysis.

Data Mining

Data mining is the process of extracting patterns from data. Data mining is becoming an increasingly important tool to transform these data into information. It is commonly used in a wide range of profiling practices, such as marketing, surveillance, fraud detection and scientific discovery.

Data mining can be used to uncover patterns in data but is often carried out only on samples of data. The mining process will be ineffective if the samples are not a good representation of the larger body of data. Data mining cannot discover patterns that may be present in the larger body of data if those patterns are not present in the sample being "mined". Inability to find patterns may become a cause for some disputes between customers and service providers. Therefore data mining is not fool proof but may be useful if sufficiently representative data samples are collected. The discovery of a particular pattern in a particular set of data does not necessarily mean that a pattern is found elsewhere in the larger data from which that sample was drawn. An important part of the process is the verification and validation of patterns on other samples of data.

Due Diligence

Due Diligence is a term used for a number of concepts involving either the performance of an investigation of a business or person prior to signing of a contract, or the performance of an act with a certain standard of care. It can be a legal obligation, but the term will more commonly apply to voluntary investigations.

A common example of due diligence in various industries is the process through which a potential acquirer evaluates a target company or its assets for acquisition.

Independent Information Professional (IIP)

An Independent Information Professional (IIP)  provides a diverse range of services:

  • Business Research and Analysis - Business reports; competitor/company profiles and financials; scenario planning; financial, demographic and other projections; strategic and business analysis and planning.
  • Market and Industry Research and Analysis - Industry profiles; media scans; clipping services or RSS feeds on industries or competitors; collection, organization and filtering of data; environmental scans; patent literature analysis; policy tracking and analysis; technology scouting; economic development support.
  • Online Information Searching - News searches; commercial database literature searches.
  • Information/Knowledge Management - Information and knowledge management analysis and planning; document management systems; archive organization; wiki development; oral histories; information audits.
  • Writing, Editing and Document Creation - Writing customized reports, white papers, and proposals; editing documents; textbook fact checking; defining requirements.
  • Training and Consulting - Presentations or workshops on research techniques; consulting on information sources.
  • Library Setup and Maintenance - Assessing an organization's needs for a public or corporate library; space planning; collection development; cataloging; maintenance of the library's in-house collection.

Industrial Espionage

Industrial espionage or corporate espionage is espionage conducted for commercial purposes instead of national security purposes.

The term is distinct from legal and ethical activities such as examining corporate publications, websites, patent filings, and the like to determine the activities of a corporation (this is normally referred to as competitive intelligence). Theoretically the difference between espionage and legal information gathering is clear. In practice, it is sometimes quite difficult to tell the difference between legal and illegal methods. Especially if one starts to consider the ethical side of information gathering, the border becomes even more blurred and elusive of definition.

Industrial espionage describes activities such as theft of trade secrets, bribery, blackmail, and technological surveillance. As well as spying on commercial organizations, governments can also be targets of commercial espionage—for example, to determine the terms of a tender for a government contract so that another tenderer can underbid.  Industrial espionage is most commonly associated with technology-heavy industries, particularly the computer and automobile sectors.

Espionage takes place in many forms. In short, the purpose of espionage is to gather knowledge about (an) organization(s). A spy may be hired, or may work for oneself.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice.

An established discipline since 1991 (see Nonaka 1991), KM includes courses taught in the fields of business administration, information systems, management, and library and information sciences (Alavi & Leidner 1999). More recently, other fields have started contributing to KM research; these include information and media, computer science, public health, and public policy.

Many large companies and non-profit organizations have resources dedicated to internal KM efforts, often as a part of their 'business strategy', 'information technology', or 'human resource management' departments (Addicott, McGivern & Ferlie 2006). Several consulting companies also exist that provide strategy and advice regarding KM to these organizations.

KM efforts typically focus on organizational objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, integration and continuous improvement of the organization. KM efforts overlap with organizational learning, and may be distinguished from that by a greater focus on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and a focus on encouraging the sharing of knowledge. KM efforts can help individuals and groups to share valuable organizational insights, to reduce redundant work, to avoid reinventing the wheel per se, to reduce training time for new employees, to retain intellectual capital as employees turnover in an organization, and to adapt to changing environments and markets (McAdam & McCreedy 2000) (Thompson & Walsham 2004).

Market Intelligence

Market Intelligence (MI) is the information relevant to a company’s markets, gathered and analyzed specifically for the purpose of accurate and confident decision-making in determining market opportunity, market penetration strategy, and market development metrics.

Organizationally, Market Intelligence can be the name of the department that performs both the market intelligence and competitor analysis roles. Competitive Intelligence describes the broader discipline of researching, analyzing and formulating data and information from the entire competitive environment of any organization. Business Intelligence of any kind may also be their responsibility, in tandem with (or solely performed by) the Finance department, for measuring market share and setting growth targets, the Mergers & Acquisition group for exploring acquisition opportunities, the Legal department to protect the organization's assets or R&D for cross-company comparison of innovation trends and the discovery of opportunities through innovative differentiation.

Market Research

Market research is any organized effort to gather information about markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy.  The term is commonly interchanged with marketing research; however, expert practitioners may wish to draw a distinction, in that marketing research is concerned specifically about marketing processes, while market research is concerned specifically with markets.

Market research, as defined by the ICC/ESOMAR International Code on Market and Social Research, includes social and opinion research, [and] is the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or organizations using statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied social sciences to gain insight or support decision making.

Marketing Research

Marketing research is the systematic gathering, recording, and analysis of data about issues relating to marketing products and services. The term is commonly interchanged with market research; however, expert practitioners may wish to draw a distinction, in that market research is concerned specifically with markets, while marketing research is concerned specifically about marketing processes.

Marketing research is often partitioned into two sets of categorical pairs, either by target market:
   Consumer marketing research, and
   Business-to-business (B2B) marketing research
Or, alternatively, by methodological approach:
   Qualitative marketing research, and
   Quantitative marketing research
Consumer marketing research is a form of applied sociology that concentrates on understanding the preferences, attitudes, and behaviors of consumers in a market-based economy, and it aims to understand the effects and comparative success of marketing campaigns. The field of consumer marketing research as a statistical science was pioneered by Arthur Nielsen with the founding of the ACNielsen Company in 1923.
Thus, marketing research may also be described as the systematic and objective identification, collection, analysis, and dissemination of information for the purpose of assisting management in decision making related to the identification and solution of problems and opportunities in marketing. The goal of marketing research is to identify and assess how changing elements of the marketing mix impacts customer behavior.

Porter's Five Forces Analysis

Porter's five forces is a framework for the industry analysis and business strategy development developed by Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School in 1979. It uses concepts developing, Industrial Organization (IO) economics to derive five forces that determine the competitive intensity and therefore attractiveness of a market. Attractiveness in this context refers to the overall industry profitability. An "unattractive" industry is one where the combination of forces acts to drive down overall profitability. A very unattractive industry would be one approaching "pure competition".

Three of Porter's five forces refer to competition from external sources. The remainder are internal threats. It is useful to use Porter's five forces in conjunction with SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).

Porter referred to these forces as the micro environment, to contrast it with the more general term macro environment. They consist of those forces close to a company that affect its ability to serve its customers and make a profit. A change in any of the forces normally, requires a business unit to re-assess the marketplace given the overall change in industry information. The overall industry attractiveness does not imply that every firm in the industry will return the same profitability. Firms are able to apply their core competencies, business model or network to achieve a profit above the industry average. A clear example of this is the airline industry. As an industry, profitability is low and yet individual companies, by applying unique business models, have been able to make a return in excess of the industry average.

Porter's five forces include - three forces from 'horizontal' competition: threat of substitute products, the threat of established rivals, and the threat of new entrants; and two forces from 'vertical' competition: the bargaining power of suppliers and the bargaining power of customers.

This five forces analysis, is just one part of the complete Porter strategic models. The other elements are the value chain and the generic strategies.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics encompasses a variety of techniques from statistics, data mining and game theory that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about future events.

In business, predictive models exploit patterns found in historical and transactional data to identify risks and opportunities. Models capture relationships among many factors to allow assessment of risk or potential associated with a particular set of conditions, guiding decision making for candidate transactions.

Predictive analytics is used in financial services, insurance, telecommunications, retail, travel, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and other fields.

One of the most well-known applications is credit scoring, which is used throughout financial services. Scoring models process a customer’s credit history, loan application, customer data, etc., in order to rank-order individuals by their likelihood of making future credit payments on time.

Primary Research

Primary research (also called field research) involves the collection of data that does not already exist. This can be through numerous forms, including questionnaires and telephone interviews amongst others. This information may be collected in things like questionnaires and interviews .

The term is widely used in market research and competitive intelligence.

May be very expensive because many people need to be confronted.

By the time the research is complete it may be out of date.

People may have to be employed or avoid their primary duties for the duration of the research.

People may not reply if emails or letters are used.

Secondary Research

Secondary research (also known as desk research) involves the summary, collation and/or synthesis of existing research rather than primary research, where data is collected from, for example, research subjects or experiments.

The term is widely used in market research and in medical research. The principal methodology in medical secondary research is the systematic review, commonly using meta-analytic statistical techniques, although other methods of synthesis, like realist reviews and meta-narrative[1] reviews, have been developed in recent years.
Secondary research can come from either internal or external sources.

Social Marketing Intelligence

Social Marketing Intelligence is the method of extrapolating valuable information from social network interactions and large data flows that can enable companies for example; to launch new products and services into the market place at greater speed and at significantly lower cost. This is a very new area of research however, companies using social marketing intelligence have achieved drastic improvement in marketing campaigns.

Through Social Marketing Intelligence companies can identify the people that are the most influential within their communities. These are the most connecting and connected people within any given social network. According to Xtract these people, called the Alpha Users or Hubs, have considerable influence over the spread of information within their social network.

Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP)

The Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) is a global nonprofit membership organization designed to enhance the skills of knowledge professionals in order to help their companies. Its mission is to enhance the success of its members through leadership, education, advocacy, and networking or "lean." It is one of the only global membership organizations in the field of competitive intelligence, and provides the field's only regularly published academic journal (Journal of Competitive Intelligence and Management, previously the Competitive Intelligence Review) amongst its publications as well as a large single annual gathering of CI stakeholders at its annual international meeting and exposition.

SCIP provides education and networking opportunities for business professionals working in the field of competitive intelligence (the legal and ethical collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions of business competitors). Members are made up of four primary constituencies, including but not limited to corporate practitioners, consultants, vendor/suppliers, and academics. Corporate practitioners make up the largest percentage of the four groups.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective. The technique is credited to Albert Humphrey, who led a convention at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s using data from Fortune 500 companies.

A SWOT analysis must first start with defining a desired end state or objective. A SWOT analysis may be incorporated into the strategic planning model. Strategic Planning, including SWOT and SCAN analysis, has been the subject of much research.

  • Strengths: attributes of the person or company that are helpful to achieving the objective(s).
  • Weaknesses: attributes of the person or company that are harmful to achieving the objective(s).
  • Opportunities: external conditions that are helpful to achieving the objective(s).
  • Threats: external conditions which could do damage to the objective(s).

Identification of SWOTs is essential because subsequent steps in the process of planning for achievement of the selected objective may be derived from the SWOTs.

First, the decision makers have to determine whether the objective is attainable, given the SWOTs. If the objective is NOT attainable a different objective must be selected and the process repeated.

The SWOT analysis is often used in academia to highlight and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is particularly helpful in identifying areas for development.

Value Chain

The value chain, also known as value chain analysis, is a concept from business management that was first described and popularized by Michael Porter in his 1985 best-seller, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance.

A value chain is a chain of activities for a firm operating in a specific industry. The business unit is the appropriate level for construction a value chain, not the divisional level or corporate level. Products pass through all activities of the chain in order and at each activity the product gains some value. The chain of activities gives the products more added value than the sum of added values of all activities. It is important not to mix the concept of the value chain with the costs occurring throughout the activities. A diamond cutter can be used as an example of the difference. The cutting activity may have a low cost, but the activity adds much of the value to the end product, since a rough diamond is significantly less valuable than a cut diamond.

Typically, the described value chain and the documentation of processes, assessment and auditing of adherence to the process routines are at the core of the quality certification of the business, e.g. ISO 9001.

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