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Preparing for the New Normal: Use Expert Techniques for Upskilling Your Competitive Intelligence to Map Out a Winning Strategy

September 04, 2020

Earlier this year, Forbes wrote, “Building a strategy without competitive intelligence is like planning a road trip without a map. You might eventually reach the destination, but it will be much more difficult.” Then, the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Now, as companies navigate a business landscape that has been indelibly altered, the visibility you gain from solid competitive intelligence research will be even more critical. Recently we put together an upskilling checklist to help you optimize your approach to gathering competitive intelligence so you can deliver the valuable insights your organization needs to stay on a path to growth, even during challenging times.

Make your competitive intelligence count

Often, companies respond to economic uncertainty by tightening their proverbial belts. Now, with budgets under scrutiny due to the economic decline resulting from COVID-19, CI practitioners must prepare to prove it or lose it. How do you assess the ROI gained from effective competitive intelligence?

According to The Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business, “Improvement in intelligence flows in the organization is positively related to improving agility.” The white paper goes on to say, “The underlying assumption for this approach to ROI is that the most significant direct value derived from an effective CI program is the ability of companies to adapt faster and earlier to changing market conditions. In a world where change can be devastatingly quick, this is an essential quality of effective management.”

It’s clear that as the global pandemic continues to play out, companies will need greater agility than ever now and in the future. That’s where CI best practices and upskilling techniques can help. We partnered with Jinfo, experts in information solutions and strategies, to create a simple tool to upskill your CI. Our checklist covers four areas:

  1. Know your client—Whether you’re gathering competitive intelligence for internal stakeholders or for customers, you need clear direction. Avoid assuming you know the “why” behind a request. Instead, get a clear picture of who is asking the questions and how the answers will help them make decisions that lead to growth.
  1. Know your sources— Identify the types of sources you need to fill in intelligence gaps. Our checklist looks at best practices for managing free sources, subscription sources, and human intelligence so you can find critical information that you can have confidence in.
  1. Know your process—Your approach to collecting competitive intelligence likely follows one or more familiar frameworks, like using SWOT analysis to identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats posed by competitors or using Porter’s Five Forces to analyze the competitive structure of an industry. Whichever process you use, aim for continuous improvements based on past learnings.
  1. Know your stuff—Competitive intelligence research is just the start. You also need to manage analysis and deliver actionable information to your clients to realize measurable value from CI. That means adopting analytics tools and customizing how you share information to meet the unique needs and expectations of various stakeholders. The C-suite may prefer a high-level overview with data visualization to make the information quickly digestible. Marketing or product innovation teams, however, may want more detailed reports. Either way, you’ll need to tell a compelling story to engage your audience and drive the awareness needed to stay agile and ahead of the competition.

You’re heading into a new future. Make sure you have the tools and skills needed to capture the competitive intelligence you’ll need to reach your business goals despite the unfamiliar surroundings.