Washington Brief

Communication Links, Inc.

“The health of a people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend.”
Benjamin Disraeli

Competitive Intelligence - Huh!

Washington, DC. Mar. 14th, 2005 ---- It surprises me that companies, some Fortune 100 companies claim to be innovative users of Competitive Intelligence to steer their corporations through the minefields of modern commerce. They gladly profess their expertise in surveys galore, and send their people to preach to the converted at conferences ad nauseam. Well they must also be very good at camouflage and deception for many around New Jersey and New York are definitely not practicing what they preach.

Competitive Intelligence is very akin, despite what the Boston Liberals would have you believe, to military intelligence. It is knowing what's going on around you, where your enemy is, what they are doing, when, with what. It doesn't matter if you don't know the latest buzzwords that make you appear smarter than the average roadkill.

"Thought Leadership" does not replace actual intelligence, nor does "To that End", "Moving Forward" or the other cute buzzwords the pretty young executives throw around like confetti. Information is not Intelligence, neither is data.

Customer feelings, matrix and metrics are good sales forecasting tools, but don't mean diddly if the competition is about to blow you out of the water with a new product or process that makes yours obsolete, or outlandishly expensive. You can mine data and scan accounts software till the Cows come home, it won't end your demise. You should have been watching the field and order of battle, not the Quartermasters Stores.

But the desire to get a pill to fix a problem is so much a part of the American way of life that software developers like to have you believe that a software package that counts the number of widgets sold, and if the customer preferred red or green will guarantee the company being around in the next decade.

One software executive several months ago was very vocal about launching a new service which his consultants had assured him would be a killer in the marketplace and metrics showed it would triple the earnings of his company. They of course had moved on to other clients since that prediction. The young bright consultants, straight from college with their MBA's had no link to Washington, or the decision making process that controls our lives. The service that cost so much to research, plan and implement was outside the Federal Guidelines for that industry. Historically it was acceptable under the old rules, but new rules made it illegal.

Worse still the competitors took advantage of the disruptive nature of the consultants on his existing clients and stole away many of his best ones, especially the smaller with good growth potential. The opposition spent their money on Competitive Intelligence and knew who was about to launch new products. They focused on these clients and seeing an opportunity offered them better service, without disruptions.

Speaking with executives it seems the value of intelligence in their decision making process is getting less and less, instead of increasing. It is the perceived value of the product that is the cause for concern. Again decision makers are being given data, or information, not intelligence. Unfortunately they admit they tell the pollsters one thing, and do another.

Learn from military intelligence for as the battlefield becomes global, with government, cultural and industrial espionage having a greater impact than many believe, counting widgets and measuring if the customer preferred blue or green, and how long it took to complete the sale are useful tactical metrics, but against global shifts they are not that important. Of course if counting widgets with a stop watch is all the global experience you have, then they are of the ultimate importance, to you that is.

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