The goals of this blog are:
1. A place to ask for advice on CI issues
2. Learn about CI trends, techniques, and events
3. Discuss CI topics
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Go ahead and take that vacation. Enjoy it and return refreshed for a busy fall season. When you are back in the office, review and update the CI plans for the September-December quarter so you are ready to respond to CI needs.
Natalie Corridon-Gregg, Director of Technology Analysis, Global Competitive Group
Keith Golembiewski, Head of Strategic Research, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.
Carol Galvin, Principal Segment Analyst, IBM Software Group Market Insights Team
Moderator Question: What is competitive Intelligence?
Nan: Ten years ago, CI equaled watching tier one direct competitors. Now CI encompasses much more.
Carol: It’s easy to see what in the headlights, but need to look beyond for tidbits. Get into the white space.
Natalie: The value-add for CI is creating the “so what.” I love the while space talk about what don’t we know. An EMC product may be filling a niche that we don’t know we are filling. If we don’t understand that and a competitor does; we’re in trouble. For example, a new competitor emerged that offered only five features on a product vs. our 100+ features on ours. We did not believe that they would succeed. But those five features were the five most important features—at a better price point.
Carol: In a meeting recently, we were looking at small venture capital funded companies that can produce competitive products quickly.
Nan: Being in CI is tough because we are often the bearer of bad news.
Carol: Deliver news clinically. Don’t call the product manager’s “baby” ugly. Give strengths and weaknesses.
Keith: Move CI upstream by asking additional questions.
Carol: Build consensus outside of and prior to the big meeting so there are no surprises in the room.
Keith: Build trust and have no hidden agendas.
Question: Does your company value CI?
Nan: Very, very much. I work directly with the CEO. Just recently, Philips decided that all strategic reviews will be run by market intelligence. We are heavily armed with analysis. My CEO asked, “Why should I believe you?” I replied that I was not in sales, I was not in marketing, I was not in finance, I was not in manufacturing. “I’m an independent unbiased source.”
Carol: The same is true at IBM. In the last 15 years, CI has risen in importance. Recently, management threw out business plans not blessed by CI.
Nan: CI staff members are strategic advisors. A lot of finance people are coming into CI. They have good skills for CI such as understanding of financial statements, attention to detail, and auditing experience.
Natalie: At EMC, CI is part of the sales organization. Although we are based there, we are becoming advisors to senior management. Also, like IBM, senior executives threw out plans not blessed by CI. EMC values CI, but CI is seen as many different pieces, not as an integrated whole.
Keith: Businesses at The Hartford is still silos so CI is silo’d.
Carol: CI is part of a global based corporate organization and is now called Market Insights. We support all functions. Each geographic organization has a mirror CI group with information funneled back to corporate. So a group in France can collect the information that is important to France. Within CI, one group is assigned to senior leaders, one to product management, one to sales, etc.
I can view a single competitor from five to six different angles depending on the group. CI staff must like variety. If you like focusing on a single issue, CI is not for you.
Nan: Philips has three business groups with some overlap. For example, some lighting products are used in surgical setups. The company has about 70 CI people worldwide. Part of my job is establishing processes for CI within the company.
Carol: For example, a product was being developed. Things went along for about six months. But then MI said that this product will not be a market leader if you continue along the same path. The product features were changed so it could be a market leader.
CI pulls all the pieces together to tell a cogent story.
Keith: CI and MR are done by the same person.
Question: What are the parameters for ethical behavior?
Natalie: Ethical behavior is in your DNA, or not in your DNA. If we were given a competitor’s confidential deck of slides by a common partner, we would not open it. It might advance our understanding of the competitor significantly, but we would not open it. Eventually all the information in it will be publicly available.
Nan: In most cases, people want to behave ethically, but do not know the boundaries. We do training and set up risk levels. People can call the MI group and get a quick answer.
Question: What is the future of CI?
Keith: Financial services are late to the game so CI will expand.
Carol: The strategy component will increase as globalization increases. Previously, a CI staff member was an expert on one competitor. Now we are hiring social media experts more.
We still do ad hoc reports and we create regular reports go out after earnings reports. We do not use email anymore. People get a tidbit and a link to more information in the cloud. We track usage and this works. It is verbotim to attach a report to an instant message. No need for newsletters—just Google it.
Nan: Specialities develop, like business analytics, sales or strategic CI.
Question: How do you handle emerging competitors?
Carol: We spend time on emerging technology. There are very experienced individuals at IBM called Fellows who follow emerging technologies; they’re not in CI, but they help us.
Nan: We run forums with diverse groups. We try to understand what customers want in the future and which firms have the competence to satisfy those needs. We do lots of scenario planning.
Carol: Hard to get people to commit to take the time out of busy schedules to attend an event that looks out five years.
Question: What type of person is good in CI?
Carol: What does it take to be good in CI? A person that can do research, but also able to analyze and synthesize the data. My question is where do you find these people.
Nan: Depends on the type of skill that you are looking for.
Question: How to determine ROI for CI?
Natalie: That’s why it’s taken so long for CI to grow. Win/lose data helps. All sales at EMC must go through salesforce.com. Otherwise, we would not know about lost business. It’s an investment to be in CI.
Carol: Helping sales win more deals. What is the opportunity cost—how much revenue will be missed if CI not done. Look for the “ah has.”
Nan: Do cost analysis of performing work inside vs. outsourcing.