CI: Whose job is it?

11 Jun 10 CI: Whose job is it?

stressed businessmanAsk any one in a company whether they care about what is happening in their industry – I would bet that most of them will answer in the positive.

Now if you ask them if keeping tabs on the business environment is part of their KRAs, you will get a totally different picture. We found that in most companies, only a few functions are  overtly required to track their competitive landscape. The most common ones, of course are sales, marketing and strategy.

So the others don’t care what is going on around them?  – Of course they do

Knowing what is going on around them does not directly impact their performance at work? Of course it affects their performance

Their bosses don’t require them to be informed?  – Most certainly, their bosses expect them to be informed

Here are some examples of CI questions of different functions:

Function Examples of CI questions
Operations Where should I set up operations?Which technology should I use?Where should I source raw materials from?Are my production efficiencies/costs competitive?What technologies are my competitors using?
Product/ Service development What do my customers need?Are my customers’ needs changing?Is my product fulfilling these needs?What are the key features that my customers want in my product?What are the new product trends globally?
Sales and Marketing How large is my market?What are the key segments in the market?Who are my key customers?How do I reach my key customers?Who are my competitors doing? What are they doing? What are their USPs?
Finance Are my clients creditworthy? Will they pay?How does my cost structure compare with that of my competitors?How should I hedge my foreign exchange risks?
HR What are my competitors’ attrition rates?
How do the salaries I offer compare with those my competitors offer?
Strategy Which new markets/segments should I look at going after?Which new product/service areas should I enter?Should I acquire a company to grow my business or look at organic growth?

Nevertheless, by and large, only the sales and marketing functions have specific budgets for doing Competitive Intelligence.

Companies identify key pain areas and prioritize the ones that require the highest attention. These are the ones that hog most of the company’s CI budget. In an increasingly competitive environment, increasing sales and gaining market share has been the highest priority for most companies (not surprisingly). Hence the sales and marketing guys across industries are the ones that get to keep most of the CI pie.

Now and then, other pain areas also emerge in certain industries. For example, the shortage of skilled manpower led to periods of very high attrition rates in the IT and BPO sectors in India. Although I don’t have definitive data to support it, I would imagine that during these periods, the HR departments would have gained approvals for large budgets to find out what their competitors were doing to attract and retain talent.

CI professionals themselves need to track the environment to figure out what kind of intelligence is going to be the need of the hour going forward – so that they can gear up to provide it.

What do you think are going to be the focus areas for CI in your industry going forward? And whose job is it anyway? – Do share your comments

Varsha Chitale
Varsha Chitale

Varsha led the competitive intelligence practice at ValueNotes. As part of her drive to educate India Inc. on the merits of competitive intelligence, she often conducted webinars and seminars on CI for senior executives of Indian companies.

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