27 Aug 10 Is your cart before the horse?
Implementing a competitive intelligence framework in an organisation has huge challenges. Selecting appropriate tools for doing it, I believe, is the least of them and the last one that organisations, particularly those in emerging economies like India need to focus on.
Creating awareness about CI and getting everyone to participate in it, is the first big hurdle companies face. Getting decision makers to articulate and detail their needs is the next one and biggest one, in my experience. Once you get past that, you need to figure out what analysis you need in order to address the need. This in turn will tell you what information points to collect. The devil is in the details – so the more granular your plan, the more efficient and effective your CI will be.
Only after you have got past all of that will you come to the actual data collection and this is the step where most tools will help you. They will pull in, filter, organise, classify, retrieve and disseminate information from various sources in various ways in an automated fashion. Some tools will also help you spot trends, patterns and relationships in your business environment. But for the tools to work well, you need to be asking them the right questions to start with.
If not, “Garbage in garbage out” most aptly describes what you might end up with. Your CI initiative will take a long time to recover from the damage to its reputation.
In emerging economies like India, there is another reason companies need to tread with caution around CI tools. The key methodology for CI in these markets is actually primary research – information gained from person to person interactions and informal networks. Besides, as the level of Internet penetration is lower, you have only a limited amount of fodder for automated tools to play around with. So you may not really need tools that help with searching and filtering. You may only need efficient ways to capture, store and retrieve fragmented intelligence residing with a large number of people – both internal and external.
Bottomline: Look for a tool only after you know what purpose you want it to serve!