12 Jul 13 News monitoring for competitive intelligence

One of the key misconceptions about competitive intelligence is that it involves spying and other clandestine operations like going through a competitor’s garbage.

Actually, competitive intelligence calls for the deductive skills of a Sherlock Holmes. He looks at the mundane, easily available information and clues and puts them all together to see the big picture. The trick is in being able to stand back, look at all the relevant information and listen to what it is saying to you.

A systematic monitoring of all the relevant developments in a company’s ecosystem is therefore an essential part of competitive intelligence. You need to keep tabs on it, so that you can see the picture at all times and are not caught unawares.  A key tool for doing this is news monitoring.

Everybody reads news daily, you might argue, so why do we need a process to monitor it? After all, most senior executives have their eyes peeled out for any news related to their area of work.

Several reasons, actually…

  • Firstly, even if the management is aware of events on an on-going basis, they will not see the big picture, the patterns and trends without tracking it systematically.
  • Secondly, the environment for most companies has expanded, both in terms of geography as well as domain space. Events in another country, another continent can affect you. Also, developments in other industries can also affect you. Most people typically read one or two newspapers or websites every day. It is entirely possible to miss some of the relevant developments.
  • Thirdly, there is too much news all around. Going through all of it and sifting for what is relevant can be tedious.

News monitoring is not trivial. In order to do it efficiently, the first thing required is to have a clear understanding of what is relevant for the business and what is not.  This enables you to lay down the “specifications” for selecting the news. This step is critical and requires rigour. If you miss covering some parts of your ecosystem, you may get a nasty surprise from there. On the other hand, you can get misled if you start looking at irrelevant signals.

For example, you may want to monitor your indirect competitors in addition to the direct competitors. For say an online gaming company, any other form of entertainment offered to the target customers is competition – this can include movies, television, indoor games, games arcades, and so on.  So in addition to other online gaming competitors, you may want to watch what is happening in all these other spaces.  What happens if you miss a space?

Once you define the specs, you need to identify the best sources of information to tap.

And finally and most importantly, there is no point in monitoring news if you are not going to analyse it to spot trends and patterns. It is the analysis and deduction that will give you the Sherlock Holmes insights.

News monitoring (and also social media monitoring) as a competitive intelligence tool does not have the glamour that say, war gaming, or benchmarking has, but it is no less valuable.

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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