Mary Ellen Bercik Concluding the FreePint Series: Next-Generation Competitive Intelligence
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By Mary Ellen Bercik


Series producer Mary Ellen Bercik reflects on the FreePint Topic Series: Next-Generation Competitive Intelligence as the series draws to a close. She highlights the key issues and challenges covered, from core CI competencies to the importance of data presentation and making the most of in-house knowledge.


In writing the wrap up for the FreePint Topic Series: Next-Generation Competitive Intelligence, I've taken the opportunity to go through and re-read everything produced including the long articles, short blog posts and product reviews. We covered a lot of ground!

From starting with data collection and sources, to a discussion of the value and impact of Competitive Intelligence (CI) to the business, to approaches for analysis and data visualisation, this series has been comprehensive and informative.

Product reviews covered Avention, Cipher Systems' Knowledge.Works, Comintelli Knowledge XChanger and StrategyEye Digital Media, with a review of Cortellis upcoming.

Core Competencies for a CI Professional

Libby Trudell kicked us off with a wide range of sources and suggestions about when to use them. She discussed most of the types of research one handles when working in a research role in an enterprise company.

Depending on your position, you are asked to provide insight into competitors, products, markets, and technology landscapes. Knowing where to go quickly to find answers is a core competency of the working research professional.

The Importance of Systematic Monitoring

Tracking and protecting Intellectual Property is of key importance to many companies, large and small. The loss of investment and subsequent financial impact can be tremendous should a competitor get to market first with a solution leveraging your patents or R&D information.

Marc Limacher addresses this possibility, and more, in his article explaining the value of CI in the biotech, life sciences and IT industries. Monitoring is essential to these industries where regulatory timelines and competitor clinical trials are important events.

Marc walks us through the positive outcomes an enterprise can realise by applying systematic monitoring.

Leveraging In-House Knowledge

I particularly enjoyed Marc's article on developing and leveraging a primary source network.

His statement that "it is commonly known that up to 50% of intelligence needs and Key Intelligence Questions (KIQs) can be answered by a company's employees" is very thought provoking. There is so much knowledge in-house that isn't leveraged.

It makes us realise that there continue to be significant opportunities to employ knowledge management more effectively in large organisations.

Presentation and Visualisation

I can't wait to try out the many great tools Wayne Jones has suggested in his piece. I have a presentation to work on next week and I plan to take a look at Perspective and Prezi. Certainly, I have heard of Tableau, as it is a hot product in the world of analytics, but I didn't know that Tableau offered a free version called Tableau Public. So that was great to learn.

I've checked my laptop and I don't have Excel 2013 yet. Darn! Wayne's description of the new visualisation features, especially the Quick Analysis and Recommended Chart features, makes me think maybe I should ask my manager about purchasing it. Thank you Wayne for informing me about that.

And thank you for the reminder to learn the latest features of my day-to-day software. Great advice!

Quicker Time to Insight

In Creative Sources for Competitive Intelligence, Madhu Subramanian's suggestion to start your research by visualising what the ideal data looks like to address your research problem can be a very effective approach.

Each research project starts in a different place depending on the request, the requestor, what is known, and what is not known about the topic. Problem solving on the front end, visualising the end deliverable, and having a research strategy before too much time is spent on exploratory inquiry, can shortcut time to insight.

Madhu makes a great case for thinking through your research strategy and utilising proxies as needed. Anyone who has done research into new technologies or emerging markets knows that proxies are needed often.

So it is best to get comfortable with a level of ambiguity, or lack of specificity, and think about general attributes and conditions that are associated with your nascent technology or new market.

While Wayne provided us with some great presentation tools, Madhu has suggested some great social media monitoring tools including TweetBeep, Wefollow, Quarkbase, TweetBinder, Followerwonk and Twitonomy. Like Marc, Madhu stresses the importance of regular monitoring for CI.

Monitoring has many applications but its essence is about tracking changes whether they are personnel, strategy, regulatory, product, marketing or channel-related. Madhu shares creative ways to use Google Trends to generate product and market insights. All CI professionals know that effective CI requires a portfolio of tools and techniques and knowledge about when to use them.

Extending CI Skills

This series has given us new ideas and tools to extend our CI skills. I'd like to thank the contributors for the high quality of their work. I've learned so much producing this series.

I feel refreshed and a bit renewed, as if I attended an excellent professional conference. Just keep learning, keep an open mind, and don't be afraid to take calculated risks if you are sure you have done your due diligence. Go for it!

Editor's Note

This article is part of the FreePint Topic Series: Next-Generation Competitive Intelligence which ran from May-June 2014. Registration provides a free copy of the FreePint Report: Buyer's Guide on Competitive Intelligence upon publication.

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