I spent most of this week in New Orleans at SLA’s annual conference. I really enjoyed it, and this blog hails competitive intelligence pioneer, Jan Herring. While his communication was geared to information professionals, competitive intelligence professionals take note!
Jan is so supportive of the competitive intelligence profession and I think is a true cooperative intelligence practitioner in that he is so giving. He was the CI division’s breakfast speaker, as well as a panel member on two consecutive panel discussions, Ask The Competitive Intelligence Experts and Competitive Intelligence Transitions for LIS Professionals. Jan is regarded as the father of modern competitive intelligence as he started Motorola’s first formal program, after a distinguished first career with the CIA.
Behind each successful CI process is a corporate library or at least librarian support, as timely, focused secondary research is a valuable component of CI. Bonnie Hohhof of SCIP fame, was the corporate librarian at Motorola that Jan selected to help form the CI team. Jan still quotes Peggy Carr’s 2003 book, “Super Searchers in Competitive Intelligence” as a good resource on how research and CI are tied together.
Jan reviewed the basics of competitive intelligence including the traditional intelligence cycle and the knowledge pyramid to build insightful, actionable intelligence. Intelligence is the right information, delivered and prepared for the people in the company who have the authority to make decisions. In this vein, Jan shared former Motorola CEO Bob Galvin’s parable. Bob had made a bad decision around a market entry. There was one employee who didn’t share some key information, and Bob wondered whose fault it was that the employee hadn’t shared this information. His or the employee’s? Jan asserted that it was the employee’s and honed in on connecting with the right employees around key decisions.
Another gem was, “Get your information and insight into the Heads of decision-makers, not just their Hands.” A great quote he shared from Robert Steele, “Information costs money. Intelligence makes money.” Jan recommends is that the insight created by intelligence findings and conclusions be measured or valued through ROI. Jan wrote an article on this topic in the Mar/Apr 2007 Competitive Intelligence Magazine published by SCIP.
Jan suggests that you learn to think like your leadership and communicate with them in their words being careful not to insert competitive intelligence verbiage. Know how they are motivated since what makes the management team successful isn’t what makes Info Pros or CI professionals successful. Tim Kindler of Kodak ties his CI deliverables to corporate management’s calendar of needs and events. Respected CI professionals are humble as they set aside their egos and false assumptions, but not too humble so as not to persuasively communicate findings to management.
There are three areas where information pros and CI professionals can improve:
- Financial based reporting – work with the finance department to develop and monitor financial benchmarks against your major competitors
- Early warning – build innovative secondary source monitoring as a base for your primary researchers to verify findings through people to develop early warning alerts
- CI software – develop software applications to support the monitoring, collection, storage and dissemination of information. More refined software is developed all the time such as Link Analysis and Evidence Based Research. A supplier to consider which assesses almost all CI software providers is Eastport Analytics. You can find some individual CI software providers at SCIP’s website.
A final key finding that Jan and Paul Houston uncovered during their research of 20 companies: it’s most important for firms to have a savvy CI manager/director who produces what management wants/needs. You need to do CI on your own leadership to keep a pulse on their ever changing needs.