More than ever businesses are embracing data for important decision making purposes, with more than half of enterprise organisations utilising data and analytics to shape their strategy. But why is this the case? The following extract from a Forbes artice explains succinctly why the adoption of data is the key difference between success and failure for businesses:
“Traditionally, the driving force behind decision-making has been the experience and instincts of business leaders. And unfortunately, that’s one of the primary reasons behind the unsettling statistic that 90% of small businesses and start-ups fail. Experience and instincts are valuable, of course, but research confirms that businesses that base decisions on data – not instincts or experience – are 19 times more likely to be profitable.”
An introduction to competitive intelligence process
Competitive intelligence is basically insights gathered by monitoring competitors and the market and is used to drive strategic decisions around product development, marketing, sales, operations and more. It’s used to tackle specific challenges, such as tracking how competitors are attracting customers or candidates, or more broadly to help an organisation make smarter decisions from top to bottom. Competitive intelligence process is the approach used to collate and utilise these insights.
The reality is that despite its great benefits many organisations aren’t seeing the results they want from competitive intelligence. This shortcoming can often be attributed to the process:
– A lack of resources means competitor monitoring gets tasked to junior members of the team. They may not have the experience to analyse or handle the intelligence they’re capturing.
– Competitive monitoring is carried out ad hoc or periodically but rarely on a continuous basis.
– The intelligence is gathered using manual processes that are slow and laborious or by using multiple software tools that require data to be manually exported into a report.
– The organisation hasn’t identified clear goals or objectives for their competitive intelligence activity, so the data lacks focus and usefulness.
Implications of an inadequate competitive intelligence process
The above mentioned points can lead to inconsistent quality and volumes of data at different times, making it difficult to rely on and to utilise. As a result, key insights can be easier to miss, devaluing competitive intelligence as a strategic tool and impacting buy-in across the organisation.
The lack of a continuous approach may mean insights are out of date and less useful by the time they reach the departments that need it to make decisions. Again, this can affect how competitive intelligence is viewed and valued by departments or those required to sign off budgets.
Even if organisations are able to capture large volumes of data, they may lack the resources to cut through the clutter and draw insightful conclusions that inform decision making. If any of this sounds familiar, it may help to know you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 95% of businesses are struggling to manage their data.
How to build a competitive intelligence process
It’s imperative that businesses collate and harness insights in order to achieve success. Here are some key considerations that can transform your competitive intelligence activity.
1. Setting clear goals
Like any strategic endeavour, it can only deliver value if it has a clearly defined purpose. Otherwise, you’re likely to gather bits and pieces of intelligence that make little inroads in successful decision-making.
If your resources are limited, it can help to start small. Focusing on one or a small number of challenges you’re facing and using competitive intelligence to understand your competitors’ approach and success in that area can give you a clearer picture of strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities.
Let’s say you’re hiring for applicants that are hard to come by for a specific type of job. Understanding how you compare to your competitors, what they’re doing well, who’s leading and why, for example, can help you make smarter decisions to get or stay ahead.
As you see the value in competitive intelligence, you can be able to budget more resources towards it and widen your approach to focus on other challenges.
2. Choosing the right competitive intelligence tool
We’ve touched on some of the challenges of using multiple tools and manual processes. In short, it can make your job harder than it needs to be. Your competitive intelligence process becomes a lot easier when using a single, comprehensive tool. Here are some of the common features you may want to consider:
– Automation: The more automation, the faster the process and the less stress it places on your resources. A competitive intelligence tool that can be set up to track identified sources automatically and capture data will save you time and effort and provide a more complete picture of the competitive landscape.
– Real-time: The longer the period of time between activity taking place and you learning about it, the less value you’ll gain from your competitive intelligence process. Real-time automation means being the first to know about what your competitors are saying and doing as well as how they’re performing.
– Integration: Capturing the intelligence in real-time is only the first step in making it value. The next is getting it into the hands of the right people and the right format to make it accessible. A competitive intelligence tool that integrates with your existing software tools can accelerate the process of turning insights into actions.
– Analysts: Competitive intelligence shouldn’t just be fast and easy to use once you’re up and running. The process starts with the set up. The points on this list can all be done manually. Or they can be done with the help of a market analyst who can take the weight out of the process. They’ll get you set-up in days, analyse and summarise the data the tool captures and surface it ready for you and your team to use.
Ultimately, your choice of competitive intelligence tool should be informed by your goals. It needs to meet your exact requirements now and provide the flexibility to adapt and grow as you need. Most, if not all, will provide demos and answer questions before you sign up.
3. Managing the set up
The first few days will be key to establishing a successful competitive intelligence process. During this stage you’ll identify the competitors, sources and activity types you intend to track.
Your choices should be informed by your goals and objectives but the team behind your competitor intelligence tool should provide the support you need to get the set-up right. A market analyst can be a huge asset here as they’ll help you look beyond the obvious direct competitors and sources to make sure your monitoring activity is comprehensive.
4. Analysing the data
Earlier this year, Deloitte released a report called ‘Drowning in data, but starving for insights’. This is a common problem for a lot of organisations when expanding their competitive monitoring. For data to become intelligence, it needs to be thoroughly analysed, so that it can be of added-value to internal stakeholders.
The right competitive intelligence tool should make lighter work of this by surfacing only the most relevant data for your goals. But you’ll still need someone to draw valuable conclusions from what’s being gathered.
Again, a market analyst can help. If they come as standard with your software solution, it means your data will arrive already analysed with summaries of what the intelligence is telling you. This is a big first step to building valuable intelligence. It means you can share insights with the team rather than data they don’t have the resources to analyse.
If you’re part of an insights team, then you’ll be able to dig deeper into the intelligence to draw further conclusions that can inform your strategic decision-making.
5. Sharing and reporting insights
How you share and report insights with the team is a vital part of the competitive intelligence process. As alluded to when commenting on your choice of software tool, you need to make the intelligence easy to access and understand. Doing so will increase the likelihood of the organisation embracing competitive intelligence.
Among the key decisions you’ll need to make are how often you want to share insights, who you need to share them with and what method or channel you intend to use.
Frequency should be informed by your culture and resources within specific departments. What will be useful and welcomed versus information overload?
Personnel should be informed by who’ll benefit from the intelligence. Again, this will be dictated by the goals and specific use of competitive intelligence. If it’s about product development, the product team will be first on the list. But you may find that some insights will be of value to a broader audience, such as sales, marketing and senior leadership.
Channel should again be informed by your culture and the communication you’re already using as an organisation. Whether you use email, Slack, Teams or are used to sharing insights using data visualisation tools like Power BI, incorporating channels the team are familiar with will help them to embrace the intelligence being shared.
6. Mobilising the team to use competitive intelligence
To some extent, once insights have been shared, the onus is on the relevant teams and individuals to adopt and use it in their strategic decision-making. Your competitive intelligence process will be sharing relevant, timely insights about the market and the competitors they’re up against, whether they work in sales, product, HR, marketing or any other department.
That said, there are things you can do to maximise the value of the insights. For example, you may want to assign responsibilities or set expectations of key members of those teams. You may want (or need) to produce a report on the effectiveness and value of your competitive intelligence process, in which case you’ll need department heads to feed back on their usage.
You can also make sure they have access to analytical support, either via your competitive intelligence tool, or through internal resources so they can dig deeper into the insights. You may also see value in creating periodic reports alongside the continuous sharing of intelligence that draws more detailed conclusions on what is happening in the market.
7. Evaluating your competitive intelligence activity
Whether you’re using the type of effectiveness report mentioned above as a mobilisation tool or just to assess return on invesmtent, it’s a valuable exercise to perform. An investment you make in competitive intelligence needs to prove its worth, so understanding its impact is vital.
In time, the data itself should shine a light on the change in performance levels since using competitive intelligence. For example, you may see an increase in social media engagement, marketing reach, sales or job applications depending on the specific goals of the activity.
This kind of evidence can go a long way to securing further resources to expand your competitive intelligence use and tackle other competitor-related challenges you have as an organisation.