Competitive Strategy Report November 2, 2012


While it may be possible to create good strategy without the use of Competitive Intelligence, great strategy requires effective CI. In January Fletcher/CSI conducted a survey to understand the characteristics of an effective CI unit. Over 380 CI professionals replied, and the results are in. Regardless of industry, CI units that rated themselves as most effective were more focused on strategic issues and used more strategic tools. These same units also were more likely to report working closely with the executive suites and to be involved in more decisions and at an earlier stage than other groups. Executive users of CI look for strategic support and expect their CI units to be versed in multiple strategic analysis tools. There are several other common elements of an effective CI unit that help it deliver strategic CI. One such characteristic is that the CI is more often pull versus push. This means that the CI leaders work closely with the strategy leaders to understand the decisions being made and the intelligence needed to support that decision.

Knowing that effective CI is linked to strategy is not a new revelation. What kinds of CI are most often linked to strategy should also be no surprise. What may be a surprise is the link between effective CI and the R&D departments. By its very nature, R&D is a strategic operation. The timelines tend to be long, the issues significant, and the investments large. In our survey, we found that CI units with strong ties to their R&D departments were more likely to rate themselves as very effective than other groups and also much less likely to rate themselves as ineffective compared to other groups.

If you’d like to know more about our survey on effective CI units and how the results apply to your organization, please let us know. We’ll be happy to talk with you and share insights.

– Erik Glitman, CEO, Fletcher/CSI

The Effective CI Units Survey (conducted Jan-Feb 2012)examined what makes an effective competitive intelligence unit in all major industries. The findings illustrate how CI units function and interact with the rest of the company and how companies value the output of their CI units.

The survey examined four main areas of CI effectiveness:

  • Data sources and applications
  • Engagement with other parts of the enterprise
  • Funding and spending
  • Feedback and responsiveness

The survey identified what actions effective CI units take that allow them to be effective and the impact they have on company strategy and tactics.

There is no single design or function set that make a CI unit effective. Each company has its own culture, information needs, and decision making process that impacts the structure and function of the CI unit. However, there are some functions that seem to be common in CI units that consider themselves to be effective.

Effective CI units are able to engage their user groups earlier in the decision making process, often at the stage in which the elements of a decision are being made.

While many sources of CI are useful, the one source most often linked to a self-declaration as an effective CI unit was primary interviews with competitors; this was also the source cited least frequently as the most important source.