22nd Annual SCIP European Summit Post-Conference Recap

The 22nd annual SCIP European Summit took place in Cascais, Portugal from November 13-15, and attendees from around the globe gathered to share best practices. Presentation topics ranged from the impact of generational change on the workforce, to the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in Competitive Intelligence (CI), to developing an Agile CI unit.

CI Impact on Change

During one of the opening keynotes, the presenter shared that change is inevitable and that CI can play a role in driving change. In order for CI to influence how companies respond to change, CI units need to provide external perspective. One area where the CI perspective is useful is foresight. Since most forecasts start from sales cycles, they are limited to the time horizon of the sales cycle, which is always shorter than the typical forecast timeline. Foresight bridges the gap.

To exercise its role in Strategic Intelligence, the CI unit should be blunt when presenting perspectives that challenge the orthodoxy. One example cited is the case of discount airlines. To the major legacy carriers, each individual discount carrier is a not a threat. However, the CI professional may identify that cumulatively, the discount airlines have over 3,000 airplanes, are actually the largest “carrier,” and have moved markets.

Ultimately, good CI is about making the comfortable feel uncomfortable, by challenging conventional knowledge with a perspective that others are missing.

Open Innovation and the CI Unit

A later session covered how open innovation intersects with the CI unit and how CI units can incorporate innovation into their operations. In this presentation, the discussion focused less on the difficulty of gathering data, and more on the accuracy of the data and analysis. This presents CI professionals with a difficult choice. They can compete with the assumption that they are able to get better quality information using the same sources, and complete better analyses of that information than competitors. Alternatively, they can focus on leveraging information that competitors cannot access. The old CI paradigm is being replaced with a new model in which the CI cycle can start at any point, and throughout the process, the CI unit shares insights with other parts of company in a cooperative fashion. Ultimately, Open CI will change how CI is sourced, analyzed, and used, and will operate with greater input from CI customers.

Generational Change

A recurring theme, the impact of generational change, was covered in a session on demographics as it influences management of a CI unit. Of particular note was the difference in expectations that Millennials have for work compared to previous generations. Millennials are likely to demand more on-the-job training than past generations, and expect a greater say in how they work. This will favor more collaborative work over individual work.  For the CI team, a key implication is that deeper and more flexible teams will support the operation and team members will demand more coaching. CI managers will become more involved in the management of the unit than in the analysis or collection activities.

Customer Journeys

One of the sessions that seemed particularly relevant to the CI professional was a look at customer journeys. The key take-away from this short presentation was that customer journeys, which track the process in which a customer interacts with the company, are an often-ignored differentiation factor, and may have a greater impact on customer loyalty than any other factor. However, according to the presenter, many companies do not have a structured ownership of the customer journey. Mapping out a customer journey, staring with your own customers, is an exercise that requires integrating different groups (e.g., sales, support, service, product development) that each have their own agendas. CI units should map out competitors’ customer journeys, but keep in mind that copying a customer journey is much easier than duplicating it. For the CI unit, the goal is to understand the steps that competitors use to make their customer journey unique and adopt best practices where possible.

Agile Intelligence

Agile Intelligence is an emerging philosophy. It is a response to increased pressure on CI units to complete tasks in shorter timeframes while integrating diverse partners into the CI team. The key to Agile Intelligence is to not be bogged down in the details, and instead, focus on key issues, generate early outcomes, and get early feedback. Implementing Agile Intelligence requires creating new and flexible lines of communications across the company. This allows the CI unit to bring subject matter expertise into projects and to adjust the communication patterns to match those of the recipient. Incorporating these tools into the process gives the CI unit greater flexibility to take on key assignments while maintaining a smaller core staff.

CI Adventure Game

Running in parallel to the event was the CI Adventure, which challenged two teams to develop a scenario planning session work outline. The challenge was built around prospective regulations requiring that all vehicles sold in Europe be electric-powered. The two teams, one representing Peugeot and the other ZF Transmissions, were required to identify trends to use in scenario development, information sources to support the trends, competitors to track, and prepare an agenda for the planning session. The winning team represented Peugeot and determined that the competitors to cover in the briefing book would be VW, Ford, and Renault, with Fiat as a possibility. A key trend that they would track is the global supply of lithium (used to make batteries) and any other battery development technology. They would also extrapolate the emergence of mobility as a service, which may replace outright vehicle ownership. The Peugeot team then presented a three session agenda for the actual Scenario Planning session, which used a first session to define the scenarios and the competitive environment in 2027. The second session determined how the key competitors would act in each scenario and the third session defined a strategy for Peugeot that would be competitive in each scenario.