Action Through Clarity
Thursday, 18th October 2012
Competitive intelligence is one of the most-covered topics in the FreePint Article database. Perhaps one reason for this coverage is the relative clarity of CI as a domain of practice. This clarity seems to be reflected in results from FreePint's Benchmarking on Information Services project. As clear as CI can be, it's also constantly changing, due to the introduction of new tools and ways that businesses share information.
Earlier this month, I was conducting analysis on the data collected through FreePint's Benchmarking in Information Services project, examining where within large organisations certain types of information work is getting done. During benchmarking interviews, I ask information managers where "ownership" of such functions as knowledge management, content purchasing and information-related skills training lies.
Most of the information functions we discussed have ownership in disparate parts of the enterprise: IT, legal, human resources, research and "innovation" teams all get a piece of what once might have been centralised within an "information" centre.
One exception to this rule was competitive intelligence. Although the information managers interviewed described several approaches to how their organisations meet the need to perform competitive intelligence, they all described approaches that were sensibly staffed and directly tied to the needs of the business. Furthermore, they indicated that the CI function is one that has less difficulty justifying its existence (and budget) than many of the other functions. (Subscribers can login to read the analysis of where work gets done in more detail.)
Unlike other aspects of information work, competitive intelligence has the benefit of clarity, right from the name of the function. Anyone with a minimum of business experience has an inkling of the direct benefit of "competitive intelligence." In contrast, after 20-odd years of development of the domain, how many of us can describe "knowledge management" in 25 words or less?
Perhaps this is also one of the reasons we at FreePint publish so much in the category of competitive intelligence: In our focus on providing practical, actionable tips to professionals, CI articles and reports easily hit the mark. There are so many great tips and suggestions from experts in the field on using new resources and approaches to glean useful insight about competitors and the marketplace.
Every month, FreePint publishes a report collecting six months' worth of articles on a job function. This month's Report on Competitive Intelligence is one of the largest of these reports, second only to our Report on Research (last published in August). Guest editor Yulia Aspinall comments on the actionable nature of every article, review and comment in the report.
If only every area of information work could be as clear and actionable! But information is as ubiquitous and as hard to see as air: something essential for business health and yet invisible to the eye.
How do you make information visible to yourself, your bosses and your clients? I'd love to hear your favourite suggestions. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share how you make your work clear and actionable.