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E-Businesses Without CI Are Like Ships Without Radar Lost in Fog


KM World Magazine

by Arik R. Johnson
[Excerpt]

Competitive intelligence (CI) is fast becoming a strategic imperative to move ahead, stay ahead or simply compete in the e-business marketplace.

GartnerGroup defines e-business as the integration of business strategies, processes and technologies that focus on breaking down the barriers among business divisions and enterprises. As we enter 2000, the need for systematized CI systems is greater than ever. And while most organizations gather competitive information, few enterprises have adequate CI in place; they need a system for analyzing and integrating it into their formal business strategy...

Said Matt Kelly, business development manager for Strategy Software, "STRATEGY! is a competitive information management system, and the word 'intelligence' is left out intentionally. Intelligence is something created by people, not software--it's only built on information.

"Our software gives people a framework for tracking and outsmarting competitors--for sales and marketing personnel, as well as strategic planning in the macro view. Research for its own sake is of little value; it should be directed toward a specific decision. What this allows one to do is to preserve previously completed research."

One new feature allows a company to create a benchmark template quickly for a graphical representation of numerical information.

"We'd like to see CI demystified as a normal part of doing business rather than a complex, specialized function done in the short term," said Kelly. "It's really longer term and can reflect perspectives as they change over time. Because it's a database app, users can disseminate competitive info for quick victories for CI managers and directors."

That is often a critical component, especially for new CI units that have a short period of time in which to prove their worth.

"People expect software to allow ordinary people to do extraordinary things," Kelly said. "When that's possible, the whole knowledge management effort is more successful."

The solution is complementary to other applications, according to Kelly.

"KM brings together keyword hits, CI gives meaning to the results, so we have here a database that allows us to pull out specific nuggets of information that support the analysis primarily, but tie it back to the source materials," Kelly explained.

For example, a manufacturer of forklifts deployed a system in which its salespeople can pull up the interface with detailed information about a competitor's offering or a strengths/weaknesses rating of product comparisons--to generate a sales strategy for that prospective customer. It provides sales personnel a zero-to-five rating scale, which lets sales defend value based on the needs of customers, giving them the ability to stick to a price vs. discount to get the sale.

The most important features of the software are ease of use and quick implementation time, which Kelly said gives administrators the ability to put up a CI system in an hour.

He added, "The pace at which businesses are able to enter new markets is very quick and barriers are low. CI plays an important role in making sure that you're first to a given market niche, but it'll also determine whether your product is superior in that niche. And when the time comes, CI will give you a strategic advantage to determine what to do when that product niche becomes mature--as it inevitably will.

"Companies ignoring CI are like ships in the fog operating without radar. Companies should be doing CI even if they're doing it badly--it's less important that people are doing it in a world-class fashion than that they get started doing it. Work on getting better later."