The hallmark of an effective corporate competitive intelligence function is how it communicates important CI findings to company decision-makers. There are a variety of ways to communicate key intelligence findings: newsletters, ad hoc reports, email, posts to a CI portal, to name a few. But, one of the most effective methods is a scheduled executive briefing.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
We all know, intuitively, that competitive intelligence isn’t really intelligence unless it is actionable. If a piece of intelligence doesn’t compel a decision-maker to take action, we are told, it is just another piece of information. But what constitutes action? And, what is the process by which competitive intelligence prompts a decision or strategy that is implemented and subsequently managed? Frequently, even companies that possess world-class competitive intelligence functions struggle with turning credible, insightful, actionable intelligence into a clear strategy, decision, or course of action.
Why is good intelligence often not incorporated into strategic plans or operational decisions? The problem, I believe, rests with reluctance among management to clearly define the role it expects intelligence to play in company decision-making, to define key decision components that are influenced by intelligence, and to track progress against them.
Too often, strategic planning is an exercise in reaffirming what is known or comfortable, or what has worked in the past. Similarly, decision implementation is often an exercise in executing what has worked before. In today's uncertainty, companies are hard-pressed to take new, bold, and decisive action even when all the intelligence “signals” point to the wisdom of pursuing a new course of action. To understand how competitive intelligence can improve both sides of this problem, we need to consider each separately.
CI and Strategic Planning
The successful integration of competitive intelligence into a company’s strategic planning process requires that strategic planning be based on a well-defined framework that clearly defines the role competitive intelligence is expected to play. It doesn’t matter whether the framework is based on popular techniques like scenario planning, is based on ones invented and perfected by your company, or has a particular objective – such as growth – in mind. With a well-defined planning framework, it is easier to define CI’s specific role, and how CI will be considered when developing and implementing the strategy.
What if your company has no identifiable planning framework, or no strategic planning process at all? In these cases, CI can do little more than provide general industry or competitor assessments in the hope they will generate questions that result in a more disciplined approach to strategic development.
CI and Decision Execution
Frequently, competitive intelligence points to the need for a specific decision that is not necessarily a part of a pre-conceived strategic plan. Intelligence early warning, for instance, that describes new competitive developments not directly addressed during the strategic planning process can require managers to make decisions “off plan,” and do so quickly.
In these cases, it is important for the CI manager to identify an issue champion. This is an individual in a decision-making or leadership role whose corporate function is most impacted by the intelligence. For the issue champion to successfully act on new intelligence, the CI manager must brief him or her on the content of the intelligence, and discuss the implications for the company and for his or her function directly. Sometimes, the prospective issue champion will defer to someone else, or include others in the initial discussion about potential decision options once the intelligence is delivered.
The appointment of the issue champion is hardly based on a formal process. The means for identifying the issue champion will differ from issue to issue, and is based on candid conversations between the competitive intelligence manager and the intelligence function’s consumers. One thing, however, is certain. The issue champion must have the authority to determine a course of action based on the intelligence, marshal and manage appropriate resources for decision implementation, and then oversee its execution.
In sum, effective decision implementation following the delivery of an intelligence report requires a sound framework for strategic planning, and the appointment of a decision-level issue champion charged with the task of marshaling the resources for effective decision execution. Simply preparing good intelligence reports is not enough; companies must pay close attention to particular strategic planning frameworks, and how to oversee decision execution over an extended period of time.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Kenneth Knight describes his job as helping the president of the United States and his administration "avoid surprise." As the national intelligence officer for warning, Knight oversees a small team of analysts who serve as an institutionalized safeguard against risk-monitoring and challenging the analyses and assumptions of the broader intelligence community. In this interview, he discusses evaluating threats, overcoming cognitive biases, and constructing scenarios -- challenges familiar to most private-sector strategists. McKinsey's Drew Erdmann and Lenny Mendonca spoke with Knight in Washington, DC, in June 2009.
Outward Insights' business early warning services are modeled on many of the same techniques as used by the US Intelligence Community, including scenario building, indicator definition, and the proactive communication of warning assessments.