I have a friend who is curious about competitive intelligence for his large, geographically dispersed company. He made the connection to me because of his understanding of the potential for a knowledge management solution to assist in what he's thinking. I wonder if anyone could help me point him to some useful resources (including people).
As we talked, I categorized what I know about CI into two primary buckets.*
- Collecting data about the competition from what is written and said about the competition or what they are doing. I picture this as primarily literature searches, monitoring the media, etc. I have several friends that come out of the library science discipline who do this kind of work. I think there is a connection to market research as well.
- Collecting data from colleagues who come into contact with the competition in various fashions: meeting them at conferences, observing one of their stores, etc.
With both of these, the "collecting data" is only one part of the whole picture. Someone needs to review what is there and make sense of it from the perspective of what is already known and how it relates to the company. And this collation needs to be provided back out to people who can do something with it.
My friend is interested in the second type: finding out what people in the company already know about the competition and doing something with that kind of information. My first thoughts were around using blogs or wikis or even something Facebook-like to help collate the information. Where my knowledge fails me is around the function and role for the next steps: processing the information and creating reports or summaries back out to the audience - probably on the same platform through which the information is collected anyway.
It's a KM proposition, if you expect people to contribute this kind of information, they will quickly grow disillusioned if there is no reciprocal information provided back. And it's one of Dave Snowden's principles that people only contribute "knowledge" when they know there is a direct and immediate need.
So to my query. Can anyone point me (and my friend) to some better resources around doing "competitive intelligence" by asking people within the company to work together to develop the intel? I've pointed him to the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals.
* There is a third bucket of data collection that straddles the ethical lines: dumpster diving, suitable ruses, and other questionable methods. People do this, but I'm not sure they call themselves competitive intelligence.
[Photo: "Questions?" by Valerie Everett]