People, Process, and Technology: 3 Necessities for Good CI
Every competitive intelligence (CI) program hinges on three main factors. Whether you’re in the early stages of creating a competitive intelligence initiative for your company from scratch, or trying to figure out how to make the one you have more successful, if you skimp on one of the three, your chances of success plummet.
So, what are these keys to CI success? People, Process, and Technology.
Let’s take them one by one.
People Create and Execute Your CI Strategy
Every CI strategy starts with someone deciding it needs to happen. From the executives who decide CI is worth the investment and give it their backing, to the people who create the strategy itself, and to those tasked with putting it into practice—people are necessary at every stage of developing a competitive intelligence initiative.
For a CI strategy to have any chance of helping your company gain an advantage, you need enough people with the right skill sets to build the program and guide it. From identifying the needs, to setting goals, to constructing the program itself, and to establishing the metrics and KPIS to track, if you don’t have employees willing and able to take on each part of the process, your CI plan will fizzle out long before the insights and recommendations of the strategy phase are ever put to use.
Process Keeps the Work Organized and Consistent
People are a prerequisite to any competitive research getting off the ground. But people that aren’t given a clear directive on what needs to be done and how, will be doomed to failure. Ad-hoc initiatives too often lead to inconsistent results and inefficient practices. That’s where getting a clear process into place comes in.
Developing a process is key for making sure the good intentions of the strategy phase are actually realized, and for making sure that they’re tackled in the way that’s most efficient and effective. A strong process will take into account the following:
- The main priorities for your CI strategy, and what tasks most directly relate to achieving them (e.g. what’s essential versus what’s nice to have)
- Who will be involved in the process, and what responsibilities should be assigned to each person
- What tools are available to aid in your CI efforts (more on that in the next section)
- How those tools will specifically be used, and by whom
- A general timeline for how long the different steps in the process will take, as well as guidelines for frequency (good CI isn’t a one-and-done project–you’ll want to keep up with it for the long term)
- What specific reports or other deliverables your team should produce
- Who needs to know about those reports and deliverables, and how you’ll distribute them to all relevant parties in the company
- How your company will put the insights you gain to use across departments
- How you’ll analyze the success of your process as you go, and make changes as needed
That’s a lot of different factors to consider and plan for. You can imagine how easily the whole initiative can fall apart if no one takes the time to organize all of this into a cohesive step-by-step plan. By creating a strong process, you clarify for all the different people involved in achieving your CI goals exactly what their role is, and how to make sure they do their part well.
Technology Brings Efficiency and Accuracy
A strong competitive analysis program requires identifying all of your main competitors, thoroughly analyzing their products and strategy, and consistently monitoring their activities. That’s a lot to accomplish. Handing those directives to an individual or two and hoping for the best will leave an overwhelmed employee drowning in more work than a human can handle alone.
But the people on your team don’t have to do it alone. You can vastly simplify the process of gaining competitive intelligence by using an automated competitive research tool. Incorporating the right technology into your process is how you work smarter, not harder. It’s how you make sure the people you depend on are equipped with what they need to succeed in their part of the job. And it’s how you ensure the process you developed is obtainable and actionable.
Most businesses don’t have dozens of people to handle the work of CI. The 2020 State of Product Marketing report found that tiny product marketing teams are the norm—often with only one person. If those tiny teams are to have any chance of achieving the lofty goals most people set out when starting a competitive intelligence initiative, they need technology that makes the work actually manageable.
In addition to making competitive research considerably more efficient, technology can also enable improved results. AI can ensure that the most important insights you need don’t get lost in all the noise. It can collect and scour huge amounts of data and save you the trouble of figuring out which pieces of it actually matter to your strategy. It can also put the information into data visualizations that make it easier for the humans on your team to process insights and put them to use.
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