Vacation Notice

The next blog will be posted in the week of November 29, 2014. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

How intelligence differs from data

One of the problems that individuals dealing with competitive intelligence face, whether they are doing CI for themselves or doing CI for other members of their business or enterprise, is differentiating between providing data and providing intelligence.

Particularly when those who are generating the CI are dealing with individuals further up the food chain, there can be a tendency to try to downplay drawing their own conclusions. That means they just present competitive “data”. But, it is the analysis of the data that converts it into valuable intelligence. Without the analysis, there is no intelligence. And it is intelligence that is valuable, not mere data, no matter how well presented.

Let me give you an example from outside competitive intelligence. The most recent issue of Eriesense, a consumer publication of Erie Insurance, illustrates this difference rather graphically[1]:

“Today’s [identity] thieves can learn a lot about you by simply visiting your social media pages…. One common practice is to piece together bits of information you share in various websites. Just a few tidbits they can learn about you include your date of birth, your city, your mother’s maiden name, what bank you ‘like’ and what Internet provider you complain about in your posts. That can ultimately help them decode your passwords and access your personal [financial] accounts.”

In other words, identity thieves first capture raw data, and then analyze it to help them (unfortunately) be able to figure out your passwords. This is actionable intelligence – it lets them open and drain your accounts. Data plus analysis yields intelligence. Data without intelligence is just “bits of information”.

[1] Jane Bianchi, “Identity Theft on the rise”, Eriesense, Fall 2014, p. 6.

What’s the rush?

November 5, 2014

Yesterday’s US elections brought to mind an issue which is somewhat common in competitive intelligence. That is the issue of timing.

What I mean by that? Well, look at the reporting about the election. Every network, every website, and every commentator rushes to “call” the results of elections before their competition does and to get out their “analysis” even when there is little or nothing to analyze, or worse, when their analysis will probably be wrong. That is because news organizations put a premium on being first rather than on being the most accurate.

There is a similar problem in competitive intelligence. Whether you are collecting and developing CI for yourself or for others, timing is always an issue. By this time, you are probably familiar with the adage that

“Time is of the essence in intelligence, while it is usually a side issue in scholarly research.[1]

That is, get it in when people can use it, rather than wait to make it perfect. But there is a flip side to this. The flip side is “What is your hurry?”

In other words, whether you are in a rush to develop intelligence or someone else in your enterprise is putting a rush on getting CI on a competitor, step back for second. Assess whether or not you are compromising accuracy/completeness for speed. Now, that is a compromise which sometimes has to be made. But be honest. Is it really necessary now? Is the decision you have to make or the action at someone else has to take so time sensitive critical that you/he/she/they cannot wait one or two hours, days, or even weeks, for you to develop superior intelligence to support a superior action or decision? Where you can, take the time to do it right.

[1] Washington Platt, Strategic Intelligence Production: Basic Principles, Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1957, p. 35.