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.



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