Likelihood of Success

March 24, 2016

Being a CI DIYer is not easy. One of the things that you do not have, but which is beneficial to the competitive intelligence professional (sometimes) is the ability to interact with the end-user. That interaction, as I have mentioned, should include“push-back”, that is a dialog between the CI professional and the end-user to focus the assignment more precisely. Using that, the CI professional can make sure what is requested (a) can be provided and (b) will be actionable. But, there is another element to the relationship that is also absent for the DIYer.

That element is accountability. By that, I mean having the CI professional having to tell the end-user, clearly and honestly, how easy or difficult, how inexpensive or costly, and how quick or prolonged the work will be. We do that for our clients by providing them with an evaluation of the “likelihood of success” in our proposals.

In doing that, we evaluate and then provide our estimate of the likelihood of collecting the applicable data and providing all of the intelligence that they seek. That takes into account time available, difficultly of target or task, expertise required, and budget available, among other factors. It also factors in the deliverables: that is, of all of the data and intelligence sought, how much can actually be delivered. Or, in the case of elicitation interviews, restate it as “How many interviews can I successfully complete that will deliver value?”

To replace this for the DIYer, I suggest that, when you are beginning any CI research work, first sit back and try to estimate your own likelihood of success. Ask yourself, “How likely it is that I can find and develop the intelligence that I need, given all of my constraints?” If it is below, say, 50%, stop and rethink all of the elements of your project: do you have enough time, can you really get actionable intelligence as opposed to “sort of interesting” data, do you have enough budget if you need to buy outside services or reports, etc.? Then retool your project. A few minutes here will really pay off.

Guests Blog: Changes in CI

March 14, 2016

Recently, I wrote an article with Michael Misner-Elias titled “The Changing Landscape of Competitive Intelligence.” In that article, Michael and I discussed two items:

  • the CI cycle, in particular problems with it and the need for a new tool we called the Critical Intelligence Requirement, and
  • the rise of the DIYers in competitive intelligence.

I circulated this article to a number of CI professionals, and one, Bob Franc, replied with some thoughtful, interesting comments about both subjects. With his permission, I am including some of these as a guest blog.


The CI Cycle:

I don’t think the CI cycle is necessarily outdated, but I do believe that many CI practitioners misinterpret what it means.  That, or their background has them interpret it in a project management way and they firmly stick to…one question, one project, one answer and done, move on to the next project!  I believe that has been one consistent [failure?] of CI over the years.   Few CI practitioners that I have ever interacted with could even understand the idea that CI should treat key company needs more as Continuing Intelligence Requirements.  If they were not asked to do something, they wouldn’t do it – perhaps another failure of CI?


I actually love DIYers as it makes my job as a Director, Competitive Intelligence, somewhat easier because they have taken that first step towards identifying their environment and trying to understand who is doing what.  That makes my position easy as I can plug the knowledge gaps because while they may or may not really understand what is going on, they still are in a reactive stance.

On the other hand, they have no idea what is coming with respect to the competition and what changes will be made in the near-term.  They also do not understand what other types of players are making inroads into their markets because the DIYers always (in my experience) demonstrate a narrow view of their universe.  But, sometimes the DIYers are more pliable towards new CI.


About Bob Franc: Bob Franc has over 30 years of experience leveraging industry, market and competitive intelligence insights & findings into executable strategies for pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, health information technology, healthcare services and health insurance companies.  His experience crosses research, commercial, marketing and business.

Bob’s specific area of expertise is intelligence; however, he brings a strategic planner’s perspective to all business functions and companies, developing plans and strategies for every department, from discovery through commercial, including executive-level and company-wide initiatives.

He has started five competitive intelligence functions and expanded the roles of three others; each time improving the performance, capabilities and coverage by teams.  He has consistently integrated CI into company’s processes, ensuring the team focused on key areas necessary for short-term success and longer-term competitiveness.

Bob can be contacted at

Where is DIY CI?

March 7, 2016

When Carolyn Vella and I started writing Proactive Intelligence: The Successful Executive’s Guide to Intelligence (Springer 2012), we were seeing the rise of what we call DIY CI. DIY CI means having CI be done by individuals and even teams that do not have the words “competitive intelligence” or “strategic intelligence” in their title, or even in their job descriptions. It is at the group, among others, that we aimed the book.

Since that time, I have done a number of training sessions aimed specifically at DIYers – product managers, technology directors and the like. But our perspective on the existence, growth, and importance of DIY CI was largely our own.

Recently, I had occasion to talk with a couple of my peers, each associated with training individuals on strategic or competitive intelligence in the US and overseas. Adding their perspectives, the DIY phenomenon seems to be growing:

One noted that almost half of those now being trained in his courses carried non-CI titles.

Another observed that his courses are heavily populated with individuals carrying titles outside of CI or strategic intelligence.

And this trend seems to be growing. I will (warning – shameless plug to follow) be conducting a ½ day course for the Special Libraries Association in Philadelphia PA on Saturday June 11, 2016. The course’s name?  “Do-It-Yourself CI: Sources, Strategies and Techniques”. Non-SLA members can also take this course (hint, hint).