What is the climate for Competitive Intelligence?

June 6, 2016

I have previously discussed situations when there may be little or no demand for CI. Let me now get into more situations where the demand for CI may become diminished.

For the first, I saw in a recent issue of Fortune an article by Geoff Colvin – “The New Allure of Going Private” (June 1, 2016). In that article, the author discussed the disadvantages of going public, and the related benefits or going (or staying) private. Along them he noted that “the many disclosures required of public companies are rich with information for competitors to study.” 1 point for staying private. Why give competitively sensitive data to your competitors if you do not have to?

Later, the author cited the case of Dell which had to release information on its losses even though it was a private company. Why? Because the rules governing public companies can slop over onto private companies:

“Private companies with publicly held debt may still have to file quarterly statements with the SEC, and if a private company wants to buy a public one, it must publish detailed internal data…”

The impact on CI? If you are private, consider staying private because you will release less competitively sensitive data. If your competitors are similarly situated, that may then create an atmosphere where all competitors in that market space see little need to develop or maintain CI capabilities, since the necessary data appears to be so hard to collect. By the way, that is not always the case.

A second situation arises out of the current state of the US economy. I have talked with many in business, and hear a common thread, particularly from those in the largest public firms. It is variously called caution, fear, reluctance, etc. It has as one of its characteristics the current positioning of many firms. The phrases used to describe that positioning include surviving, defensive, and avoiding risk. That language has replaced language such as positioning to grow faster, being more aggressive, and making more money. To put it bluntly, there is, in some cases, a loss of a sense of competing in the current economy. And, if your firm is not really competing, why, pray tell, would it feel that developing and using CI is a priority?

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