The 4th of July 2017

This coming July 4th holiday celebrates the independence of the United States of America. My significantly better half, Carolyn Vella, reminded me that this began the process that established some of the critical liberties that enable us to post blogs like this and, yes, to conduct competitive intelligence research. Here are just two of them:

At the Virginia Ratifying Convention, on June 9, 1788, while debating the ratification of the US Constitution, Patrick Henry rose to say

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them…. [T]o cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man, and every friend to his country.”

From the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1791, provides, in part that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….”

These fundamental rights were later extended to protect US citizens from state governments as well as the federal governments. In 1925, the US Supreme Court stated that

“[W]e may and do assume that freedom of speech and of the press which are protected by the First Amendment from abridgment by Congress are among the fundamental personal rights and ‘liberties’ protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from impairment by the States.” Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925).

Celebrate the 4th of July’s gifts of liberty.

Getting it right

June 21, 2017


Just because you are big, and still getting bigger, does not mean that you can skip competitive intelligence activities. And that is true even when your competitors are much, much smaller. Fortunately some firms realize that.

Take the case of the ubiquitous Starbucks. A recent profile[1] noted that many of its “newer and cooler” competitors are small – “not big enough to take market share”. But, still Starbucks “keeps a keen eye on the newbies”. One of the newbies told the author that employees of Starbuck involved in R&D activities have ordered “cases” of one of the newbie’s innovative products.

Good going!

[1] Beth Kowitt, “Howard Schultz Has Something Left to Prove, Fortune, June 8, 2017.

Walk and chew gum at the same time?

June 16, 2017

A recent article[1] observes that “Microsoft is learning from…[basing] more of its decision-making on data-driven experiments and what it thinks customers want rather than what competitors might be doing.” Woof. Does this mean that Microsoft has NOT been basing some decisions on what customers want? Or does it mean that doesn’t use competitive intelligence (CI) in its decision-making? I doubt either is true, but this observation reflects a tribal attitude towards actionable information in many corporations.

Exactly what is the problem with basing corporate decisions on holistic intelligence dealing with the totality of the competitive and marketing environments? The default choice, alas, in some firms is evidently market research (MR), without any CI. Maybe the MR people do a little (what they call) CI, but usually they do not. If there is any CI process, it is likely reporting to the planning function, but not supporting sales and marketing as well. These silos hinder effective operation. That is like driving your car with clear side and rear windows, but with a shattered, opaque front windshield.

For example, say that MR including the “voice of the customers” research, discloses a need/desire of customers that they are also willing to pay for (an oft-ignored issue). Would it not help to know if CI disclosed that (a) one major competitor has previously rejected this opportunity (and why), (b) a second major competitor is ready to roll-out a new product/service to meet this need in the next 30 days, (c) a third competitor has done similar research and saw no such opportunity, and/or (d) another smaller competitor has the technology to enter this niche, but currently lacks the funding to do so? I think so.

Maybe Microsoft is right here. Why buy Safeway just because is buying Whole Foods?

[1] Matt Day, “Microsoft borrows from Amazon’s philosophy as its cloud grows”, The Seattle Times, June 7, 2017,

Free DIY CI Webinar Posted

June 9, 2017

The Competitive Intelligence Division of the Special Libraries Association has posted my DIY CI webinar at . This free webinar is the one I noted in my blog last week ( ).

The 1 hour session attracted over 300 registrants. Enjoy!

Free do-it-yourself competitive intelligence webinar

June 2, 2017

This week, I will be presenting a free 1 hour webinar on DIY CI. It will start on June 8 at Noon ET. I will be providing on everything from finding and using the best data sources to how to market your skill set throughout your company. You’ll find practical suggestions and “how to” strategies to get your CI trajectory not only on course, but on the rise!

This presentation revisits my very well-received half-day Competitive Intelligence Division’s continuing education course held last summer at the Special Libraries Association’s annual conference.

Register now: