Where can’t you do competitive intelligence?

October 22, 2014

This question is provoked by the cover of the October 27, 2014 issue of Fortune, “The New Cold War on Business”. I do not intend to comment on this very good article, but would like to offer my views on how to identify the business and political environments that make it easy (or most difficult) to collect and use competitive intelligence of any sort.

I have in mind the comments of a friend who, talking of one (unnamed) country, said that local firms “will tell you what you want to know, that is, what they think you want to hear. It just has little to do with what is actually going on.”

In other words, before you try to develop, or hire someone to develop, CI in another country, is there any way to determine how likely it is that you can get reliable CI?

  1. How comfortable a business environment is there in any particular country? I would expect that the ease of doing business would correlate with the ease of collecting intelligence on those entities doing business. A resource here is the World Bank’s Doing Business Rankings.
  2.  How easy is it to get information from the public sector about the public sector, such as ownership of businesses, spending, regulations etc., as well as about the private sector, such as private sector filings? Try looking at the Global Open Data index. Where does a country rate on that index?
  3. How corrupt is the public sector? For example, in many countries, parts of the economy have direct or indirect ties to the national government. But an environment of corruption makes it difficult to do business, and also to develop actionable CI about businesses. Where can you get information on this? Look at something like the Corruption Perceptions Index.

So what do we find? Let’s compare the US, the UK, China, Brazil, and India in my working chart:


Competitive Intelligence Index (1 is best, 100 is worst)

Country Ease of Doing Business Rank # of Jurisdictions Open Data Rank # of Jurisdictions Corruption Perceptions Rank # of Jurisdictions Overall Composite Ranking
Brazil 116 189 25 250 72 177 37
China 96 189 41 250 80 177 37
India 134 189 29 250 94 177 45
UK 10 189 1 250 14 177 5
US 4 189 3 250 19 177 5


Does this comport with what you know? I would like your feedback on this.