Welcome to the [R]evolution

March 5, 2018

“Got a revolution, got to revolution.” Jefferson Airplane, Revolution (1969)

in our new book, Competitive Intelligence Rescue: Getting It Right (Praeger 2017), Carolyn Vella and I relate a case dealing with DIY CI (chapter 8). . Let me give you a couple of my thoughts on DIY CI.

Remember that the CI universe today has three basic research and analysis epicenters:

  1. CI professionals within an enterprise (including adjuncts such as researchers sited in libraries/information centers)
  2. Independent CI professionals who consult for/research for that and other enterprises
  3. Internal DIYers.

My own perception is that the first group is static or growing slowly, the second is stable or slightly declining, and that the third is growing steadily. Compared with 10 or 20 years ago, the existence of DIY CI marks an important evolution, if not revolution, in CI. Those growth trends, if they continue, may fundamentally change the CI “business”.

One plus from this is that it shows an increasing use of CI in enterprises, coupled with better access to end-users, particularly since the end-user in DIY CI is the person who generates the CI. It should also mean that the time between a perceiving a need for CI and its creation could fall.

However, there are also some minuses:

  • Those producing the CI will necessarily have narrower experiences in producing it, since they deal only with one client. That could result in a loss of professional perspective or even the failure to develop it.
  • The use of elicitation interviews will necessarily fall, thus diminishing use of a proven, valuable primary research resource.

What does this mean? One consequence could be that CI degenerate into several subspecialties where experience and developments are not easily transferable, such as IT CI, pharma CI, B2C CI, etc. Another consequence could be that CI could morph into a discipline that will not be able to look forward as easily as is it can look back and look at the present. Why? Because data on future actions and intentions lies with people to a significantly greater degree than in published sources. A third could be the separation of early warning processes from everyday CI, in part due to the lack of necessary broad perspectives among internal personnel.

What to do to keep these trends from “damaging” CI? (Sorry, I know that is a loaded question, but that is how I see it):

  • Institute regular awareness sessions and focused training both on producing CI and on using it. To avoid inbreeding, vary the sources for that training. That is use insiders, then external resources, and vary the outside providers over time.

Establish a stable of outside CI professionals pre-approved for future assignments. Rotation among them avoids having them buying into your firm’s blinders. Also, use one or more of them to regularly review your CI processes and work products to enrich your program with their broader perspectives. Interestingly, this is a flip on the CI audit that was used in the early days of CI before initiating a new CI program. Now the audit would be of the system as it operates and not of the potential need for CI and existing internal resources

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: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4571811512132925443

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 francrgf@gmail.com.

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).