Regulatory Intelligence (part 2)

January 21, 2014

As I noted in my last blog, regulatory intelligence has several aspects where it intersects with competitive intelligence. The first and most obvious is when you have someone analyze both newly proposed and newly enacted regulations for their impact on your firm and its ability to compete.

Now to be fair, this job ends up almost always in the hands of an attorney or a paralegal (in fact, it is a job I once held). That is not bad, because they are trained to understand the regulatory process and how to read regulations. However, to be effective, they need to communicate more than just “The department has issued a new regulation which requires…” They have to be trained about your business and your market space(s) so that they can add value to these summaries.

The value can be expressed first by adding “This regulation now means that…” To that should be added a specific analysis such as “This will increase our capital costs on future planned construction”, or, “If adopted, this proposed regulation appears to be the first of several steps of increasing regulation over the performance of our products and services…”

If those analyzing regulations do not understand their impact, then they should be trained to understand and then to communicate that impact. If such individuals add value to their analysis of the regulations by adding an analysis of the effect on the competitive environment and/or competitors, they are providing a great service to your business.

The second aspect where regulatory intelligence intersects competitive intelligence is when the regulatory specialists are looking at the same proposed or new regulations for their immediate and near-term impacts on your competitors. Here, your regulatory specialists, or your trade association, if you are relying on that, have to understand and to communicate impacts on the entire market space as well as on particular companies within that market space.

For example, if a company doing business in one way, say marketing over the Internet, will end up facing higher costs than a “bricks and mortar” competitor, make sure to say that. If your regulatory intelligence comes from an internal source, if at all possible, have it identify which competitors are impacted and how. This does not have to be a 12 page single-spaced document – in fact it should not be!

By highlighting, in a short and easily understood way, the winners and losers of a regulatory change (or proposed change), regulatory intelligence can make a critical contribution to your firm becoming a more effective and nimble competitor.

Politics versus Analysis

July 9, 2012

A current article in Vanity Fair deals harshly with Republican Candidate Mitt Romney. At the very beginning, it notes:

A person who worked for Mitt Romney at the consulting firm Bain and Co. in 1977 remembers him with mixed feelings. “Mitt was … a really wonderful boss,” the former employee says. “He was nice, he was fair, he was logical, he said what he wanted … he was really encouraging.” But Bain and Co., the person recalls, pushed employees to find out secret revenue and sales data on its clients’ competitors. Romney, the person says, suggested “falsifying” who they were to get such information, by pretending to be a graduate student working on a project at Harvard. (The person, in fact, was a Harvard student, at Bain for the summer, but not working on any such projects.) “Mitt said to me something like ‘We won’t ask you to lie. I am not going to tell you to do this, but [it is] a really good way to get the information.’ … I would not have had anything in my analysis if I had not pretended.”

Pretty damning, no? No. Now, read it again, this time like an analyst – slowly and closely, and in context.

The person who worked for Romney was still in school. Romney graduated Harvard Law & Business Schools in 1975, so Romney was just 2 years out. That means he was not a senior manager.  Note it was Bain (that actually that means someone higher up at Bain, right?), not Romney, that pushed a student to find out “secret” sales and revenue data.

Of course, sales and revenue data from a private company are not always secret. Hum…but no one said that the competitors were even all private companies, did they? A lot of people may know these figures, including subscription services like D&B, as well as trade associations, local chambers of commerce (shameless plug – for more ideas, buy our new book Proactive Intelligence: The Successful Executive’s Guide to Intelligence ). And, if a company employee gives them out over the phone to someone who calls and asks for them, then they are not really trade secrets, are they?

The request to the student was, well actually, well, was there actually a request? Let’s move on.

And what exactly did the student then do: “pretended” to be a student.  And is that illegal? No. As Attorney Richard Horowitz’s insightful recent interview on CI law and ethics notes

If you tell me things that you would have told anyone, the fact that I misrepresented my name or who I am [such as being a student] alone doesn’t make it an illegal act.

Well, this was unethical anyway, right? This happened in 1977, and the only ethical standards barring this, from SCIP (Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals), would not even exist for more than 10 years. So it is a bit of a stretch to call it unethical, too.