Information and Intelligence

What Intelligence do you need as a company? Here are some ways of looking at intelligence you need to gather to stay competitive.

Market/Industry Intelligence

You need an idea of your marketplace, players in the space. You need to identify potential  competition and  partners. While you gather information about your marketplace, you may also want to keep an eye on the broader industry.  For example, if you are building mobile enterprise applications, you may want to keep an eye on the broader trends and dynamics in the mobile application space.

Emerging Technology Intelligence

Technology has the potential of disrupting many existing businesses. A good example is what Apple’s iPod did to music industry. Other examples include what Cloud computing may do to traditional software products or how tablet like devices may impact laptops. Having a good knowledge of the potential applications of emerging technologies is essential for business of any size. You may  want to watch emerging technologies that may render your products/services obsolete.

Tracking emerging technology trends and figuring out how you can use them to disrupt your own products, may be a good exercise. Watching how some of your competitors are using technology, is another. For example, is your competition using social media to promote their products? What is their Twitter influence and reach? Where do they make new product announcements? Do they advertise on Facebook or other social networks? Do they have a discussion forums on LinkedIn? Do they answer questions in various social networks?

You may also want to track how your industry is leveraging emerging technology. If they are not, is there an opportunity to lead and gain more visibility?

Competitor/Customer Intelligence

Every company has competition of some sort.  In some cases two entirely different products/services may compete. This may not be obvious by just looking at the product category. An example is a search engine like Google and a social network like Facebook. Competition includes direct and indirect competition.

What is Customer Intelligence? If some one is selling to your customer category, they may be either a potential partner or a competitor. In fact, a lot of competitive intelligence may come from  customer interactions and request for proposals(RFPs). If you competition got to your customer before you did, you may find some of their features in the RFP. RFPs are incidentally, a great way to mine customer requirements in a particular market place.

If you agree that you need these different types of intelligence, how do you go about obtaining it? Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the sources of information?
  2. How can you identify the most relevant sources and how do you constantly discover new ones?
  3. What kinds of tools are available to automate the information gathering process?
  4. How do you filter out the noise and find what is relevant to your product or service?
  5. How will you gather information and extract what you need?
  6. How do you analyze information to get actionable intelligence about markets, customers, competitors, technology?
  7. How can you leverage information to identify potential customers(generate leads), partners/channels and competitors?

There are about five stages in this process. This is a spiral model where you continuously enhance/refine every step based on what you learn from other steps.

  1. Discovery – Discovering Relevant sources of Information
  2. Tracking – Continuously monitoring these sources and discovering more in the process.
  3. Filtering – Filtering the noise and gaining the information most relevant to your business
  4. Extracting – Transforming information from free form into some kind of useful structure to distribute internally.
  5. Sharing – Sharing information at different levels of granularity, refining it and deriving actionable intelligence.