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What’s the Future of SCIP and the Competitive Intelligence Profession?

I’m just back from a holiday in Barcelona, Cadaqués and Southern France, mostly the hill town of Itzac where family lives. As often happens I had time to reflect on recent happenings in my life.

I feel like one of my rocks, SCIP has shifted in my absence due to the merger with Frost & Sullivan’s Institute.  I have been an active member since 1990, participating in most annual conferences, served on its board, helped found the Minnesota chapter. I am a columnist for CI Magazine and have given presentations at most SCIP conferences since the mid-1990s. So you get the drift: I am committed to the CI profession and to SCIP.

How did we get there? I think the reasons are deeper than our weak economy, although it is a contributor.  Competitive intelligence is not recognized enough to keep SCIP afloat on its own.  Corporate members increasingly conduct competitive intelligence as a part of their job, but many are not full time practitioners.  This is also true for many consultants and academics who teach competitive intelligence, often as part of an MBA or other Master’s program.

Many companies include competitive intelligence as part of other business functions which are well defined: product planning, strategic planning, marketing, PR, sales, R&D, but CI really isn’t perceived as a discipline in many companies.

When SCIP was formed in 1986, it was the only game in town, but now there are competitive intelligence divisions and / or CI programs within other organizations such as SLA (Special Libraries Association), AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals), American Marketing Association, and Marketing Research Association to name a few.  SCIP has perceived these groups as competitors and has felt more threatened by them rather than acting cooperatively and partnering and learning from them. SLA has implemented a competitive intelligence certificate program within its CI Division, which has been very successful, while SCIP is still working on a certification program. SCIP also competes with social networks where participants act and react quickly to events like the CI Ning, LinkedIn groups and Twitter for written communication on competitive intelligence.

For SCIP to survive, even with Frost’s infusion of cash, it’s imperative that SCIP turn on its marketing machine with urgency and reach out to companies and individuals and educate them on the compelling value of conducting systematic CI.  Many don’t get this and just do CI on an ad hoc basis, when they feel pain.  I know this since I’ve been consulting for a while and mostly get called in when companies are having trouble.

CI needs more recognition in the academic world. I am not a professor, but I know that what people learn in school, they often use at work.  If CI is strongly marketed to schools as part of the curriculum in undergraduate and graduate business programs, this will help the profession and SCIP both. A scholarly journal would be another step in credibility for the academic community.

I came home and spent hours pouring over the posts that had been added on the CI Ning particularly two of them:

SCIP F&SI Moving Forward

Interest in Starting an Online-Only CI Academic Journal?

I hope that SCIP’s leadership is reading the CI Ning. There are so many good ideas posted, so SCIP has a great opportunity to listen and query these individuals more closely and engage them to be part of the solution.


Let’s Give SCIP a Second Chance

This has been a tough time for many of us in this rocky economy and SCIP has been no exception. SCIP 09 attracted many fewer people than SCIP had hoped for since many companies have cut back travel and education budgets this year.  Like most associations, SCIP is fueled financially by its annual conferences.  SCIP leadership and its Board of Directors were ready and presented the membership with a voting opportunity to keep SCIP in business.  Frost & Sullivan’s Institute has agreed to give SCIP a cash infusion to keep it in business, and to propel the CI profession into new directions, most particularly up the organization where Frost is well positioned.

Like many I was disturbed by the suddenness with which we were presented with this bad news: that SCIP was facing such financial difficulty that this infusion of cash was expedient, and we better vote YES to keep SCIP in business.  This was bad emotional intelligence on SCIP’s part I think.

There is a tremendous amount of emotional and analytical discussion on this subject on our CI Ning.  Check it out as you will read so many great ideas on how our field is evolving globally as well as organizations that do bits and pieces of CI.

What I get from this discussion is that we all benefit the most by having one place to represent competitive intelligence, so I hope that SCIP remains in business, and takes some of the constructive suggestions that have been raised in the last week through the CI Ning, the Fellow’s phone call, the CI chapter’s phone call…the outpouring of ideas.

I also hope that SCIP learns to work better with other interest groups all over the world in SCIP and brings back some form of an academic journal since schooling is a great way to build the profession!

Read about the proposed merger with Frost & Sullivan’s Institute right on SCIP’s home page .  The latest I heard was about 90% of the votes have been YES to the merger.  There has never been such a high voter turnout in SCIP’s history. SCIP needs 5% of the membership to vote and a 2/3 majority to say YES in order to move forward with negotiations for the merger.  I voted YES and encourage SCIP members to support our Board and SCIP leadership. We all win if SCIP moves forward and continues to support the competitive intelligence profession.

Let’s Hear it for Librarians in Competitive Intelligence!

Our CI Ning brings out so much discussion in competitive intelligence.  Here is one point I shared recently and it bears repeating: I would like to support the role of librarians in the CI field. Often in competitive intelligence there is so much confusion about what we do, that we ram our way into places where we don’t belong somewhat in desperation.

We can learn from librarians about good service, which is a lot what I believe is behind the practice of cooperative intelligence, which promotes a spirit of giving by integrating the practices of leadership, connection and communication.  Many of us in CI are very good at digging up good insightful data and providing relevant analysis.  We’re not so good at the human issues of connection and communication, which is where librarians run circles around many of us.  They learn about this in librarian school both as undergrads and in master’s programs.

Many librarians don’t have extensive analytical skills, while some do.  I have been disturbed over the years by how some in our field seem to put down the library science field, when it’s the first step in most CI projects, and the librarian can be one of the major sources of fuel to feed the CI process so we can spend more time connecting with primary sources and doing the analysis and communication to help our companies be more competitive.

I learned to value librarians back in 1985 when I started our CI function at Bell Atlantic, now part of Verizon. Our corporate librarian was an important part of my CI team, and she threw more good stuff my way…yes, this was before the Internet, email and voice mail…now librarians can do so much more, and watch a librarian connect on social networks. This is just an extension of what they already have been doing for years.

I think these are some of the reasons that SLA’s CI division is so successful.  Librarians get where their role is in the company, that it’s evolving and provide it with a spirit of service and giving. They also know what they don’t know and learn about it: that’s where CI fits in and why SLA’s CI certificate program has been so successful. Another reason is it was developed and executed by a seasoned CI professional, Cynthia Cheng Correia who understands librarian’s needs since she also has her MLS.

Competitive Intelligence Starts with Your Company

I was recently invited to help a customer improve their competitive intelligence process.  I traveled to their headquarters and was given a grand tour of their plant operations and new R&D facility.

The HQ is a lovely building, not too fancy yet decorated with fine art and photography from the owner’s collection and world travels. The management team was warm and positive even in these tough economic times. Their cafeteria served fresh food, and is near the workers, who mostly work on the first floor where the plant is located.

The plant was tidy, and the VP who showed me around was proud of his workers and their operation. The plant had deployed lean manufacturing and most of the employees were cross-trained so they could do “the assembly of the moment” with some exceptions for specialized work. The Just in Time inventory implementation had greatly reduced the company’s need for storage, so much so that there were empty areas at their plant which one year ago had been bursting at the seams.

The owner of the company really cares about his employees, and practices cooperative intelligence, even though he doesn’t call it that. Here’s an example: they’re headquartered in a small town, not that close to a major city. He built a medical clinic for his employees so they would have better medical care since they could walk to it from work. His staff figured out how many hours the clinic should be open for optimal use. Next to the clinic, he put in a gym since the doctor and nurse practitioner recommend exercise programs for employees as preventative maintenance. The workout machinery can be programmed to track an employee’s exercise program. Healthy employees are happier and more productive.

What I really admire about this owner is his combination of caring about the employees while watching the bottom line. Previously, employees would go without care for longer than they should since medical care was too far from the office. Now they routinely visit the doctor when they are ill, and also for maintenance. Medical expenses for the company have decreased in the year since he opened the clinic. It’s also professional in appearance just like you would expect at a regular doctor’s office.

You can just imagine how good morale is working at this company, where its leadership is supportive of employees, has a “can do” approach, and promotes open communication throughout the organization.

Often in competitive intelligence we’re so busy looking externally at the competition and market conditions that we forget to consider how we can improve our own operation by investigating ourselves. Before I look at a company’s competitors, I always like to take a long look at the company which hired me. Their operation, including their management’s behavior and motivation, becomes my yardstick to consider as I learn about the competition.

Competitive Technical Intelligence (CTI) Released at #SCIP09 in Chicago

This is a continuation of my SCIP09 Conference learning. This book fills a void as a current, comprehensive CTI resource. Competitive Technical Intelligence focuses on science and technology (S&T) and provides methods and tools to help companies, labs and governments maintain a technical competitive edge.

The book is divided into 5 areas: CTI Today; CTI Organizations and Operations; CTI Tools and Methods; CTI Company and Industry Case Studies and Outlook for CTI. There are 20 chapters each written by a CTI expert.

The book begins with a definition of CTI. Simply put, CTI is technical analysis within the competitive intelligence discipline.

CTI seeks to identify a competitor’s R&D strategy and innovation pipeline to identify the next generation of threats in the marketplace. CTI typically includes the analysis of patents, scientific publications, news sources, open innovation needs, and other technological, engineering, or scientific sources. It focuses on identifying technological trends, opportunities and threats, and their relationship to competitors’ business strategies.

CTI often provides the longest future look at your competition versus other forms of competitive intelligence such as sales, product and financial.

CTI’s key attributes include:

Analysis of science and technical aspects of the external environment

Current, timely, accurate and defensible

Analyzed information that has been processed, validated and interpreted

Actionable, containing recommendations that imply what needs to be done

Gathered using ethical and legal means

CTI is not:

National security intelligence or espionage

Industrial espionage Market research or marketing

An isolated information gathering effort

In 1997, Brad Ashton and Dick Klavans, authors of Keeping Abreast of Science and Technology, observed that CTI was a young area of business. It has since evolved, and practitioners indicate that CTI products have had a significant impact on company and S&T decisions. I will write more about this CTI book in future blogs. Meanwhile read more about this here and order your copy through Bonnie Hohhof  at SCIP.

How have you used competitive technical intelligence at your company? Do you see CTI as a growing practice or do you feel its vulnerability in these troubled times?

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