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

CadaquesI’m just back from a holiday in Barcelona, Cadaqués (above) 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.

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6 Responses

  1. Ellen, that was a nice summary of the SCIP implosion. One other factor may also have been that many SCIP members are passing through CI along their career path, and don’t expect to be doing CI for long.

  2. Ellen, well and kindly done. CI is not faring well in the marketplace as a distinct discipline. Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. I hope SCIP takes your cooperative approach, but I know they generally exclude the dissenters from committee formation. The result is less contentious but also less insightful.

  3. I had a chance to chat with Ken Garrison yesterday about the merger and how it’s being perceived by membership and beyond and suggested SCIP sponsor a town hall meeting to discuss the outlook.

    This would be online most probably but with perhaps a live component – for example, I’ll be seeing you and a number of other members at SLA in a few days and it would be easy enough to find a room somewhere with wifi and tack up GotoMeeting and a phone bridge without spending any money to do it.

    Would you be interested in helping facilitate together this Ellen?

  4. I agree with your comment, Mary Ellen. CI is often just a phase for many, whereas being a librarian is a way of life, so SLA has a great following, for example.

    Happy to help out in facilitation, Arik. Although I am only at SLA on Tuesday, June 16. My life is complicated since I’ll be caring for my parents, but could duck out for something that gets me back by 9:30 a.m. on Mon or Wed.

  5. Thanks, Ellen. Good article. SCIP has always done a good job of marketing to practitioners, which is preaching to the choir. For many years one recurring key issue has been how to encourage management buy-in. For Competitive Intelligence to have any future we still need to reach those decision members and educate them as to the benefits of CI. Working CI into MBA programs is a start for future C level folks, however there is much more that can be done to generate management awareness and interest in the short term. Get the message to *them*. The SCIP magazine one good tool that is underutilized. A few copies should be in every airline’s business class section, the seatback of every car in the limo fleets of major cities, corporate lobby waiting areas and maybe even in executive washrooms. There are probably many other, perhaps better, ways to carry the SCIP message to the executive class; (arranging PR interviews about CI on Blumberg radio comes to mind).

    SCIP and Frost need to put some energy and resources in management’s direction.

  6. George, I am hopeful that F&S’s presence with senior executives will help put CI awareness at that level. And I agree that more cirulation of the CI Magazine would be helpful too, and is something I never thought of. Thanks for your sharing!

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