Who Says Librarians Can’t be Analytic Competitive Intelligence Professionals?

I taught a couple of courses about analytical tools and techniques to librarians as part of SLA’s (Special Library’s Association) competitive intelligence certificate program.  I was amazed at how quickly these librarians built off their information expertise and applied it to analytics.  Here’s an example of how they dove into win loss analysis, my favorite sales intelligence tool. We used the scenario that they sold for Dialog and were losing cases to Lexis-Nexis.

First we would identify all the products that both vendors sell by geography and their perceived value proposition to our customers. We would divide sales according to our market segments to learn which segments are growing and shrinking. We would also consider our product bundling, and would ask Sales about this. We also would look to Sales and Customer Service for their perception of client’s needs versus wants and our competitor. We would tap into our Customer Service people to learn what problems they deal with and how they resolve them. We would incorporate strategic changes to our product line and how projected new releases would affect our position in the marketplace.

This information would help us develop a profile of our product and positioning versus the competition and identify the important issues so we ask the right questions in win loss interviews.

Start-up Issues
How often do we conduct win/loss interviews? We should conduct these interviews within 3 months of the sales event so people remember. Do we involve Sales in the process or do we conduct these calls anonymously without Sales’ knowledge? The argument for anonymity is that you will get less biased answers with neutrality.  However, you might get less deep answers since the customer isn’t sure where this information is going, even though you promise confidentiality. In all cases, we must stress the confidentiality of customer’s answers.

Is Sales already doing some form of win loss analysis or did they do it previously and discontinue it “for some reason”? If you involve Sales, they have great insight as to what questions we to ask since they know their customer’s decision-making criteria.  They also can help us target the right person at each account who has the most knowledge. Overall we thought it would be better to have sales involved in helping us develop questions, to tell us who to call and some facts about their dealings with this customer, their customer’s personality, motivation and communication style. Sales can also tell us why they think they won or lost a sale. Sales might not be as strong in developing questions around product development.

We needed to have the support of senior management all the way down to Sales if we include Sales in this process. We also need to be sensitive to Sales’ relationships with their customers. Perhaps win loss analysis was conducted before and it was not a positive experience for sales, so we need to find out why and overcome those objections and make it cooperative, a win:win for all, which if done correctly, win loss analysis is!

Questions for Win Interviews
Why did they select us? Was there a particular deal swinger?
How close a call was our “win”? Was this new business or a larger contract or was it harder to win than before? Was there some hesitation to continue business with us or to maintain the same level of business?
Did they consider competitors? Who?
What do we do well that we better continue to do if we want to keep their business? What does the competition do well that we could adopt or build on?
What improvements can we make in how we conduct business?
Are there specific wants or needs that we’re not addressing?

Questions for Loss Interviews
Why did we lose? (not in those words)
Who did we lose to?
Were there also other competitors & if so, how did we rate? Why?
Terms: price and contract duration
What was the customer’s budget for this service?
What improvements can we make in how we conduct business?
Are there specific wants or needs that we’re not addressing? Is there anything we could have done which would have caused us to win the business?

I particularly liked this question for both win and loss interviews: What do we offer, which is included in our cost, which is superfluous to our customers—that is they don’t need it?

Obviously we would reword our questions and perhaps incorporate some elicitation skills to be more conversational, but I was impressed that these librarians were so insightful!

Here is an article to supplement your knowledge in win loss analysis.

How Executives Find & Value Information

A recent Forbes survey of 354 executives at large US companies indicates that competitor analysis is the most critical area for research. This bodes well for competitive intelligence, but somehow my phone isn’t ringing off the hook.

The Internet is valued more than any other information source, including internal, external and personal contacts as well as newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, conferences and trade shows.


Rob Shaddock , Senior VP and CTO of Tyco Electronics  explains his preference for digital information, “Newspapers and print are static. Often an article leaves you with just so many additional questions…on line, it’s so easy to find additional information.”

This is SCARY: info gained through the Internet is valued over experts! Furthermore, the c-suite first turns to mainstream search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Live Search. Yikes! They’re informative, but my, they’re shallow and, sometimes inaccurate and usually not that timely—the essential ingredients behind competitive intelligence—timely and accurate!

However, on the positive side, I like it that the c-suite does their own searching. Previously I think they relied too much on information from others and could more easily be blindsided by filtered information from managers who wanted to push their agendas. Now the c-suite is more armed to ask provocative questions based on their own research. However, their blinders might be swinging to an over-reliance on Google and the like!

Executives will dig through multiple links to find the information they seek and I can understand why they “Google” since search engines are “free” and easily accessed. However, to make good decisions, we need a balance of sources and I hate to think that the Internet wins over human intelligence—where you can engage in a dialog, not just more searching and multiple links!

I wonder how much time our leadership wastes looking for data, which could be found so much faster through the various paid sources such as Dialog, Dow Jones, Thomson reports or the invisible web. I’m also concerned that the c-suite might be further distancing itself from people—who have expertise from years of industry experience—in favor of Internet searching. The answers and analysis that are required to make good decisions do not reside on the Internet!

The digital age has forever changed the c-suite. Younger executives make extensive use of social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook—which allow them to engage with a far broader group of people than they would meet otherwise—another great resource to prevent from being blindsided. President Obama epitomizes today’s c-suite executive as the first president to use email, social networks and a Blackberry.

Thankfully personal and professional contacts still trump virtual networks. Sophie Zurquiyah, Chief Technology Officer at Schlumberger says, “I get the most valuable insight from my interactions with people.” She mixes the views “of vendors, colleagues, internal managers, workers…” While technologies such as email or Web video certainly enable such interaction, “you can never lose sight of the personal aspects—relationships with people are your most valuable information resources. You cannot discount personal interaction.”

You can read this set of articles in the July Forbes magazine. It goes into much more depth, and doesn’t include my editorial comments! I hope you’re having a great summer—those of you in the Northern hemisphere. It’s heavenly here in Conifer, Colorado!

Yesterday I sent this out as a newsletter…it evoked so many comments that I thought I better share this with you too, so you can share your thoughts and experiences dealing with executives.  If you want to subscribe to my newsletter fill in the blanks here. I send one out about every 6 weeks, so won’t crowd your mailbox too much!

Another source for comments and provocative discussion is our CI Ning where August Jackson created a forum around this bulletin. Connecting with the executive suite has always been a challenge for competitive intelligence professionals, but now that they can access information so readily, it’s even worse since it can give one a false sense of power! Today more than ever, we need to help our executives realize the value of accurate, insightful intelligence–which is NOT posted on the Internet!

Improve Your Competitiveness: Adopt Technology & Pharmacology to Boost Intelligence

I read “Get Smart” without any reference to Maxwell Smart by Jamais Cascio in the July/Aug Atlantic Online magazine. The focus of the article was on how technology is making us smarter.  Those who don’t take advantage of technology and pharmacology might be at a competitive disadvantage, increasingly so in the future.

We are still biased towards near-term solutions and winners will need to plan for and understand long-term risks.  Today we are getting smarter through what Jamais describes as intelligence augmentation.

While Nicholas Carr (“Is Google Making Us Stupid“) argues that the Internet with its information dense, hyperlink-richness makes it harder for us to engage in deep, relaxed contemplation, Steven Johnson (Everything Bad is Good), argues that the increasing complexity of the media we engage with, is making us smarter. With this intelligence, we are able to make connections and see patterns in order to avoid being overwhelmed by this information glut.

As a competitive intelligence professional, I am expected to uncover patterns to predict where a competitor, the market or technology is going, so ” getting smarter” really resonates, especially from the information glut, never mind the increased connections due to social networks.

What’s exciting about the future is how tools for managing information overload are being developed. Fluid intelligence, the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, independent of this knowledge, is what competitive intelligence professionals do today. Just imagine how much more powerful we’ll be in the future.

When I interviewed some competitive technical intelligence (CTI) experts for my chapter in CI Foundation’s Competitive Technical Intelligence, these experts were already using some great visualization tools to harness the tons of information they must process to compete in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, for example. Several experts cited Eastport Analytics as a resource to help CTI managers select the right software tools to support their needs for monitoring, mapping and analyzing the competitive marketplace. Eastport Analytics offers 450 software tools and stays informed with all the latest software changes, upgrades and new providers.

Jamais writes about the development of attention filters or focus assistants which would focus our attention on messages that are important to us, based on learning what kinds of messages we are reading and which we discard through the various media we subscribe to. We would move from a world of “continuous partial attention” to one of “continuous augmented awareness,” as the messages we don’t care about would be faded on our display screen, for example. As our capacity to provide that filter becomes faster and richer, it becomes akin to collaborative intuition.

Pharmacology can also help enhance the brain. Modafinil, originally developed to keep people alert for an extended period of time like 30 hours, also provides cognitive enhancements, such as pattern recognition, spatial planning and sharpens focus and alertness. There are other brain boosting drugs, but the point is that people seeking competitive advantage may include brain drugs to improve their competitiveness.

The article also goes into the development of an artificial mind which would continue to modify itself to get smarter. That seems pretty far out to me.

However, I agree with the conclusions of the article that by 2030, we’ll live in a world where sophisticated foresight, detailed analysis and insight and augmented awareness will be commonplace. Many professionals will use simulation and modeling in their daily work as the supporting technology will be readily available.

While cultures may adopt these technologies differently, hopefully our global diversity will help us be cooperative and cope with the various world dangers such as the climate crisis, energy shortage, growing population density, global hunger, global healthcare and the spread of pandemics, which will require the greatest possible insight, creativity and innovation.

Deloitte Shift Index Findings: Global Collaboration Will Improve Business Competitiveness

The Deloitte Center for the Edge recently got my attention with its findings that competition is intensifying globally with a US return on assets dropping consistently across 15 different industries by 75% over the last 40 years!


Some other key findings: 

US competitive intensity has more than doubled during the last 40 years. The “topple rate” at which big companies lose their leadership positions, has more than doubled, suggesting that “winners” have increasingly precarious positions. Customers appear to be gaining and using power as reflected in increasing customer disloyalty. 

The exponentially advancing price/performance capability of computing, storage and bandwidth is driving an adoption rate for our new “digital infrastructure,” that is two to five times faster than previous infrastructures, such as electricity and telephone networks.

The Shift Index consists of 3 indices: Foundation, Flow and Impact, plus 25 other metrics that together quantify the stock, pace and implications for change. Given that competition is intensifying, here are some ways organizations might improve their performance.

1. Recognize the Foundation Wave: The business landscape has changed through the spread of the digital infrastructure and this has been reinforced by long term public policy that shifts towards economic liberalization. Changes in Foundations tend to reduce barriers to entry and movement, leading to a doubling of competitive intensity.

2. The Flow Wave looks at drivers of performance shaped by digital infrastructure. This wave looks at the flows of knowledge, capital, and talent enabled by foundational advances. Knowledge flows are the key to improving performance. This is a key area where many conventional businesses fail as they are too insular and have developed serious blindspots. This is the opposite of “Command and Control” leadership.

3. The Impact Wave comes last, as it will take time for companies to participate in and harness knowledge flows leading to improved performance and more innovation.

Successful firms will shift from what’s worked in the past, scalable efficiency to scalable learning. 

This is a huge shift for most large US companies, and many of them are failing due to their closed nature, lack of flexibility and poor use of technology to gallop past competitors and collaborate with suppliers, customers and many other sources to develop innovative products. 

Think Apple Computer when you think about a successful company by these “Shift Index” standards.  Apple has kept its entrepreneurial magic largely by reaching out and being innovative in product development, and using all the technology, including social networks to continue expanding its connection to knowledge. This is a company that knows its customer. It’s no coincidence that Apple customers enjoy the experience of using its products. Who doesn’t just love their iPhone!

The conclusions and details of this study go far beyond what I can cover in a blog.  Check it out. I think a lot of what it preaches is what good competitive intelligence has been preaching for YEARS.  Keep reaching out and connecting both internally and externally and build on the intelligence you gather. Stay connected with people through all the means technology allows you to reach them. Isn’t this the foundation of a good early warning system?

Improve your Competitiveness: Learn about AIIP


Chris Marcy Linda

Chris Marcy Linda


Marcy Phelps, CEO of  Phelps Research and AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) President and Linda Rink CEO of Rink Consulting and Chair of AIIP’s Industry Relations Committee were interviewed by Chris Kenneally, Director of Author Relations for Copyright Clearance Center during SLA’s 2009 Annual Conference! In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, here are some facts about AIIP that Marcy and Linda shared.

I must disclose that I am a proud AIIP member, and that I get enough benefit from our electronic community sharing forum to justify the annual membership dues: never mind the local AIIP gatherings we have in Colorado, my home state or the annual AIIP conference–all rich repositories of connection and knowledge sharing.

Another great AIIP member benefit is that many electronic providers of information give us special benefits and discounted rates. This allows AIIP members to reach information that the average person doesn’t have access to. Another reason that information vendors give AIIPers those discounts is that the reach of AIIP is huge, not only our direct clients, but we have a publication, Connections which shares many tidbits of our trade.  Numerous members are authors of books, articles and blogs.

AIIP’s has 600 members in over 20 countries, information professionals who run our own businesses and support businesses which range from start-ups to Fortune 1000 companies. Some members specialize by industry, and one that seems particularly prominent is pharmaceuticals. While many AIIP members are researchers, we also have library consultants, writers, editors, and taxonomists. AIIPers do a lot more than simply find information: many members provide analysis to help clients make sense of the information, and provide ongoing updates.

Many people come to AIIP companies since they have not done their homework, nor do they know how to do their homework or if there is a niche for their business ideas. For example, they don’t know how large the market is for their product or haven’t developed a prospect list or industries to target for marketing. Everything that goes into writing and developing a business plan needs to be researched, and many people think they can just go online and dabble around and get it, and that’s not the case.

Pertinent to the copyright world: AIIP members follow a strict code of ethics, and one of the elements of the code is that we not only have to adhere to and follow copyright laws, but we need to teach others about it.

On a personal note, I specialize in primary research–that is finding and talking to people who “know” the answers to business issues my clients seek. Most AIIP colleagues are experts in electronic research, the necessary pre-requisite to primary research. They dig up awesome information and great contacts for me to follow-up with. My firm gives clients recommendations for action and digs up opportunities for additional revenue streams, which is particularly appreciated in this weak economy.

I feel fortunate to meet my AIIP colleagues in our electronic sharing forum and you can connect with us through our AIIP member directory, which is open source, and you can research and search for an information professional by name, industry expertise, location…

Thank you Chris Kenneally for giving Marcy and Linda this opportunity to share the good news about AIIP! Check out the podcast!

How Corporate Recruiting Adds to a Competitive Intelligence Effort

Please welcome this article by Dorothy Beach, MBA CIR PHR. We are colleagues through our interest in competitive intelligence. We met at a Dallas/Ft. Worth SCIP Chapter meeting, and I really value her insight into the recruiting world!

DorothyBeachCompetitive intelligence (CI) is the process of gathering valuable information about your firm’s direct and indirect competitors including strategies, plans, practices or people. Companies value CI and its opposite, counterintelligence or protection of assets, in varying degrees. Those that value CI and counterintelligence are more cooperative about its collection and protection across all functions of the company.

As a new R&D employee in the Healthcare Division at Procter & Gamble I realized that counterintelligence was essential but when I transferred to product development in the Food & Beverage Division, everyone was responsible for gathering CI, especially when we conducted consumer research in the field. Marketing-based companies are especially sensitive to competitive forces and highly value both CI and counterintelligence.

As a Recruiting Researcher and Sourcer, I observed there were usually more formal processes around counterintelligence than CI. Examples of HR counterintelligence are protecting the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) from hacks, using stringent password protection and masking Social Security numbers. CI rarely was an organized effort either before or after a new employee was hired. While exchanging information with recruiters when sourcing candidates for them, I realized that we gathered a lot of CI while speaking to prospective candidates that was not well captured or shared. Much of what we heard was recorded in Excel spreadsheets or in notes of an ATS or not at all. It is no wonder that CI was not appreciated enough to develop a formal CI process and reward system for its information.

Once there is a high level management buy-in to develop a CI gathering process, start with a roadmap to include:

1.) Objectives or goals

2.) A scan of existing and needed resources

3.) An estimated budget for resources and training

4.) A way to record and communicate findings with a risk assessment

5.) Analytics to track progress

6.) A timeline for the roadmap which reassesses its effectiveness

Ideally this recruiting initiative should work cooperatively with the competitive intelligence employees in an information exchange. The process should be open to its evolution in the first launch and have a point of responsibility given to at least two people: a Recruiting Manager and their direct report. Some aspects of each step in the roadmap:

Step 1: A new program might need objectives or goals with some constraints. You can gather “real time” information across all company sources or just focus on the company’s closest competitors. The latter focus works if your company recruits heavily from competitors so there is representation of new hires from all functions

Sample objectives include answers to:

What influences the candidate choice of employer in this industry?

When we are turned down, where do the candidates go?

What recruiters at the competitor companies are stealing our talent?

What is the competition’s biggest impact on successful recruitment? Examples: website, field work, recruiting process, social media channels, job boards or other?

Is our salary and benefit package help or hinder recruitment?

Is the brand perception locally different from what is perceived elsewhere?

Step 2: Resource identification includes the development of formal new employee interviewing questions and additional informal candidate interviewing questions, resources to validate what is said such as financial databases, analyst reports (Gartner, IDC, Forrester) and social media monitoring and a process to acquire and record third party recruiter intelligence gathering.

Step 3: Calculate the budget to cover the expenses of an employee(s) covering this role and identify its responsibilities. Expenses can take the form of added recruiter bonuses for the intelligence that has impact, resources to validate findings, costs for communication platforms and training costs to launch the initiative to a team. Soft costs are the hours dedicated to implementing, executing and evaluating this job.

Step 4: Communication can be a platform such as a wiki for “real time” feeds or an eRoom for posts. More recent tools like Yammer.com, a Twitter-like blog communication internal to the company, can alert a researcher to validate a piece of intelligence and reissue to the staffing organization. Determinations of how long this information should be kept, where and in what form is part of assessing risk. Share it in a way that it cannot be changed (pdf) or downloaded (no PC peripheral policy) and share it broadly and as close to “real time” as possible. Access to this CI information between recruiting and competitive intelligence employees in other parts of the company would be ideal.

Step 5: Determine the analytics you need to track how the intelligence is used and what influence it has on decision-making. Examples of analytics are success in further recruitment, timing from first engagement of the candidate to their hire date, information that can or cannot be validated, and determination of what recruiting channels are most used. If intelligence can be validated it becomes more useful in strategic planning.

Step 6: Each quarter or half year, review what objectives were accomplished and broadly share. Make suggestions for improvement of CI and counterintelligence with an outcome of go/ no-go decision of resources for the initiative’s continuation and evolution.

Agencies using this roadmap can add value to their services to corporate clients with the added benefit of an arm’s length in its information gathering.

Dorothy Beach has been in research for her entire career, possesses an MBA in Marketing and is also certified in both Internet Recruiting (CIR) and Human Resources (PHR). Her blog, FrontEndRecruiting was created to showcase the latest trends, tools and techniques used by recruiters for the research phase of the recruiting cycle. More recently Dorothy has become a social media strategist for the Texas Recruiters Network. She can be found on LinkedIn and accepts all invitations to her extensive network using beach2000@gmail.com.

Jeffrey Immelt’s Ideas on Renewing America’s Competitiveness

As we approach this Independence Day in America, my cooperative spirit pushes me to share Jeffrey Immelt’s ideas about how to renew America. Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE is one of America’s stewards of leadership and innovation and I highly recommend that you view his talk given in late June 09 at the Detroit Economic Club.

America has a myriad of economic problems, not the least of which is it has moved from a technology-driven manufacturing economy to one that is services oriented. We are known as a country where CEOs are viewed as short-term speculators, which has been re-enforced by our “leadership” in the financial global meltdown. There is something seriously wrong when “a mortgage broker is pulling down $5 million a year while a Ph.D. chemist is earning $100,000.”

Jeff thinks the US needs to create an industrial renewal as follows:

1. Invest in new technology

2. Win where it counts in Clean Energy and Affordable Healthcare

3. Become a country that’s good at manufacturing and exports

4. Embrace public/private partnerships

5. Encourage leaders that are also good citizens

During this recession, GE has not reduced its R&D expenditures, which are pegged at 6%, while the US average is only 2% of sales. In 2008, GE exported $19 billion and plans to increase exports each year. GE is partnering with local government to fix the US educational system by investing at inner city schools to improve math and science since only 4% in the US study engineering, which often produces innovators.

GE has two great initiatives to stimulate innovative product development: “eco-imagination” and “health-imagination”. Eco-imagination focuses on alternative, clean energy development and renewable energy products as well as making better use of traditional energy sources. One initiative is a GE + Duke energy coal degasification plant project. America is like the Saudi Arabia of coal supply! Through innovations in health research, GE will launch hundreds of new products in the next few years to reduce the cost of healthcare, particularly in areas like infant care and mammography.

GE invests $1B per year in training. One way this has paid off is that their educated locomotive teams reduced the time it takes to manufacture a locomotive from 100 days to 20. Jeff’s talk is full of these examples of “can do”, which I think is missing from America’s fabric in these tough times.

GE practices what it preaches: it changes with the global demand for its products. Over 50% of what GE produces today didn’t exist 10 years ago. GE will introduce more new products during this recession than any time in its history.

Big business needs to fund small businesses to invent and in the supply chain to compete globally. He states that as “Business leaders we are responsible for the competitiveness of our own country.” This comes from a free marketer and Republican. I wish more of our country’s leadership felt this way. The US is at a competitive disadvantage globally since the private and public sectors are often at odds and do not cooperate like they do in most other countries in the world! The US needs to welcome government as a catalyst for leadership and change. Look at all the creativity and innovation that came from NIH and NASA over the years. The government can be creative and foster cooperation!

I’ll conclude by sharing that Jeff is practicing what he preaches: GE is investing $100 million to develop a manufacturing lab near Visteon Center in the Detroit metro. This will provide 1200 professional jobs to start. Jobs will focus in three areas of innovation: advanced manufacturing technology including applications in aviation and energy products; software applications such as the smart grid; and a training program for information technology. GE is working with the public sector in Detroit and drawing talent from MI universities, in addition to the local work force.

I hope more of America’s leadership adopts Jeff Immelt’s attitudes and practices so America can once again feel proud. US competitiveness will only improve as we become a more self confident society. America’s consumer spending is not going to pull us out of this recession: this alone is not sustainable! America’s business investment in technology, innovation and value-added manufacturing will.

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