The Internet makes it easier than ever to gather information about your competitors. You can read their annual reports online and set up Google Alerts to notify you when they're mentioned in the news. You can use the Wayback Machine to examine their websites, research site traffic on Quantcast and read customer comments on Yelp. Competitive intelligence managers translate this and other information into material that informs your company's leaders about competitive threats and developments in the industry.
A competitive intelligence manager must have knowledge of the industry in which she works. She researches and learns what she can about key industry competitors from public information sources including magazines, newspapers, company press releases and marketing materials. She attends trade shows and visits competitor exhibits to gather promotional material and ask questions about competitor products, services, prices and future plans. She may also speak with customers to find out why they prefer to work with the competition.
A competitive intelligence manager analyzes the data she collects to describe competitors' business strategies or the new products and services they may be developing. She distills the different sources of her informational research into a summary that supports her viewpoint and the conclusions she reached.
A competitive intelligence manager working in government will promote her city or state as more favorable for investments than other locations. She may conduct research, publish white papers, compile statistics and issue press releases that will help attract investors.
Creating methods to collect and disseminate intelligence on competitors is a key responsibility of a competitive intelligence manager. She creates incentives and establishes procedures that enable employees to quickly and easily provide information they gather about competitors to the competitive intelligence group. She interviews recent hires from competitors to learn additional information or test theories. Finally, competitive intelligence managers create a method to disseminate the intelligence to the appropriate leaders in the organization.
Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.