What is Competitive Intelligence?

Why do you need Competitive Intelligence (CI)?

Companies and markets are now more than ever subject to a rapid change of products and competitors. This is especially the case with markets that go through constant change (short product life cycles, globalization). The ability of a company to generate competitive advantages through one's own "Competitive Intelligence" abilites has now become prerequisite for survival, since a management decision can only be as good as the information it is based upon.

What is Competitive Intelligence?

The term "Intelligence" has its origins in military vocabulary: without the "reconnaissance" of the enemy, no commander can maneuver his troops into the right starting position or gain advantages for his own troops with a surprise attack. In military diction, intelligence can most accurately be related to (early- or enemy-) "reconnaissance".

In analogy to these considerations, a company also requires information on current and future markets, competitors, customers, technologies, etc., so that it can position itself optimally, make the "right" decisions and ultimately realize them at the most ideal point in time. The "Competitive Intelligence"-Manager has the responsibility to collect relevant information, analyze it and make it accessible to decision-makers in a suitable form. Not an easy task in times of the frequently cited "information overload" and in a dynamic, global competitive arena.

"Competitive Intelligence" (CI) can be described as a systematic process of information retrieval and -analysis, in which fragmented (raw) information on markets, competitors and technologies can be transformed into a vivid understanding of the corporate environment for the decision-maker. Competitive Intelligence topics are usually future-oriented statements on competitive positioning, -intentions and -strategies. On the other hand, "Intelligence" is the final result of the process: the required knowledge on markets and competition. Especially statements on the expected effects on one's own firm and thereupon based recommendations are made.

Obviously, Competitive Intelligence is especially of immediate importance for tasks concerning strategy or corporate development. In numerous other corporate divisions, knowledge of Competitive Intelligence can also be used to support tactical decisions.

Main applications

  • Competitor profiling (facts, intentions, reaction profiles, threats and opportunities)
  • (Strategic) Early warning / -reconnaissance
  • Benchmarking (corporate processes, technologies, products, corporate performance)
  • Technology assessment (current and future technologies)
  • Analysis of opportunities and risks for new products/services/sales regions
  • Due Dilligence for corporate acquisitions
  • Environment-Scanning (New suppliers, products, services, technologies, subsidies, alliances, market entry barriers, etc.)
  • Issues Monitoring (Topics that may be of relevance for one's own firm)
  • Satisfaction Surveys (own customers as well as those of competitors or competitive suppliers)
  • Examination of own market positioning (Alignment of own perception with that of competitors and customers; coverage of customer needs)


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