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Competitive Intelligence Applications Survey Results
In March of 2010, I conducted a survey of competitive intelligence and strategy professionals from sixteen organizations about competitive intelligence. The goal of the survey was to understand specific competitive intelligence challenges faced by practitioners and illuminate approaches used to overcome those challenges. The survey can be downloaded here.
The survey consisted of five questions. (The results are presented following the questions.)
  1. How well do you think that your CI customers or clients understand the definition and value of competitive intelligence?

  2. Which statement best describes your success in describing competitive intelligence to prospective customers or clients?

  3. How well does your organization assemble and market competitive intelligence success stories?

  4. Which of the following development steps do you regularly take to improve your competitive intelligence skills?

  5. Which skills, if substantially improved, would have the greatest impact on your competitive intelligence success? I would like to be better at …

CI Relationships  Notes:
The answers to this question illustrate a fundamental problem for competitive intelligence and the people that practice CI.

More than two thirds of the customers/clients have no better than an average understanding of CI. One implication from this is that many potential engagements have to start with a basic education about competitive intelligence.

This is a high bar during poor economic times since other well understood topics may be more important to managers.
Competitive Intelligence Uses  Notes:
The previous question focused on the starting understanding about CI. Observe that most practitiioners reported success once they were talking to potential clients and customers.

They key seems to be getting into a problem solving meeting and then illustrating how CI can help. Fifty percent of the respondents reported success when they were involved in issue-discovery meetings.

About a quarter of the respondents reported little success while another quarter reported regular success.

There is a significant opportunity to learn from those that have experienced regular success.
Competitive Intelligence Ratings  Notes:
These responses show another recurring problem for competitive intelligence professionals. While a quarter of the respondents have a rich set of success stories, the other 75% do not. These responses correlate well with the responses to the first question and again illustrate why many clients/customers struggle to understand competitive intelligence.

From a practitioner perspective, the lack of stories handicaps the effective adoption and execution of competitive intelligence in an organization.
Competitive Intelligence Challenges  Notes:
Since this survey was publicized solely through online communities, it is not surprising that a large percentage of respondents report using online tools to develop their skills.

The surprising results are in the bottom categories. Except for the "too busy to improve" responses, the other categories involve face-to-face interactions. Apparently, relatively few CI professionals use these tools for improvement.

Stunningly, only 6% of the respondents ask their clients/customers how they might improve their skills. This would be a devastating omission when trying to assess any type of qualitative ROI for competitive intelligence.
Competitive Intelligence Needs  Notes:
The respondents cited business development skills (i.e., getting customers and sponsors) as the most useful skills to improve. Again, this is consistent with the responses to question 2.

Note that most of the skills to improve deal with the beginning of a CI project versus the execution or conclusion of the project. Most of the important skills for execution, reporting and follow-up garnered 25-30% responses.
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