The CTI process has four parts: FOCUS – COLLECT – ANALYZE – ACT

The big differences are: (1) It does not assume a data base exists, and often there is none. (2) It does not end with dissemination, which is enough when the CIA briefs a general or the president – you assume they want to know and will listen. In industry more often than not the CTO is unfortunately an arrogant adherent to an old technology and feels she/he knows what they need. So the last step is not to “write a report” but to “sell” your assessment so that someone acts on it. Because of these differences, CTI also requires two critical support areas to get a return on the investment. They are: (a) the ability to get good information to do planning, especially when doing innovative activities where anticipating uncertain futures is critical, and (b) the ability to do what was called corporate venturing before the turn of the century and Chesbrough renamed Open Innovation thereafter.

CTI has about a 80-90% overlap with BI sources when mapped onto the business intel. Business Intelligence supports senior business decisions with ongoing intelligence on markets, competitors, customers, and technology. CTI supports innovation and project decisions, with much the same info. What is different is how it is packaged because of the difference in decisions, the varying time frame, and usually the level of detail.

Thus, clarity on upper management’s direction is important when conducting competitive assessments as the tools and techniques used to create insight are somewhat different. One point to be particularly clear upon is to know which one of two ways the organization wishes to create a sustained competitive advantage. The first is to play the game better. The second is to play the game differently.

To play the game better, focus is usually upon existing strategic and competitive positions. In this case the team is looking for gaps that exist between what is being provided to consumers and what their true desires and needs are. Key to playing the game better is to accurately profile competitors and learn from them what is working and what is not. This requires SWOT and financial statement analysis. It also requires a more periodic gathering of information, analysis, and intelligence briefings. From an organizational standpoint the competitive intelligence group should be focused on continuous improvement.

When organizations are looking to play the game differently, competitive intelligence needs to focus slightly differently. The goal is to identify new and unexploited customer segments (a new “who”), new consumer needs that no competitors are satisfying (a new “what”), and new ways of producing or delivering products and services (a new “how”). This work tends to be more episodic in nature and the competitive intelligence group should be focused on discontinuous innovations.