Friday, June 10, 2016

Competitive Intelligence in the Big Data Era –An Impossible Task? Five Things I Learned at This Year’s SCIP Conference

Clive Armitage
Chief Executive Officer

I’m just back from spending a week in Orlando at the 31st Annual Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals Conference – SCIP 2016.  It was a fascinating experience. During the week, I attended seminars, spoke on stage and chatted with lots of Competitive Intelligence (CI) executives.  And I left the conference with a sense of real admiration for the work these guys do.  

What is clear is that CI professionals are regarded by their organizations as both incredibly strategic (“how can you give us the right intelligence to set corporate strategy and ensure our ability as an organization to continue to thrive?”) and also tactical (“I have a sales call in 10 minutes - what can you tell me about who we’re competing against?”).  It’s tough to be simultaneously long-term in outlook (setting strategy) while also needing to respond in real time (tactical delivery).  Especially when your sources of intelligence -- various data sources -- are growing exponentially.  

Here are the top five challenges that I heard CI executives are facing:
  1. CI doesn’t have a big data problem, it has a big data management problem.  The CI function must be able to collect, manage and sort data to drive insight in a timely and effective way.
  2. When real CI insight is created, it needs to quickly be put in front of executives in the right format as an easily understood and digestible deliverable.
  3. CI, while seen as immensely valuable, is not seeing headcount or budget increases and the mantra ‘do more with less’ is rife.
  4. The CI function needs to be collaborative and able to communicate quickly and seamlessly around the organization, often in real time and on a continuous basis.
  5. Most CI professionals have multiple stakeholders ranging from the board to a sales vice president and therefore must juggle multiple agendas.
Hearing these challenges, it’s obvious that the solution is not to simply throw more people at the problem; the challenge is too diverse and headcount is too restricted.  The answer clearly lies in employing appropriate automated technology solutions that help the insight creation process as well as the collaboration challenge.  Most of the CI execs I spoke to know this.  And certainly, judging by the number of them at the show, the tech vendor community has worked this out too!  

Indeed, agent3’s primary reason for attending the SCIP conference was to launch a version of our insight3 platform, created in conjunction with SCIP itself, for the CI community. We got a great response to the solution and it’ll be interesting to see how sales go. My guess is that, faced with a seemingly ever-increasing range of data sources, the CI community is going to be investing in technology solutions like insight3 in significant numbers. And quickly.

Clive Armitage has overall responsibility for the strategic direction and management of agent3 and insight3, working closely with his fellow managing partners. His 25 years working in the technology marketing field while working and living in Silicon Valley and Johannesburg has provided him with the experience and opportunity to run several fast growth businesses.

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