By Tracy D'Amours
Analyst, Market Intelligence
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Strategic Competitive Intelligence Professionals’ (SCIP) 32nd annual international conference in Atlanta, GA. This is the premiere North American opportunity for business leaders and competitive intelligence (CI) professionals from around the world to convene, discuss the current state of the CI industry and share strategies and solutions.
This year, the conference – appropriately themed developing and engaging the modern intelligence workforce – had a different air about it. From the keynote sessions in the main hall to the more hands-on breakout sessions and one-on-one conversations with other attendees, it was clear that the tides are turning.
Driving changes in competitive intelligence are the requirements of the industries we serve – the needs of our clients. Technology and business model innovation, geopolitical and economic uncertainty and other disruptive factors are pushing business leaders to lean more heavily on their CI teams to help them navigate the new competitive landscape. These changes create new challenges, new opportunities and truthfully, a sense of excitement for any CI professional.
Now is our time to shine, and my colleagues and I were energized to lead the way by the interactions we had with clients and other CI professionals at SCIP.
Here are my 5 key take-aways from those sessions:
- The expanding role of CI professionals – Roughly 30 years ago, when the competitive intelligence profession was starting to take shape, the role mostly entailed tracking competitor moves to better inform internal strategy. Now, according to SCIP CEO Nan Bulger, the role of a CI professional is four-fold: “a CI professional must be a leader, an analyst/strategist, a business optimizer and an innovator.”
- Deliverable expectations are evolving – Merely collecting and sharing information in not enough. In this ultra-fast paced business world, key decision makers are looking to their competitive intelligence teams to not only collect and disseminate must-know information, but to present it in a manner that adds insights, value and a set of prepared strategic options. This thought was present across keynotes, breakout sessions and chatter among attendees.
- Know the audience and frame content appropriately – One of my favorite sessions focused on interactive coaching and was presented by Michael Cooper, founder of Innovators + Influencers. Entitled “Delivering Value and The Challenges of Interfacing with Executive Management,” it pointed out that CI – whether we want to admit it or not – tends to be delivered in a dry, overly-detailed format. Cooper’s session focused on understanding the end audience to ensure that different audience types are getting the greatest value out of their CI. He identified four brain types and how to frame CI deliverables in a manner that will resonate with each. I won’t give away all his trade secrets, but I recommend checking him out if you have the opportunity.
- Scenario planning is no longer a luxury, it’s an essential tool – Beyond the traditional building blocks of competitive intelligence, such as STEEP analysis or win/loss programs, scenario plans provide added insight by enabling the leaders of an organization to understand their competitors’ mindset. According to August Jackson and Tim Kindler, Associate Directors at EY, during their session on “Strategic Foresight – Keeping Your Options Open in an Uncertain World,” scenario planning can be boosted by wargaming, decision maker profiling and simulated board meetings. These approaches highlight an issue or opportunity from the competitor’s POV and can unlock greater insight into what their next move might be.
- AI is not a futuristic notion – Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here. This was a point that Al Naqvi, president of the American Institute of Artificial Intelligence, drove home in his session on “Competitive Intelligence in the Era of Artificial Intelligence.” It may not have the futuristic form we once imagined, but AI’s trickling in and starting to impact many industries from the bottom up, ultimately reshaping corporate strategy. Technology has its limitations, and will never entirely replace humans (something we firmly stand by at ShiftCentral), but a winning competitive intelligence strategy will actively seek opportunities to leverage the capabilities that AI offers to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our trade.