Today all companies have virtually equal access to market and competitive information. So, there is no dedicated need for Competitive Intelligence (CI).
If internet searching is the sole source of competitive information, it is a symptom of Stick-fetching or Pilot. Those stages in CI maturity doesn’t provide right perspective to assess the CI significance.
We are living in an over-noisy market society. With weak, false and manipulated signals hijacking the truth, the need for CI is ever more critical for any business to thrive.
Even otherwise, equal access hypothesis is self-contradictory. When every player in the industry has equal access to market information, that market information ceases to be competitive and becomes a common minimum. Then CI is your only arbitrage.
Size of an Organization is a key determinant of investments in CI or CI unit
The Competitive Intelligence is never optional and the need for CI comes in many flavors. For example, Bridgei2i has a simplified back-of-envelope framework for CI need-grading:
Organizations in quadrant 1 and 4 definitely need it, badly. Quadrant 3 organizations need CI to prevent the slide down into quadrant 4. However, the cost aspect in quadrant 1 is thing of the past. With the advent of AI, CI has been solved for scale and speed at ~1/20th of conventional CI costs. Companies like Klue and CI Radar serve as strategic components, whereas tact.ai and BRiDGEfunnel solve for specific components at the fag end of sales funnels. For example, BRiDGEfunnel, which is a guided selling SaaS product, provides the power of 1000 minds to a sales rep at an insignificant fraction of traditional Sales CI unit costs.
It is too abstract to measure CI quality and utility.
There are two models to sort this out: deontological and consequentialism. From the former world view, CI can be classified into three categories: Acquisitive, Synthetic and Emergent. Emergent CI is the best as it is precise, prescriptive and timely. It helps uncover competitive blind spots, strategic biases and provides tactical recommendations.
Consider CI in Sales, organization’s sales force is a valuable source of competitive information, they are no stranger to collecting intelligence on their competitors. Sales folks do this in order to identify new innovations, market, and product expansion. They gather information on selling strategies, positioning and product specifications and hence are able to investigate the efficiency of competitor sales strategies, relative to their own. It consists of many little bits and pieces that, once put together, can form a complete picture. They face the competition daily and hence know much more about the competition. They have significant insights into the strengths and flaws of the competition based on feedback from prospects via pitches and demos. If this intelligence is tapped into across sales organization, net output is a not a mere additive but exponential function. When compounded with other intel sources such internal data from CRM and external data from APIs, there is an emergence of military grade intel.