Imagine you had all your
competitorís trade secrets, their client list or their credit
report. How much of a competitive advantage would that give you? How
much would that information be worth to you? Well, for many
companies it is worth a lot, because they spend millions of dollars
on intelligence gathering. Many use covert means to collect
information and data, which is in essence, espionage, (an illegal
method of collecting intelligence).
Business intelligence helps companies gain competitive advantage
and gain power over their competitors. Business intelligence is the
practice and process of gathering information and data for analysis
purposes to draw conclusions that will help oneís own agenda.
There are ways of gathering competitive or business intelligence
information and data, while still remaining ethical, within legal
limits and without spending a fortune. To learn more about ways of
collecting business intelligence information in an ethical fashion
one must examine three (3) major forms of information gathering.
Basic Intelligence This is the fundamental,
factual information about a businessí characteristics. These
characteristics include: location, major assets, general size,
number of employees, news sources about the company, etc. Such
intelligence is gathered through 'open sources', like the news and
publicly available records. Basic intelligence is the foundation of
Economic Intelligence Is much like basic
intelligence, in that it strives to collect fundamental information
through open sources, however at the regional market or nation
level. Most small companies do not have to deal with this type of
Industrial Espionage Is any or both basic or
economic intelligence using covert or illegal means. This includes
internal spying, external surveillance, bribery and all sorts of
other neat stuff.
Most businesses only need to engage in basic business
The information and data collected using this method, basic
business intelligence, is actually not intelligence. Information and
data only become intelligence once they have been analyzed. To bring
all this together we will use an example.
Intelligence Gathering Example
You are in the auto body repair industry. First intelligence move,
grab the yellow pages (an open source) and find out who your local
competitors are (auto body repair is a highly localized market).
Now, go check out all their websites, where you can usually find
tons of info about each individual company. Go scope out each of
their buildings or facilities, check out how big they are, what kind
of equipment they have. Get their brochures. Pretend to be a
potential customer and get a price list off them. Once you have
collected all this information and data, you can now start analyzing
it and create business intelligence out of it. Through analysis, you
can conclude what the average local competitor charges. Who the big
players are, what kind of equipment they have. You can also find
market trends, like where customers are coming from or how large of
a potential customer base has not been yet touched, etc. All the
conclusions that come out from your analysis is your business
intelligence information, because that's the information that will
give you the competitive advantage.
Well, this is obviously a simple example we used, however, we
hope it paints a picture of how basic business intelligence is
gathered and hopefully some one can put it into practice.