Globalization is the new paradigm, a driver for bringing about a change .These changes have helped many economies to adopt policies to liberalize their trade, investments and governance. Besides it is an approach that facilitate sustainable development and is spurred by information, communication and transportation technologies. Globalization is an ongoing process and helps to create new relationships, new opportunities. This paper tries to look into what Competitive Intelligence is and how it can be used as a strong driver to outwit, outperform and outmaneuver competitors. The purpose of this study to advocate the use of this powerful and dynamic instrument.
Competitive Intelligence is defined as the dynamic process of gathering information through open sources. This process deals with the extraction of raw information and converting it into usable and actionable intelligence. Not many know what Competitive Intelligence is and how it can be a medium to fight any business war. Paul Kingfisher has clearly outlined Competitive Intelligence (CI) has a management tool which has a brightening future which can develop the level of core competency amongst various organizations . Competitive Intelligence is thus an expert model that can turn any threat into opportunity and is a relentless driver to diagnose business challenges in addition to the intelligence requirements.
The study on competitive intelligence can help many economies to overcome risks. As per www.scip.org which mentions that today's competitive intelligence is the province of the few serving the few; tomorrow's CI must be a tool that the many can use to serve themselves as well their companies. Competitive Intelligence is thus a tool that goes beyond ordinary expectations that can be ethically used to watch the counter moves of your competitors and position yourself as an organization appropriately amidst cut-throat competition. This tool has nothing to do with Industrial espionage or sabotage but it can be certainly used for strategic planning and decision making by leaders who are capable of understanding the complexities of both the organizations and the environment(Macro and Micro) by analyzing the information about their competitors .The planning, collecting, disseminating and organizing of information is possible only though the CI tool.
The premise of this paper is to make this concept known to management practitioners, students, executives and instructors that there is an instrument that can be a guiding force to beat any competition and can lead change to secure competitive advantage and sustainability. As Competitive Intelligence is not known in India and is dismally practiced , my paper will give readers a highlight on how best this tool can be used to transform any organization and make it benchmarking notwithstanding to mention that this paper is not to be taken for immediate application in organizations and it just gives a basic highlight on the CI practice.
Key words: Competitive Advantage, Competitive Intelligence, Benchmarking, Strategic Leadership, Intelligence
"Battle is not a one-sided affair. It is a case of action and reciprocal action repeated over and over again as contestants seek to gain position and other advantage by which they may inflict the greatest possible damage upon their respective opponents".
Quoted by: Field Marshal Montgomery during the Normandy campaign in the Second World War
Competitive Intelligence is the right toolkit for managing information, managing external actors and winning on the business battlefield . It is the ethical process of gathering ,analyzing and using information to move businesses to the top and therefore not a one sided affair. The reason why Competitive Intelligence is linked to military history is the strategies that were used on the war front which are now being used indirectly to obtain competitive advantage. A war according to Nick Skellon was always meant to be a contest between nations and states carried on with force for a acquiring any territory, If these words are replaced as companies and consumers instead of nations and states the strategy of one would be to outwit and outperform competitors just as enemy in the battlefield. According to Business Times Competitive Intelligence is regarded as " As the first and only guide to transforming crude business data into valuable information, it is poised to become the cutting edge management tool of the 21st century". Chris West has referred Competitive Intelligence that it is the "Right tool for organizations to secure balanced score card moreover for any organization to understand the forces that make companies take the analysis of their competitors it is important to further understand who are the competitors on permanent and ad hoc tactical exercises".
Further according to John E Prescott and Stephen E Miller CI is important for organizations to remain cognizant of competitors' intentions and of unanticipated developments. In SCIP (Society for competitive intelligence professionals) journal launched in the year 1990 known as Competitive Intelligence Review outlined that it is an expert model that provides practical scholarships to organizations and gives them an insight of how intelligence through filtering raw information can be organized to meet organizational objectives and to secure market leadership. One can also refer this tool tow in any economic war. CI practice thus lays down the rules and makes organizations ready for any corporate combat. Competitive Intelligence has its evolution and genesis from the military intelligence used during cold war era. As it is also regarded as the weapon for market warfare thus Competitive Intelligence is no less than a raiding strategy for inclusive growth of organizations.
Objectives of the study
To study the factors or approaches that prove that Competitive Intelligence is a tool of leadership.
To study this variable of Competitive Intelligence that induce the economics of benchmarking through its application in strategic leadership.
To advocate the practice of Competitive Intelligence in a full blown manner in organizations in India and the inclusion of this subject as a formal training program in management institutions or B schools at an MBA level.
Limitations of the study
This study however does not emphasize on immediate application in organization, it is just to make the readers aware that CI has an approach to leadership.
This study only gives an insight and a highlight on the usefulness of this instrument in terms of sustainable business growth and organizational leadership.
This study also investigates why Competitive Intelligence as an approach to leadership since business is a war, CI is the tool of competitive strategy that help an organization to seek market leadership and learn the art of market warfare.
This paper is a conceptual study wherein the focus is mainly on the secondary data and from references/adaptations taken from Competitive Intelligence theorists, management practitioners, authors, journals, articles, press releases and examples. Due to size constraints boundaries have been drawn limiting the paper to showing just highlights and approaches towards orientation of the key subject towards leadership and other variables of leadership in terms of applied Competitive Intelligence is available with the author on request.
Today's market of 21st century demand for more ethical business processes and actions, moreover actions that has a progressive approach to leadership both individual and organizational. Hence this paper highlights on the importance of Competitive Intelligence practices that has the sustainability approach to leadership. Competitive Intelligence as earlier outlined is defined as the process and not the function of the ethical and the most dynamic way of the extraction and gathering of information through open and ethical sources. These information's are raw, however they are filtered, analyzed and implemented thereby converting the information to intelligence for organizations who actually require it to secure market leadership and to win on the business battlement.
Top business schools have introduced ethical practices as a subject in their curriculum to help future managers understand the role of ethics and measures to be taken for implementation of these ethical practices in organization. Since business world is very dynamic today and changes are happening every now and then, it is important that a tool is developed that has an approach to capture the market, the competition and secure organizational leadership. However Indian organizations are no stranger to unethical practices but Competitive Intelligence is indeed ethical a practice and if implemented in organizations can help secure a balanced scorecard. Competitive Intelligence in India is in a raw stage neither is it practiced in a full blown manner nor known. This management tool is often considered as a spying tool or a tool to conduct industrial espionage but in actual sense this instrument can move your business to the top. Ultimately it is the competition that brings out the true meaning and adds dimensions to degrees of leadership shown by organizations.
What is more significant in this tool that it is also considered as a Market research tool, most of the time both are considered as synonyms of each other but this is not the case. Market research only focuses on " Customers" and the orientation of the marketing function is normally in the very direction towards analysis of customers and markets but this is not so in case of CI, this practice is indeed a requirement and organizations will not be able to survive for long without it, however Competitive Intelligence wins over Market research which is today on the priority list in every research budgets by focusing on not only customers and the markets but also on being the hallmark of leadership excellence in every function of the organization. It is mandatory that the development of Competitive Intelligence as a formal and compulsory activity should be made compulsory for competitive development. The fact is that the world market comprises of competitors and an organization can stand tall and high as a maestro leader only when it has capability and knowledge to study competitors and not get surprised and collapse.
Data Analysis and Interpretation
The analysis of data and its interpretation has been done successfully by studying the tool, approaches and factors mentioned as A, B, C, D and E. However some analysis has also been done using tables and figures validating the key subject by eminent Competitive Intelligence practitioners and authors.
A-Path of Competitive Intelligence to sustainable leadership and competitive Development
The development of Competitive intelligence (CI) can be had only when organizations harp on proper, full blown set up of CI unit and run a program. It is mandatory that organizations are informed well in advance as to who are their competitors are and what tactical exercises are to be used. Hence competitor awareness helps organizations to position themselves before the competitors and watch their counter moves on time. Similarly Competitor sensitiveness demands responsive behavior not only in terms of damages that competitors can cause but also convert threats like these to winning strategies to outmaneuver and outperform them. Further, Competitive Intelligence can be used against competitors to defend and outwit external actors.
B- Competitive Intelligence Practices
The extraction of information is generally done from sources which are open. A full blown CI program can be seen in Japan which practices it the most and other countries like Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and China. CI was developed in United states of America but only few large organizations practice it. As far as India is concerned CI is very dismally practiced and has very low penetration in larger markets. The practice of CI is done by gathering information from primary and secondary sources however the primary source of information is more accurate and unadulterated whereas the secondary sources is very much adulterated and not factual. There are other alternative routes to seeking information but normally information gathering is done using the former method considering both primary and secondary sources. These are namely:
Annual reports and accounts
Official company filings for statutory reporting and promotional purposes
Stock exchange and SEC filings
Regulatory authority reports
Credit reporting agencies
Seeking information through RTI
Trade press, journals and periodicals
Academic and semi academic journals
Published market research reports
Speeches on TV and Radio
Alternative routes to intelligence
Market research techniques
Organizations that deal with corporate fraud and industrial espionage
The organizations that are competitor intelligent will be highly competent in analyzing the external actors with their actions. The machinery for practicing Competitive Intelligence can be accomplished by following the Intelligence cycle:
THE INTELLIGENCE CYCLE
Planning for collection of information from relevant sources
Collection & Organizing the information
Dissemination & filtering of information
The practice of CI is usually done by following the Intelligence cycle wherein every raw information is ethical gathered for this a lot of strategic planning is required to determine the sources from where the information will be collected, secondly the information collected is organized electronically by using Business Intelligence solutions, in a nutshell large chunk of data collected can be broken in nano seconds and made both usable and actionable. Converting information into intelligence which is the process of filtering and funneling small information pieces thereby making it intelligence which can be acted upon to outwit and outmaneuver competitors.
The fact underlying this method is that all functions and organizations thrive on the basis of data collected in past and present, then orienting these information pieces to accomplish not only their objectives but also be a benchmarking organization. Hence CI can be the best way to describe "Leadership on the business battlefield". For economies to be productively and economically self reliant and sufficient this relentless driver of business can be useful. One is the procedural way of going about this method but the very practice has to be initiated at formal MBA training programs to equip the management students and prepare them for a bright and robust future. However an implementation of the program has been taken already by Amity Institute of Competitive Intelligence and Strategic management, Amity University, in offering a two year full time MBA course with CI as the major specialization. Therefore the ground work towards introduction of this concept and its practice has already begun.
C- Competitive Intelligence as a key indicator towards Leadership Development, managerial effectiveness and organizational productivity
Competitive Intelligence owes its birth from the WWII trenches in other words the cold war era. The enemy battlefield is much similar to business battlefield since the focus is on the achieving the same objective that is to outperform and outclass competitors who are like enemies in the battlefield similarly the intelligence used in corporate combat is identical and tactical, the way it is with regard to tactics used in military intelligence on the enemies. Being congnizant with the global shifts in business and its trends, this management tool of the 21st century as quoted by the renowned author Larry Kahaner has an impact on almost all economies of the world. There are a lot of factors behind CI being the professor of the leadership approach in terms of an organization:
Competitive Intelligence is no longer a need but an essential for inculcating the culture for leadership excellent. A competitive strategy is required to survive and benchmark an organization against any stiff competition.
There should be an instrument which has the capability and the potential to study actions taken by the competitors. It is important to become " Competitor Intelligent".
Organizations should have the competency to use this method against information being gathered and the appropriate conversion of these information to usable and actionable intelligence.
In order to lead to win the strategy should be sound and comprehensive to win any economic war and organizations can become leaders in the world market by practicing CI in a full blown manner.
THE THREE STAGES OF COMPETITIVE DEVELOPMENT THROUGH APPLICATION OF COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE
Marketing management information officer
Competitive Intelligence manager
Merely by using the market research tool to watch the actions of the external characters(Competitors) and positioning its forces of application does not entitle the organization to achieve the desired objectives or become hallmarks of leadership, an organization has to realize the importance of information and its contributing factor to leadership towards Competitive Development. Below is the table that shows the three stages of Competitive Development.
Source: Development of Competitive Intelligence/p.27/Cris West
Interpretation: Approach towards Competitor Development can only be through Customer analysis which indeed has three dimensions to it which is a predicament and a commandment to be followed and analyzed- Competitor awareness/ Competitor Sensitiveness/Competitor Intelligent.
D. Competitive Intelligence as the strategic factor to sustainable development
Competitive Intelligence is the guiding light and a torch bearer to leadership excellence through its guiding principles, practices which is truly reflected in this research. In this era of constant and dynamic change that indeed epitomizes the need for development and leadership. Around the world the economies are gearing and pressing the issue of Sustainable development, However sustainable development of any economy can be had not only maintaining and preserving the planet socially, environmentally or naturally and management which are indeed its four pillars of strength and approach but there is another approach to Sustainable Development which is indeed overlooked or not looked at all. The approach is of Competitive Intelligence which is the supporting structure, the backbone of any economic development framework. The former four pillars can become functional and can proceed to dream big towards economic and organizational self reliance but development can be thought but development can be thought of considering only the actions and information taken in the past, present and future as the statistical machinery should be strong and built on morality and not vested interests of the few.
There lies the importance of grounding the framework of a well established CI program. Indeed in India the economy is still suffering with information handling and analysis since the Indian economy does not give much importance to information gathering so practicing CI is a distant dream however Indian organizations are slowly recognizing the importance of this subject. Apart from the public policies and the macro economic reforms been passed which gave a new boundary to the industrial sector to expand, Competitive Intelligence has also added to the value of sustainable development through organizational leadership, growth and stability which in turn has added and pumped value and revenue to the economy.
SKELETAL FRAMEWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN TODAY'S BUSINESS SCENARIO
SOCIAL &HEALTH SCIENCES
Interpretation: The above figure shows the inclusion and probability of Competitive Intelligence being used in sustainable development practices. Both economic and organizational objectives can be accomplished through its application and implementation as a full blown practice.
E- Ethical and legal guidelines to practicing Competitive Intelligence
Although I profess the practice of Competitive Intelligence and advocate it as a positive approach to leadership even then every practice has certain limitations too which are merely guiding factors to enable organizations to avoid pitfalls and remove blind spots. These guidelines are for safe practicing of Competitive Intelligence not avoiding the legal factors and code of ethics that are followed statutorily by organizations. Competitive Intelligence happens as a result of collection of information already available to be made actionable and usable depending on the organization as to how they view the information pieces or which one is useful enough to push its priority achieving list. To lead in business race organizations need to go by the ethics which is the pressing issue in every organization, In order to study the actions of the competitors organizations need to understand, monitor and abide by the legal constraints and ethical assessments. To name a few legal and ethical issues which the Competitive Intelligence analysts must be aware of are:
Industry and corporate codes of ethics
Data protection legislation
The economic espionage Act
Conclusion & Recommendation
This paper concludes with the fact that Competitive Intelligence indeed has an approach towards leadership and is the relentless driver of today's business. The economics of benchmarking towards leadership excellence can be achieved only through the inclusion of this subject as a formal training program at an MBA level is the need of the hour. The concept of Competitive Intelligence is indeed new but is a propeller to lead and win any economic war and make economies healthy and growing in terms of organizational well being, organizational revenue and overall sustainability of any economy as a whole.
This subject addresses to globalization and is the key to revive any organization to sustainable business practices and competitive advantage. Hence the subject addresses to the slogan of " Globalize or perish". I strongly recommend this subject to be undertaken and practiced by all management practitioners, representatives from the industry, instructors and students who will highly benefit from this study. Moreover this study is not a detailed and comprehensive research that would necessary initiate immediate applications in organizations but can be an eye opener and give an insight on this subject of utmost relevance. More and more organizations should set up CI units and practice Competitive Intelligence on a large scale, smaller or medium sized organizations can to practice it even on smaller potency but the initiation and the revolution has to happen. Training programs on CI should be introduced at BBA and MBA levels to build the maestro leaders of tomorrow. Competitive Intelligence can transform not only the organization but also the economy as a whole.