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The research proposal is dedicated to identifying the objectives and object of the research in the field of management concerning the notion of competitive intelligence. The proposal gives the review of sources that are devoted to the topic. It also identifies the research question, which is connected with studying competitive intelligence and its implication on small and big businesses. In addition, methods and timeframes of future research are defined. Besides, suggestions for a potential research were given and ethical issues of conducting the research in this field were explored.
Competitive intelligence is a marketing tool of studying a competing surrounding. It involves a determined gathering of information about competitors to make management decision concerning further business tactics and strategies.
Contemporary writings in marketing highlight the importance of competitive intelligence in making strategic marketing decisions (e.g., Dickson, 1992; Kotler, 1994) and developing market-oriented organizations (Day, 1990; Jaworski and Kohli, 1993; Narver and Slater, 1990). Considering its integral role in decisions central to marketing and the firm, it is perhaps not surprising that issues around competitive intelligence (CI) have recently been thoroughly examined. For example, the research priorities of the Marketing Science Institute and a mini-conference of marketing scholars (Dickson, Urbany and Lehmann, 1994) have focused squarely on competitor intelligence (Jaworski, Macinis, Kohli, 2002). Muller (2005) identifies the main purpose of competitive intelligence as "to provide a company with competitive advantage by providing input into competitive strategy."
The concept of "competition" is actually a scheme consisting of external factors of influence that contain both perspectives and threats for a business. That is why the concept of competitive intelligence should be spread not only on existing companies that sell goods or services, but also on potential companies and partially on intermediaries and customers.
The information about counter agents can become a valid competitive advantage; and the extraction of insider information is a separate task of marketing.
Competitive intelligence aims, actually, at extraction of information rather than its analysis. The analysis exists just as a tool for extraction of relevant information from indirect data. The objectives of competitive intelligence are a secondary informational function of addition to marketing analysis of strategic management objectives.
Besides, it is also taken into account that counter action to a competitor is preferable to copying because a strategy to overtake is more advantageous than to catch up. Competitive intelligence is also aimed at the strengthening of competitors' negative tendencies while marketing is engaged in the search of new niches. In some activities commercial gathering information about companies is a component of a business process, for example, in marketing itself, or in journalism, consulting and in recruiting.
Not everyone, however, views competitive Intelligence, as an effective method. According to the research of Cartwright, Bought and Miller, CI is often perceived "with a high degree of skepticism" concerning its efficiency and "ability of a competitive intelligence system to effectively generate information pertinent to strategic decision planning" (1995).
One of the specialist blogs compares competitive intelligence with market research, drawing parallels and contrasts between them. When Market Research gathers information by surveying many people, usually customers, in order to gather their opinion and insights on certain topics, competitive intelligence, on the other hand, is not about talking to lots of people, it is about talking to the right people. While Market Research generally focuses on customers, Competitive Intelligence focuses on key stakeholders and influencers. Because it involves talking directly to individuals that will shape the industry, Competitive Intelligence is predictive. Competitive Intelligence represents the head of Janus that looks into the future (Market Research and Competitive Intelligence).
As ambiguous as it is, competitive intelligence is a contemporary approach to management and strategy planning, and numerous companies apply it nowadays, that is why it is worth studying and researching.
When after looking at a given topic, first thing that researcher needs to be sure of is the main idea of that research, that what he or she will be doing in it and what will be the outcome of it. In business sector, it is more about having an edge over the competitor in a sense that doing something or taking a positive initiative before someone else does. The purpose of the future research is the role of competitive intelligence as a strategic advantage in businesses. The research will focus separately on the role of this tactics in small businesses and in big businesses, and the differences between the functions of these two types of businesses will be noted. This will involves studying the methodology of competitive intelligence applied in two different types, and the outcomes and influences on the production will also be compared.
The literature that has been reviewed for the purpose of this proposal is various in types. Most of the reviewed sources are monographs or works of two authors published after the year of 2000. This signifies that studying of this management strategy is rather up-to-date. The oldest sources date back to 1995, which is also a comparatively contemporary source. Overall, the timeframes of reviewed resources range from the year 1995 to 2011. Besides books, articles from scientific journals and information taken from a specialized blog were also taken into consideration.
In their works, authors mostly refer to already existing sources like Dickson, Kotler, Narver and Slater. However, all of these works were published in the 90s of the XXth century, which signifies that the study of competitive intelligence is a new tendency in management studies overall. It is not surprising because, as Cartright, Boughton and Miller emphasize, the method was introduced in the 1980s, so its studying obviously started later in the 90s.
Yap and Rashid's (2011) study investigates actually the implication of competitive intelligence, namely the current status of competitive intelligence in Malaysia, and how managers acquire and use this method from various sources. Their study is important to be suggested as they have gathered information through surveys and interviews.
The concept of competitive intelligence is usually highlighted in comparison or compatibility with areas of business or methods of management; or from the point of application of this method to business. As long as competitive intelligence is relatively a new concept, a great number of works are devoted to the explanation of the notion itself (West, Vriers) and the highlighting of its advantages (Waters, Sharp). The ambiguity of the notion causes a number of works that explore ethical and legal issues connected with competitive intelligence.
This section is devoted to the presentation of methods that are going to be used while carrying out the research. Several groups of required methods have been identified.
The first group is aimed at planning the research. The first step for planning is writing the current proposal that is going to narrow down the subject and object of the research, limit the literature requirements according to the aim and direct the research as a whole.
The second group is aimed at gathering information. To achieve the aim of collecting valid information the following methods will be used. Primarily, this will be the search of sources in the Internet and libraries. Valid sources include peer-reviewed journals, monographs, dissertation, which can be both posted online and found in university libraries. Usage of the following keywords will be applied: competitive intelligence (+ advantage/ practice/ issues), competition (competitor, competitiveness), management strategies, strategic planning, and competitive advantage. Competitive intelligence is also referred as "competitor intelligence, market intelligence, corporate intelligence and strategic intelligence" (Yap, Rashid, 2011)
Besides, every work (a journal article, a book, a website or dissertation) contains a reference list or list of works that are suggested for further reading that can also be consulted in the process of conducting a research. It is a common misconception that websites contain irrelevant information. Some of them do, but there are numerous professional forums and special web pages devoted to the questions of management and managing strategies that can give some insight to the research. Besides, people on forums may also become the target population for questioning for only risk that they may use fake profiles. The organization "Society of Competitive Intelligence Professional" will also be suitable for providing information for the matter.
The third group of methods is devoted to conducting a practical part of the research. It will be done through surveys and interviews. The most convenient way of conducting a survey is through email or in forums, as it has been suggested earlier. This, on the one hand, increases the risk of untruthful answers on the questions, and the questionnaires may be considered as spam or neglected. On the other hand, there is always a risk of irrelevant or false answers while doing an interview. Besides, the likelihood of questionnaires being ignored may be eliminated by the means of increasing the number of email sent. It saves paper and it does not require additional costs, so the wider audience can be targeted. Moreover, surveys will not be simply sent as an advertisement, but rather the participation in the survey will be previously agreed.
During interviews, such persons potentially involved in implementing competitive intelligence will be questioned as CI consultants, speakers of the relevant topics, those working in CI field. For example, Jaworski, Macinnis and Kohli (2002) conducted their in-depth interviews with managers that formally engage in Competitive Intelligence. They identified a Fortune 50 corporation that contained a number of business groups that implemented this strategy. Based on experience in the field, they also chose 38 analysts as interviewees, which according to them was larger than previous qualitative studies.
The most important part of a research or doing anything is based on following the eithics of it. The way of doing something that doesn't harm anyone or it isn't offensive to anyone and ensuring that whatever is being done is fair. The ethical side of this question was examined in several works. Horowitz (2011) wrote one of them. Horowitz emphasizes that competitive intelligence is not just allowed by law, but is actually encouraged by it, "The privilege of competing with others includes a privilege to adopt their business methods, ideas or processes of manufacture. Were it otherwise, the person in the field with a new process or idea would have a monopoly which would tend to prevent competition."
Trevino and Weaver also devote their research to ethical issues of competitive intelligence, as they say, by the request of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals. According to their findings, the general attitude of media towards competitive intelligence work is generally negative and implies illegality and lack of moral values. The examples discovered by the researchers often include situations when an employee steals the project of his or her company to sell to their competitor. The size of possible idea theft is symbolized by the example of 10000 pages found in the competitors' dumpster.
What makes this research contain a hypothetical ethical issue is that exploring advantages of competitive intelligence, which are obviously numerous, the research will itself encourage the implication of this strategy. Hence, this might also encourage those illegal actions that are often performed as a part of competitive intelligence strategy.
Significance of Research
Prescott and Miller (2001) emphasize that numerous surveys and interviews, and other evidence suggests, "that competitive intelligence has become a fundamental corporate operation." According to them, the data of American Productivity and Quality's Centre "Competitive and Business Intelligence Consortium Benchmarking Study" informs that this approach is applied by such international giants as Bell Atlantic, Eastern Kodak, Fidelity Investments, Ford, Merck, Pacific Enterprises, and Xerox.
Limitation and Suggestions for future research
The proposal has singled out a research question that can be divided into two sub types, namely investigation of how and what methods of competitive intelligence are applied for separately small and big businesses, and define the significant differences in their application.
However, the set question results in several limitations of the studying process. As it has been suggested in the ethical issues section before, the emphasis on advantages of competitive intelligence is impossible because it might provoke certain deeds. That is why it is necessary to focus strictly on the differences between the roles played by competitive intelligence on small and big businesses. It is also important to highlight both advantages and disadvantages, if the question comes to that.
The types of companies are also important to define. It is necessary to include firms that have different specializations. However, the research question does not imply drawing conclusions from the correspondence between the type of a company and their implication of the approach of competitive intelligence. That is why it is not necessary to mention this fact, however, this could be the topic for the further studying in this area.
The estimation of timeframes is going to consist of the stages that have been developed in the methodology section of this proposal.
The first stage, which is the development of this proposal, has to take approximately 20 days to develop which will help in better understanding of the situation and the arrangement of tasks to be done.
The second stage involves gathering information. Gathering required theoretical basis for the studying means a lot of work in the libraries, and looking for the most appropriate sources available to support the research and findings and back them up with quotes and writings of authors of that specific field which is rather time-consuming. Thus, the stage of gathering information is going to take two months. In two months, I expect to collect sufficient amount of theoretical basis for conducting a field research.
The practical part will be the most time-consuming of all of the above, although the necessary preparations have already been done but to start with something practical, most of the times there are some external factors that might become a hurdle in this process. It means that by this stage, the companies that implement the strategy of competitive intelligence have been identified. It is worth noticing that the number of big and small companies should be equal. However, this part will also consist from two separate stages. The first stage will involve agreement with other firms concerning future interviews.
According to Jaworski, Macinnis and Kohli, this stage took them 4 months. In some cases it takes longer where there is a wide range of research required and in order to follow the questions and conduct a research while looking at the internal and external factors of the organization. However, presuming the scale of my research is smaller and theoretical based, I would estimate the practical part to be completed in three months.
Overall, the timeframe of the whole research process is going to take 5 months and 20 days, which is almost 6 months.
The research proposal is aimed at providing with a research question in the field of contemporary trends in management. Competitive intelligence has been identified as the most topical issue to be studied.
Indeed, a concept of competitive intelligence is relatively new, as it has appeared only in 1980s and has not been properly researched yet. Competitive intelligence is considered ambiguous concerning its efficiency. However, it is widely used now by different companies, which include international corporations like Kodak, Xerox, Ford and others.
Competitive intelligence is studied by the means of comparison and contrasts. Besides, a lot of studies are still devoted to the explanation of its concepts. However, this research proposal defines the issue of rather an analytical nature. It is proposed to compare and contrast the role and implication of CI on big and small businesses, not mentioning its advantages or disadvantages. This results in certain limitations in literature.
There are also particular ethical issues connected with this research, and they lead straight to the ethical issues of the concept itself, which a lot of works were devoted to. In the proposal, it was suggested to avoid raising these issues by the means of avoiding encouragement of the concept.
The research can be developed by adding a question of dependence of implementation of CI on the type of the company.
The research is estimated to take approximately half a year. However, a theoretical part is estimated to take 2 months.