How do I define my organisation’s competitive intelligence needs?
Identifying your competitive intelligence requirements is a crucial first step in the competitive intelligence process. Generally there are a number of intelligence requirements needed by different decision-makers within an organisation – and gathering the information required to satisfy these topics is part of the CI process. Such topics are often known as the organisation’s key intelligence topics or KITs.
Key Intelligence Topics
A key intelligence topic (or KIT) defines a particular set of needs for a particular user of competitive intelligence. The process is a derivation of the CIA’s national intelligence topics, which facilitate the US Government’s task of organising, prioritising and focusing intelligence resources on the primary needs for the national security community and its policy makers.
KITs are characteristically categorised as one of three basic categories:
- Strategic Decisions and Actions [Factors in our control]
- Early Warning Topics [Factors outside our control]
- Descriptions of Key players. (Competitors, customers, suppliers, partners, regulators, etc.) [Factors others control but we may be able to influence]
KITs are not mutually exclusive. A strategy focused KIT may also require a competitor profile, and some form of early-warning intelligence to alert the CI user. This may lead to a new competitive strategy.
- The Strategic Decision type of KIT is the most visible type of CI process and often gives the most tangible measure of intelligence value and success. KITs in this category vary in form from specific questions to full topics that need research. The range of topics covers the full range of business actions – and is aimed at supporting company strategic decisions. They tend to relate to questions and issues that are fully in the organisation's ability to control.
- providing intelligence inputs for company strategic plans – giving a view of the future competitive environment (e.g. a competitor scenario).
- Assessing investment decisions or acquisition possibilities
- Assessing changes in production or plant
- Product development and roll-out. How will competitors respond.
- Early warning KITs aim to eliminate surprise. They are usually weighted towards perceived threats. Examples include assessing the potential of technological developments or the status of key customers, suppliers, etc.. Potential legislative changes would also fall in this category, as would the impact of alliances or ownership changes among customers, suppliers and competitors. This category looks at understanding changes resulting from competitor moves and from changes in the business environment. As such they are outside our control in that we have no influence on these factors.
- Key player KITS tend to be the least actionable – and may simply reflect the need for a better understanding of a player – “to get under their skin”. Competitor profiles are a useful way of satisfying this need. However this kind of KIT can also include questions such as “Why did they change their strategy”. Key Player KITS tend to relate to factors controlled by others but that we may be able to influence if we have the required intelligence / information.
The KIT process can be reactive – waiting for CI users to request information or proactive where CI staff interview CI users about likely future competitive intelligence needs. Such a process is preferable as it means that the CI information is available as needed rather than a search being done when requested. A proactive approach also allows requests to be prioritised on a needs basis rather than a time basis.