Competitive Intelligence

Competitive intelligence is the process of legally helping companies acquire other companies' secrets. It applies methods developed in government intelligence.

There is a "Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals" [AR 95].

Web Sites

Competitive Intelligence Guide -- FULD & COMPANY, INC.
Edgar Online
Dun & Bradstreet
Hoover Company Profiles
The Motley Fool

War of Wits [Farago 1954]

This section takes intelligence as described in the book War of Wits and pulls out the parts that apply to competitive intelligence.

Intelligence is:

  1. Collection or procurement of information
  2. Evaluation of information, which then becomes intelligence
  3. Dissemination of information to those who need it
  4. Counterintelligence - concealment or protection of information from intelligence operations of an adversary

"Research and analysis" exploits information in the public domain. Work with published material (newspaper and magazines), broadcasts, liaison with other organizations, and interrogation. "Collection" is the process of culling useful information from generally available information. "Procurement" is the process of actively trying to obtain specific information.

Scan primary information sources. Look for new information. Look for information corroborating other (perhaps suspicious) information. Develop a backlog of information and look for a pattern.

The Competitive Intelligence Handbook (Combs & Moorhead)

(Summary notes)

Axioms of competitive intelligence

  • Most of the info. needed for a given project is available through publicly available channels.
  • Information is where you find it.
  • CI Projects pass through phases that are best described as a U-shaped curve. (Optimism->depression->optimism)
  • Someone else cares about the subject.
  • Single sources of information are unreliable.
  • Real market share is harder to find than it would appear to be.
  • Companies, like individuals, leave a paper trail as they go about their business.

Public information

  • Plant tours
  • EPA filings
  • Filings with town/state e.g., when building a new plant.
  • Company directories: The Directory of Corporate Affiliations (HG4057 A219), The Encyclopedia of Assocations (HS17 G32), Dun's Million Dollar Directory(HC102 D8), S&P's Register of Corporations, Directors, and Executives (HG4057 A41).
  • Online databases
  • Local newspapers

Developing Intelligence

  • Identification of information need: what question are you answering?
  • Collection of information. Sources are:
    • Inside the company. Research info., discussions w/colleagues.
    • From online sources. NEXIS etc.
    • Outside the company. Use public names, call around. (Warning: don't directly call direct competitors - maybe illegal.)
  • Analysis. Turn information into knowledge. Analytic approaches:
    • Functional/chronological sorting. Plot history.
    • Market share analysis
    • Organization charts (approximate)
    • Benchmark - compare self to others.
    • Product/service comparisons. Overlapping patterns, product mixes.
    • Stock market performance - plot investor perceived value.
    • Value chain analysis - chain of production costs
    • Strength & weakness analysis - by function (e.g., engineering or marketing)
    • Vulnerability analysis - decide whether weaknesses are really vulnerabilities.
    • Distinctive competence - real strengths
  • Reporting
  • Organization (of the search process)
  • Ethics. Use public information: published information, public government documents, company info. freely disclosed to outside inquiry. NOT: trade secrets, other info. company diligently protects, covertly obtained info.

Online information

They tell you whether anything is written on the subject. Can provide names of employees in areas, or experts in the field. Might provide information that can be put together into a pattern.

The DISCLOSURE database has company reports online.



Sources on Competitive Intelligence

  • [AR 95] The Arizona Republic. "Spilling businesses' secrets to rivals is big business," Roanoke Times and World-News, June 8, 1995, p. B8. 6/95
  • [Combs 92] Richard E. Combs and John D. Moorhead. The Competitive Intelligence Handbook, Scarecrow Press: Metuchen NJ, 1992. HD38.7 C657 1992. 6/95
  • [Farago 1954] Ladislas Farago. War of wits: the anatomy of espionage and intelligence. Greenwood Press: Westwood, CN, 1954. UB250 F3 1976. 6/95
  • [Fifer et al. 1988] Robert M. Fifer, Timothy R. Furey, Lawrence S. Pryor, and Jeffrey P. Rumburg. Beating the Competition: A practical guide to benchmarking, Vienna VA: Kaiser Associates, 1988. Benchmarking
  • [Fuld 1985] Leonard M. Fuld. Competitor Intelligence: How to get it, how to use it, New York NY: Wiley, 1985. HD38.7 F85 1985. CI techniques
  • [Fuld 1988] Leonard M. Fuld. Monitoring the Competition: Find out what's really going on over there, New York NY: Wiley, 1988. A walk through the process of CI, easier but less comprehensive than [Fuld 1985]
  • [Gilad & Gilad 1988] Benjamin Gilad and Tamar Gilad. The Business Intelligence System, New York, NY: AMACOM (American Management Association), 1988. Planning and operating a business intelligence system. Collection and analysis.
  • [Gordon 1989] Ian Gordon. Beat the Competitition! How to use competitive intelligence to develop winning business strategies, Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1989. HD38.7 G67 1989. CI and business strategy; shadow marketing (role playing)
  • [Mathey 1991] Charles J. Mathey. Competitive Analysis, New York, NY: American Management Association, 1991. Collection, analysis, and tradeoffs.
  • [McGonagle & Vella 1990] John J. McGonagle and Carolyn M. Vella. Outsmarting the competition: Practical approaches to finding and using competitive information, Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 1990. HD38.7 M39 1990. Basics
  • [Meyer 1987] Herbert E. Meyer. Real-World Intelligence: Organized information for executives, New York: NY, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987. HD38.7 M47 1987. Combs & Moorhead call this "The best written of the current books on competitive intelligence"
  • [Porter 1980] Michael E. Porter. Competitive Strategy: Techniques for analyzing industries and competitors, New York, NY: Free Press/Macmillan, 1980. HD41 P67. Early book that helped launch the area of CI
  • [Porter 1985] Michael E. Porter. Competitive Advantage: Creating and sustaining superior performance, New York, NY: Free Press/MacMillan, 1985. HD41 P668 1985. Impt. early book.
  • [Prescott 1989] John E. Prescott (ed.). Advances in Competitive Intelligence Vienna, VA: Society of Competitor Intelligence Professionals, 1989. HD38.7 A38 1989. Readings
  • [Sammon et al. 1984] William Sammon, Mark Kurland, Robert Spitalnic, and others. Business Competitor Intelligence: Methods for collecting, organizing, and using information, New York, NY: Wiley, 1984. HD38.7 B87 1984. Readings
  • [Stanat 1990] Ruth Stanat. The Intelligent Corporation: Creating a shared network for information and profit, New York, NY: AMACOM (American Management Association), 1990. HD38.7 S7 1990. Computer-based support with network
  • [Tyson 1990] Kirk W. M. Tyson. Competitor Intelligence Manual and Guide: Gathering, analyzing, and using business intelligence, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990. Workbook, not big on theory.
  • [Tyson 1986] Kirk W. M. Tyson. Business Intelligence: Putting it all together, Lombard, IL: Leading Edge Publications, 1986. Advice; thin on material
  • [Vella 1988] Carolyn M. Vella. Improved Business Planning using Competitive Intelligence, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988. Overlaps with [McGonagle and Vella 1990]
  • [WRSCI n.d.] Washington Researchers Series on Competitive Intelligence. How to Find Information about Companies: The corporate intelligence sourcebook, Vol's 1 and 2 (HD2785 H68 1983) and Company Information: A model investigation. Washington, DC: Washington Researchers, n.d. Some of their several guides

Information Sources

  • [Berkman 1990] Robert I. Berkman. Find it Fast: How to uncover information on any subject, New York, NY: Hareper & Row, 1990. AG105 B553 1990. Resources and strategies.
  • Derdak, Thomas. International directory of company histories. HD2721 I63 1988.
  • Dun's Million Dollar Directory, HC102 D8.
  • The Encyclopedia of Assocations, HS17 G32.
  • Encyclopedia of business information sources. HF5030 E52.
  • F&S index plus text on compact disc guide to codes. HG4961 F83.
  • Hoover's Handbook (American Business: HG4057 A2862), (World Business: HG4009 H66), (Emerging Companies: HG4057 A2863).
  • Industry norms and key business ratios. HF5681 R25 S44.
  • The New York times index. AI21 N44.
  • Standard and Poor's Corporation. Industry Surveys. HG4501 S7668.
  • S&P's Register of Corporations, Directors, and Executives. HG4057 A41.
  • U.S. industrial outlook. HC106.5 A24.
  • The Value line investment survey. HG4501 V26.

Original draft 6-21-95. Revised 3-96. Revised 9-10-97.

Copyright 1994-2010, William C. Wake -