Competitive Intelligence Education: Competencies, Sources, and Trends: Nearly All Organizations Are Increasingly Using Competitive Intelligence (CI) in Their Business Marketing, Planning, and Strategizing; However, Formal Educational Offerings in CI Are Seriously Lacking

Article excerpt

At the Core

This article

* assesses the state of education in competitive intelligence (CI)

* examines what CI educational opportunities are available

* outlines key trends in CI education

Acquiring an education is easier to do in some fields of study than others. "Name-brand" professionals such as accountants, engineers, lawyers, or nurses not only have to complete an agreed-upon curriculum of at least four years of higher education, but also have continuing education requirements that help ensure that they remain abreast of the latest developments in their fields. However, the educational opportunities for practitioners in relatively young knowledge-based management fields is not as easily defined. Where does the erstwhile corporate librarian, competitive analyst, knowledge manager, strategic planning director, or competitive intelligence (CI) manager go to acquire and enhance his or her capabilities? What knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience should be sought? Does an advanced certificate or degree in the field make any difference in their career possibilities or pathways? How vital is it to stay on top of developments, and is continuing education a necessity to stay ahead of one's business or marketplace competitors?

Why Competitive Intelligence?

In its implicit form, CI is performed every time any individual in the organization attempts to position to current or potential customers the organization's products/services in the marketplace relative to competitive offerings. Positioning is a critical element of the CI process in that companies are trying to establish their offerings as providing higher value to customers than competing products/services.

Similar to many newer disciplinary fields where coalescence around the domain and scope has not occurred, numerous definitions of CI as both a process and a product exist. In general, CI is the systematic process by which organizations ethically gather and analyze actionable information about competitors and the competitive environment and, ideally, apply it to their decision-making and planning processes to improve their performance. The systematic process used in developing CI products is commonly known as the intelligence cycle and progresses through a recurring set of steps including planning, data gathering, analysis, and dissemination.

CI is an activity that nearly all organizations, public or private, large or small, global or local, perform either explicitly or implicitly. In its explicit form, organizations systematically and deliberately organize themselves, empowering and assigning individuals to develop insights about their competitors and competitive environment in order to better position themselves in their marketplaces. Many companies have formal CI functions and processes, and some companies, including Boeing, Merck, Motorola, and Procter & Gamble, are well-known for their CI capabilities. Industries such as high-technology electronics, fast-moving consumer goods, integrated energy, and pharmaceuticals also contain higher-than-average levels of CI activity.

CI has grown in prominence since the early 1980s as the managerial focus on information and knowledge-based competition has increased. Organizations are increasingly seeking to better understand how they can leverage their value propositions in the marketplace. They realize that they need to exploit and tap into the wealth of data and informational resources that exist both within and outside their organizational domain. CI experts generally suggest that the majority of insights a company needs in order to compete more effectively can be captured from readily accessible information resources within the organization's scope--whether these are owned or outsourced, the organization has to develop the effective means and channels by which to capture, assess, and use them.

The process of CI has always been an inherent part of the business marketing, planning, and strategy landscape; nevertheless, formal educational offerings in CI only have about a three-decade, mostly sporadic, history. …