Focus on Global Competitive Intelligence

Article excerpt

Globalization has come to be seen as a profitable and successful strategy that has arrived for all types of companies, not just the vast multinationals that have been much criticized for their use and abuse of corporate global reach and power. The challenge to business information professionals who are required to research a competitor company with global interests should not be underestimated. This article looks at the issues involved in conducting this research in a definitive way.

A decade ago, globalization was a term mainly used to describe the activities of investment banks integrating their securities trading activities across financial centres and time zones around the world. Very few industrial companies could then be said to be truly global in participation across broad or niche markets. Globalization is not a new concept, but in today's terms it represents a radical change in international business.

Multinational companies have operated a very specific type of international activity since the end of WWII in 1945, developing organically and typically controlling foreign operations from a strong central base in the home country. The research requirements for multinational expansion overseas were achieved on the ground by a range of company executives, by what is understood today to be primary research. The very terms used; "foreign" and "overseas" were highly representative of the nature and attitude of the international business conducted by these firms. These rather old-fashioned terms have been replaced by "cross border" and "global" in the vocabulary of companies diversifying internationally.

One other significant difference is evident. Global reach today often is tied in with assessing and achieving merger and acquisition opportunities alongside the assessment of competitors. Companies can no longer afford the luxury of developing international business slowly and organically and prefer to buy successful companies in countries as they expand.

As companies move into cross border opportunities involved in globalization, the need to conduct definitive business research, the secondary research, particularly competitive intelligence, in a global context becomes essential for further success. This process can be complex and time consuming and is certainly ongoing. Many companies who are confident and familiar with the methods and practices of competitive intelligence in their domestic or local regional markets may find the requirement to extend their research into the global arena very difficult to accomplish in any structured way. Understanding the and applying data that can now be collected from unfamiliar, numerous and disparate pan regional and country published sources is very complex.

Effective global company research can be done best by the systematic and knowledgeable collection and interpretation of information from the multiple sources using all the skills and expertise of the special librarian. The internet has made many published sources more accessible, but using the internet as the main access point particularly requires this disciplined and structured approach

An approach is suggested covering four main themes that can be used as a whole in ongoing complex cross border competitive intelligence projects. It is also possible to take elements of the themes to research individual companies on a superficial or detailed basis. What is important is the understanding and ability to research and investigate any possibilities where unusual data might be located.

The themes are:

1. Structuring the Global Research

Organizing the global company research/project in a systematic way in four main areas:

1. company identification; the ongoing identification of competitors from the development of the global market, especially the awareness of new and unexpected competition. All international competitive intelligence needs to have a clear cut method of company identification. …