Magazine article Information Today

Keeping Track of Business Trends

Magazine article Information Today

Keeping Track of Business Trends

Article excerpt

This new book on competitive intelligence can help info pros of all types

In today's fast-paced business environment, companies in all fields must move quickly to take advantage of opportunities. Successful enterprises need to know what their competitors are doing, how consumers' needs are changing, how global markets are maturing, and what trends are developing in their industries. Meeting these information needs is what competitive intelligence (CI) is all about. CI information is more accessible now than ever before due to the proliferation of both commercial online services and the Web. In Online Competitive intelligence: Increase Your Profits Using Cyber-intelligence, industry pro Helen Burwell condenses lessons from her years of experience into a basic guide for beginners.

CI has been an important part of the business world for quite some time and has grown rapidly with the information explosion of the past few years. Helen Burwell is a leader in this field. She has been an independent information broker and president of Burwell Enterprises since 1984. She is the editor and publisher of the Burwell World Directory of Information Brokers, now in its 14th edition. She has designed electronic CI strategies for numerous firms, and has also conducted training as the principal of the Information Professionals Institute. Burwell clearly understands the principles and goals of CI and how to apply them to the latest electronic information sources. As an introduction to the book, she gives her answer to the question, "Why another competitive intelligence book?" She feels that there are many people out there in the business world floundering around trying to gather CI data of various sorts, and this organized introduction will help them. It is "... intended as a specialized resource for CI practitioners and others who search for business intelligence."

Online Competitive Intelligence is arranged into several sections. The first section, titled "An Introduction to Competitive Intelligence," introduces the reader to CI and its uses. Some of the suggested uses of CI are predicting your competitor's next moves, turning weaknesses into advantages, and becoming aware of change before it's too late. Burwell notes that many players may gather CI, from the professional librarian to the salesperson searching for buyers to the entrepreneur looking for new opportunities. This section also includes valuable discussion of free vs. fee-based sources and how to choose between them. An extensive chart provides points of comparison between commercial databases and free Internet sources, as well as direct-dial vs. Web access for commercial services.

The second section covers how to choose and use online sources for CI. Included here are 12 excellent guidelines for evaluating online sources. These will be familiar to many librarians who have used online databases, but will be very helpful for those who are new to this field. Individual chapters in this section cover specific types of sources, such as public records, government databases, and company Web pages. …

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