Magazine article Information Outlook

Market the Value of Your Competitive Intelligence: An Added Role for the Information Center

Magazine article Information Outlook

Market the Value of Your Competitive Intelligence: An Added Role for the Information Center

Article excerpt

Long gone are the days of the librarian as keeper of the books. In today's cutthroat, corporate environment, we must be top of the line, competitive information leaders. But how do we keep our departments on the cutting edge? How do we insure that we are professionals that are sought after when the deadlines approach? The key factors are communications, marketing, and politics. Running an effective competitive intelligence department is more complex than just having good organizational skills. Not that we would go far without those skills. Competitive intelligence, or CI, is the ability to gather the facts, see into the future, and convince your audience that you hold the key. Let's look at some the factors needed for success.

Communications: External vs. Internal

To be truly effective, a CI department must establish excellent communication lines both within and outside the company. There are many information gathering tools within the organization. To ensure the thoroughness of your research, explore your company for experts. Make a list of experts and what their specialties are. One scientist may be an excellent source of background information. The person in marketing may have suggestions on how to market a new service. Perhaps someone in investor services can help you make contact with a security analyst. These internal sources can be a wealth of information if properly cultivated. Once you have identified internal sources, a two-way communication channel needs to be set up. One way of keeping a consistent flow of information is to provide services to the contact. Setting up a news watch or conducting some Internet research might be enough to keep the source communicating.

External sources are equally important. Having a network of contacts is an excellent method to keep abreast of your industry Remember that contacts do not have to be in your field to be useful. Consider making contacts with suppliers or distributors for your industry, this could be used when sleuthing on a competitor. Government and association contacts can also prove very useful. Remember that reciprocation is important if you want an ongoing relationship. The best technique for gaining external contacts is through conferences/meetings. Get involved in SLA or a similar organization and you will find a wealth of information.

Running Smoothly? Reevaluate

Too often we become complacent when events are running smoothly. Then we are tossed into chaos unprepared, struggling with a miserable upward climb. Don't wait until a crisis. Regular reevaluation should occur at least partially every year. Services must be checked for their relevance, lists of users should be monitored for any shifts, and software must be evaluated for its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It is extremely important that we remain educated, both by reading and by seminars/conferences, in order to keep abreast of an information market that changes by the minute. A full information audit should be performed on a regular basis. I suggest you break down and conduct one at least every three years. Keep in mind that good services are not enough to save your department in times of trial. Make sure you keep coming up with new ideas and rotate services, so your information never seems stale. Keep a short list of services that don't change. Remember that you can package the same service differently a nd it will appear new.

Marketing-The Lifeline

No matter how talented you are, you can never avoid marketing and still be successful for the long term. Although this belief is my maxim, how much marketing is necessary depends on your personal environment. With that in mind, here are a few items I conduct on a regular basis. First of all, know your clients. I use the term clients instead of patrons or users because it reminds me that I must be diligent in my service or the client will go elsewhere. This is especially true in today's Internet world. …

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