Competitive Intelligence (CI) turns information into the knowledge you need for future decisions. When managed properly, CI can decrease bad decisions, increase your ability to identify opportunities and reduce unexpected actions by your competitors.
CI is the practice of gathering, analyzing and disseminating information on what the marketplace requires (demand), about how you and your competitors meet these requirements (supply), and how each strives to meet market needs better than the other (competition). The intelligence is then used to help make decisions about the future direction and growth of the company. he quality of the decision is determined by the amount and quality of the information.
Most of the information you need is available through public and published channels. However, "public" information is not always published. Court records, state filings and government hearings aren't published, but they are public and contain important information about a competitor's finances and future plans.
A common example of public information is a Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filing. These state-required filings of assets and loan collateral can often tell you how much of a capital investment a competitor is making, the kind of equipment purchased and the manufacturer.
Other sources of CI include internal and external sources. Internal sources include technical (white) papers, competitor sales literature, press clippings and annual reports. External information includes information found in proprietary databases like Lexis-Nexis (www.lexisnexis.com) and Dialog (www.dialog.com).
Information also comes from primary sources, which are originators of the information, and secondary sources, such as news stories and stock analyst reports. Information is also identified as hard, which is quantitative, like facts, statistics, raw data, and financial information, or soft, which includes opinions, anecdotes and customer feedback.