19 May 2001 Competitive Intelligence It takes a simple mind to run a simple machine, but a shrewd mind is needed to run an organization, association, or business. Business intelligence has become a big principle in industries throughout the years. "During the second half of the 20 th century, the United States and Canada, Western Europe, as well as Japan and a number of other countries, have evolved from primarily manufacturing-based economies to more information-based societies" (Kara). A business needs to have a mission to be successful. To help accomplish missions for businesses, business intelligence is utilized. To run a productive organization effectively and efficiently, certain things need to be accomplished.

To start the process of applying business intelligence, as many possible sources of information must be gathered. After the information has been collected, it must be sorted into different categories. These categories are either valuable or non-valuable information, otherwise known as intelligence. Since the intelligence is derived by businesses for businesses, it is considered business intelligence. Business intelligence has a direct effect on how well its organization does in the marketplace. This intelligence is used to identify forewarning's of disasters as well as opportunities that may occur.

After the intelligence needs have been identified for a business, the information is then collected by an all source fusion. After analyzing the data that has been collected, it can be determined which information can be used, and what can be discarded. The results are then passed to the bosses of an organization, who in turn, make a decision. This completes the four-phased intelligence cycle.

After you establish your business goals, various techniques are used to attain and surpass the organization's goals. One technique is through competitive intelligence. Competitive intelligence can be considered a subsidiary of business intelligence. The purpose for competitive intelligence is to keep businesses on the cutting edge, abreast of their competitors, ahead in the global markets, and to establish better quality products and services. Competitive intelligence can be defined as "A formalized, yet continuously evolving process by which the management team assesses the evolution of its industry and the capabilities and behavior of its current and potential competitors to assist in maintaining or developing a competitive advantage" (Prescott and Gibbons 1993). Competitive intelligence is collected through marketing, advertising, surveys, online databases, conversation, reverse engineering, observation of the competitors business, competitive benchmarking, investment community resources, contacting government agencies, and data evaluation.

An articulate individual must manage an outstanding competitive intelligence program. This individual then helps create a thriving business by communicating his findings and suggest ways in which to utilize the information. Competitive intelligence is such an aspiring business, that the only way to stay above water is to use it in some form or another. Since the speed of technology advancement is phenomenal, effective competitive intelligence needs to be one step ahead. Not all information brought into the business is considered business intelligence. Gossip and hearsay are not legitimate intelligence sources.

If you were a manager of an organization, and you used those methods as sources of deriving information for intelligence and presented them to your boss, you might find yourself seeking employment elsewhere. It is an assumption that if you want the best competitive intelligence you must go into cloak and dagger mode to achieve your desired results. When using deception techniques, there is a fine line to consider. That line is called ethical and non-ethical behavior. Espionage is not openly practiced but illegal as well. Once you cross over the gray area and start doing covert operations against your competitors, competitive intelligence is no longer the situation.

It then becomes an act of unethical desperation. Many organizations believe that if they do their homework thoroughly, they can determine the way their future will play out. Even the best analyst cannot predict an absolute outcome while they monitor their competitors. It is not an absolute science or a guarantee.

Competitive intelligence does not tell you where you are going but lays a foundation for your business to evaluate where it wants to be in the present and near future. Competitive intelligence only offers information; not the breakdown of the information and how it should be utilized within the business. Many intelligence professionals may look at the same information that was provided and comprehend it differently, depending on the needs of their businesses. "Never equate paper with competitive intelligence. Unfortunately, many managers think that by spending countless hours on computer-generated slides, charts and graphs, and footnoted reports, they have delivered intelligence. All they have managed to do is to slow down the delivery of critical intelligence" (Full).

Due to time constraints, limitations of resources, financial constraints, manpower issues, enormous amounts of data, and the expertise of analysts, competitive intelligence needs to be determined by relevance. Many illegitimate sources are disguised as truths, or facts. These illegitimate sources, along with rumors, are difficult to control and can be used as deception intelligence. There is not a single method of intelligence that can be considered better than another as a general rule.

Even though, competitive intelligence can help your business during a recession, it is not a cure all medicine. Works Cited 1. (web) 2. (web) 3.

Kara, Dan "The New Face of Business Intelligence." Software Magazine, November 2000.