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Six Easy Ways to Better Competitive Intelligence Project Delivery

Provider: “When do need that?”

Manager: “Yesterday!”

Provider: “When did you first know you were going to need it?”

Manager: “Two months ago.”

Provider: “What kind of budget do you have?”

Manager: “Practically none.”

Provider: “Are you looking for a thumbnail overview or a detailed examination?”

Manager: “Everything I can get, of course. I want quality, and I want it fast.”

Sound familiar? This exchange happens all too often between managers who need solid insight to answer immediate strategic questions and competitive intelligence providers who uncover and deliver the answers. In a hurry to get the information, data requesters pressure CI service providers, whether they are part of an internal CI function or an outside research supplier, with impractical timeframes and a whole host of unrealistic expectations.

The “need it yesterday” perspective can defeat the very purpose of competitive intelligence—to produce a real effect on the bottom line. Competitive intelligence should always save or make either time or money. Any information that does not contribute to meeting at least one of these goals is a waste of both. In order to do so, consider the following guidelines:

1) Be Specific with Project Scope

CI users must ask for exactly what they want. Be as granular as possible at the outset.

2) Discuss Project Do-Ability

Expect CI providers to be upfront and tell it like it is. Nobody wants to hear, “No problem, we can do that in a week,” only to be told the day before the report is due that “we really need another month.”

3) Agree on Realistic Timeframes

Take into account and schedule for strategizing, identifying and contacting of knowledgeable sources, verification and analysis of research findings, and report writing.

4) Seek Perspective, Not Precision

Remember, findings may not always need to go to the third decimal point of accuracy in order to provide sufficient strategic perspective to reach a conclusion.

5) Communicate Regularly

CI engagements can encounter unexpected and exciting turns. Take advantage of them and know what to expect in the final report by communicating often.

6) Good, Fast, or Cheap—Pick Two

Remember Jerry Maguire, “Help me to help you.” Build a win-win partnership.

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