Are you recruiting for a Competitive Intelligence professional?
Are you recruiting for a Competitive Intelligence Manager? Finding it tough to find anyone suitable with the necessary skills or experience? Or maybe you are interested in outsourcing the role but are not sure where to start? We ask why outsource Competitive Intelligence and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?

Why Outsource Competitive Intelligence and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?
If either of these scenarios looks familiar, then hopefully, this article may help you.

Inhouse or outsource?
You may be considering the in-house option is to undertake Competitive Intelligence. Should you recruit for your team? Or use the already busy and inexperienced marketing assistants? Or go the whole way and outsource everything to an agency? Here are a few common key pointers.

Never put all your eggs in one basket
We argue that you can never outsource everything as we can’t make your decisions. Competitive Intelligence agencies can offer an opinion and should be able to suggest options based on what they’ve found.

Outsourcing disadvantages
When outsourcing fails, it’s usually attributed to expectation and criteria miss-match. Careful thought with clear documented objectives, timescales and budgets.

1. Risk of losing data
You may have to share some data with your outsourcing partner, and much of the data could be confidential. So, it’s best at first to get your chosen service provider to look externally. Bring insight and verification into the investigative process. From there, building trust and a shared understanding and progress.

2. Loss of control
Hand over any activity to an external team, and you lose a certain amount of control. Anything goes wrong, and it’s out of your hands. Similarly, terrible service, exaggerated capabilities, and poor communication need to be considered too.

What is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive intelligence is the finding, sorting and critical analysis of information. To make sense of what’s happening and why. Predict what’s going to happen and give the options to help you control the outcome. Competitive intelligence offers certainty, competitive advantage, insight, growth & security.
Within the Competitive Intelligence world, there are many super providers. Several quality platforms help you create insight. Yet, like most industries, some would ‘sell their granny to make a buck’. Sadly, many are happily provide you with utter garbage. So be cautious.

But, the majority of Competitive Intelligence agencies are excellent. Yet, as we have experienced when we tried to outsource our collecting requirements, eight times out of ten global providers gave us basic Google cut and paste. No matter how cheap or expensive they were.

And it’s the worst thing to find. You think you have found a great partner, and they deliver the work a day before the deadline. Then you open the document, and your heart sinks—big promises, slapdash results and then a very late night.

There are also established Competitive Intelligence companies proclaiming AI helps them be the best. Here is a recent quote from a former employee of one of them. “I worked for them for two years, and there was nothing AI or indeed intelligent about them at all.”

3. The cost
Be very aware of what you are being charged for. Many established firms are very used to trading off their brand. No matter whom you are talking with, ensure that a complete schedule of work is agreed upon along with timelines and reporting criteria. Then look at that and make a balanced commercial judgement on the cost seeming like great value… or not.

What are the advantages of outsourcing?
If you select the right Competitive Intelligence partner, the advantages are endless. With the right team in your corner, you will get the insight to grow and make the right decisions.

1. Save money
For the cost of a junior staff member, it’s possible to get a retained Competitive Intelligence solution to support your needs.

2. Save time
It’s not just money. Think of all your marketing, sales or Intelligence team wasting time and expertise dealing with less strategic things. Outsourcing helps release your people back to what they do best.

3. Cut back on risk
The right Competitive Intelligence company will be an expert in the necessary skill sets required. Engaging this expertise cost mitigates risk, reduces mistakes and delivers better results.

4. Improving efficiency
Delegating difficult to control activities to consultancies enables you to be more versatile. And free up your resources to do other productive things.

5. Less experience to blind you
One of the most significant issues is that a company desires a Competitive Intelligence professional with experience in the market sector relevant to the business. Our view is that this is disadvantageous, and this may well mean that the recruit may well know all the shortcuts in knowledge.

Be well versed in the industry parlance and see how the industry works in practice. This can lead to vulnerabilities in their lack of more comprehensive insights and techniques. A possible exception to this could be in the Life Sciences. Not because of any lack of Competitive Intelligence skills and capability but the willingness of a medical professional to look beyond the prefix of a name.

Completely wrong
After all, you want to work with Competitive Intelligence professionals who are highly trained and capable in Intelligence collection and analysis. For example, if you are in the business of aircraft building, your design engineers would oversee the build of the planes, not say your in-house lawyer. Likewise, it is probably unwise to ask a design engineer to sign off a multi-billion pound contract’s legal terms and conditions.

Essentially you would not benefit from a Competitive Intelligence professional who already has the answers, and the real value is finding and verifying the answers. That way, you will receive objective and impartial insight and not be blindsided by lack of experience, office politics, self-interest and subjective analysis.

6. Reality check
Outsourcing allows a company like ours to use the skills we are trained to provide. Appropriate reality checks and gives a ‘wood for the trees’ insight. Showing you exactly where you are doing and then understanding where you are going.

7. Ask the questions
An outsourced Competitive Intelligence function can ask awkward questions. The ones you want to know but do not want to be seen to ask. Searching for insight whilst giving total immunity to you, so the risk is mitigated.

8. Avoid the panic and fads
Bring much needed Intelligence insight into your board room and your broader organisation. A partner supports by providing impartial viewpoints of your ever-changing marketplace. Competitive Intelligence professionals should never be yes men. And in so doing, it gives you a clear and truthful sustainable competitive advantage. And communicating to your board that Intelligence is not about jumping on the latest fad. Or merely copying a competitor.

9. Learn from an Intelligence professional
Using an Intelligence professional with considerable experience and knowledge is an excellent way for your team to learn tradecraft. Ask your provider how they found the information and the analysis they used. Not to judge but to learn and develop your own teams.

When to outsource?
Now is the time to consider it. Just by exploring the option, you will become more aware of the advantages.

Things to consider when looking at Competitive Intelligence if:-

You have a project with a tight deadline with no one to do it.
Skills are not available.
When asking questions to people outside your company that could expose you.
When looking for information and it’s obvious who wants it.
You failed to get anything out of Intelligence before.
All you have is basic research and unspecified assumptions.
You want to know what’s really going on.
You need to make decisions based on something evidenced and verified.
The right partner
There has to be a benefit of outsourcing Competitive Intelligence. Your company will have lots of information and perhaps too much. Your sales teams, for instance, should be part of the full and real-time Competitive Intelligence process.

A professional service partner will want to work with you, and they will want to collate all relevant internal knowledge and tell you what’s really going on. It is also about understanding what your board needs to take your organisation to the next level. And how it can effectively neutralise potential problems along the way. And, of course, identify and maximise previously unforeseen opportunities.

Don’t make the mistake
Then there is the mistake of buying an expensive research report. Or accessing the latest information database from a company you have heard of. You know the ones with the perfect brand name on the front. The trouble is that counterparts in Korea and Bristol have also purchased the same report. And no doubt each one is sitting on a shelf. And the information within the report is not upto date and because it’s based on someone else’s questions they never seem to hit the right spot.

OK, so what about Competitive Intelligence monitoring software? Perhaps you have signed up for similar in the past, and it does not do it for you. So you give it to someone to use, and nothing happens. There is no magic Intelligence button.

Most CI software still needs a great deal of work to get the most out of your investment. Still, a Competitive Intelligence consultancy can collate the information and then create Intelligence for you.

We love what we do
Our passion is Competitive Intelligence, and its values and advantages drive us to never walk past a problem or a challenge. We are committed to doing our clients’ best wherever, however, they need us.

Why outsource Competitive Intelligence and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?
If you are recruiting for a Competitive Intelligence Manager, you may be finding it tough. Or maybe you are interested in outsourcing the role but are not sure where to start? In this article, we asked why outsource Competitive Intelligence and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?

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