Competitive Intelligence


By

Dr. K.Suresh Kumar
Associate Professor
Department of Management Studies
Panimalar Engineering College
Chennai
 


A broad definition of competitive intelligence is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.

Key points of this definition:

1. Competitive intelligence is an ethical and legal business practice, as opposed to which is illegal.

2. The focus is on the external business environment.

3. There is a process involved in gathering information, converting it into intelligence and then utilizing this in business decision making. CI professionals erroneously emphasize that if the intelligence gathered is not usable (or actionable) then it is not intelligence.

A more focused definition of CI regards it as the organizational function responsible for the early identification of risks and opportunities in the market before they become obvious. Experts also call this process the early signal analysis. This definition focuses attention on the difference between dissemination of widely available factual information (such as market statistics, financial reports, newspaper clippings) performed by functions such as libraries and information centers, and competitive intelligence which is a perspective on developments and events aimed at yielding a competitive edge. The term CI is often viewed as synonymous with, but competitive intelligence is more than analyzing competitors it is about making the organization more competitive relative to its entire environment and stakeholders: customers, competitors, distributors, technologies, macro-economic data etc.

To protect business from corporate espionage Downes advises businesses to:

1.  Never expose your internal network to outsiders

2.  Make sure all storage areas are secure

Encryption can be over-ridden by a systems administrator, so although encryption is acceptable for maintaining a level of confidentiality, it does not protect data from intentional deletion or over-writing.

It is vital all SMEs and larger companies have a single data access channel to where data is stored, while making doubly sure that a strict protocol, which blocks code from entering, is available for remote users.

3.  Ensure that data at rest is properly protected

Make sure data at rest, not just data in motion, is encrypted. This ensures that the data is not readable. The use of advanced cryptographic protocols, such as AES 256bit for both storage and session encryption and signing, guarantees data security.

4.  Protect against data deletion and data loss

The protection of data by encryption is only a part of the problem. Files can be accidentally or intentionally deleted or overwritten. Always keep older versions of files. This means you can revert to the correct file, or recover from data deletion.

5.  Protection from data tampering

Data held inside protected storage must be made tamper-proof. This can be done by integrating authentication and access controls which will guarantee only authorized users can make changes to the data. Also make sure data manipulation does not go unnoticed by making use of digital signatures to detect unauthorized changes in files.

6. Regular auditing, and random and regular monitoring

Comprehensive auditing and monitoring is essential for security. It allows the company to check that its guidelines are being properly carried out. The manager has the ability to track how data is being used. Random, as well as regular monitoring acts as a deterrent for potential spies. Finally, it provides the security administrator with tools with which they can examine the security infrastructure, confirm that it is working properly and expose unauthorized usage.

However all aspiring corporate moles should be aware that however much technology protects boardroom secrets, it is no match for human fallibility as various businesses have found to their cost.

* Three men were convicted in 1988 after placing a bugging device in a biscuit tin outside the London home of an executive of Comet (then part of Woolworths) shortly after Dixons lost a takeover bid for Woolworths.

* Two Co-op executives were imprisoned after corporate private detectives from The Control Risks Agency filmed them handing over sensitive internal documents during Andrew Regan's attempted hostile takeover of the Co-op in 1997.

* In 2001 Proctor & Gamble reached an out-of-court settlement in relation to claims that one of its contractors had been dipping into the bins of Unilever, its fiercest rival, in a brazen attempt to find out more about its hair care business.

References:

* Haag, Stephen. Management Information Systems for the Information Age. Third Edition. McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2006.

* Gilad, Ben. "The Future of Competitive Intelligence: Contest for the Profession's Soul", Competitive Intelligence Magazine, 2008, 11(5), 22.
 


Dr. K.Suresh Kumar
Associate Professor
Department of Management Studies
Panimalar Engineering College
Chennai
 

Source: E-mail December 30, 2011

          

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