CI isn’t just about numbers, data, and information; it’s about having an opinion.
Back in December 2015, two important and very connected things happened:
- Kitchener-Waterloo got a SCIP (Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals) chapter, only the second in Canada
- That chapter held its first meetup as Communitech’s Competitive and Market Intelligence Peer-to-Peer group
Competitive intelligence (CI) and market intelligence (MI) are of enormous strategic and tactical importance, but sadly are often ignored completely or are executed poorly by companies that just don’t seem either to value or to prioritize them.
I’m hopeful that this chapter and peer-to-peer group will help the companies of KW and area share insights and learn best practices, together, for the competitive betterment of the entire region.The P2P group was started by Barbara Shackleton and Sanaz Hosseini (with whom I work at Sandvine), obviously with the support and resources of Communitech (hey, thanks!); Barbara’s been involved with SCIP for a number of years, while Sanaz is a bit newer to the scene, having gotten into competitive intelligence a few years ago.
Sanaz was really instrumental in getting this group started, though, by engaging with Communitech, finding local professionals with similar interests, and by reaching out to Barbara. Congrats!
Looking around the room at the first meeting, I counted about 30 people, including some familiar faces. One way of looking at that figure is, “That’s great!”, because it shows there’s local interest. Another way is, “What the hell!”, because every single local company could benefit by participating, and I’m quite certain we have more than a couple of dozen companies in the region.
One way of looking at that figure is, “That’s great!”, because it shows there’s local interest. Another way is, “What the hell!”, because every single local company could benefit by participating.
Those 30ish people represented several industries (i.e., not just tech) and companies of various sizes and ages (i.e., not just start-ups). My impression is that the start-ups just don’t believe they have time for CI/MI, or that it’s less important than, y’know, day-to-day survival, while the mid-size companies and higher recognize the need and might even have the function staffed.
Barbara kicked off the first meeting with a quick introduction to CI. Apparently, “it’s not 007 stuff”, which is a bit of a bummer but not a complete surprise. Maybe what she means is that it’s more like Archer, which…awesome.
Barbara explained that CI isn’t just about numbers, data, and information; it’s about having an opinion. What she means is that there is some, but limited, value in producing a bunch of findings in a report – instead, what a true CI professional does is interpret that information, come to a conclusion, and express an informed opinion.
As Barbara says, “You have to be OK sticking your neck out a little bit.”
What a true CI professional does is interpret that information, come to a conclusion, and express an informed opinion. As Barbara says, “You have to be OK sticking your neck out a little bit.”
In that regard, CI is both quantitative and qualitative, and that’s what makes it a strategic part of the organization. In Barbara’s words, “It’s the qualitative part that brings the numbers to life.”
Ultimately, the job of any CI professional is to influence outcomes (otherwise, you’re just wasting your time). To do so, you must have executive buy-in, because you’re going to be saying things from time-to-time that they just don’t want to here.
I mentioned earlier that this is only the second SCIP chapter in Canada, and Barbara shared a stat that illustrated how ‘immature’ (my word) we Canucks are with respect to CI: on the SCIP job board, there are 590 jobs posted for roles in the United States, and 0 postings for Canada. That’s pretty damning.
On the SCIP job board, there are 590 jobs posted for roles in the United States, and 0 postings for Canada. That’s pretty damning.
Sometimes I feel like we Canadian-folk lag behind a little bit in our recognition of what it takes to compete globally, and the lack of focus on CI and MI might well be a symptom. That’s why I’m so excited about this P2P group: not only will I personally get to learn more about CI and MI, but so too will the region as a whole…and that’s gotta be a good thing.