Intelligence. There are many definitions of intelligence, but we like the below definition in particular.
“Intelligence deals with all the things which should be known in advance of initiating a course of action.”
Whether you work in a national security role or not, this definition has additional meaning as we apply it to competing in business – specifically, for U.S. Government contracting opportunities. Those of us who play in this wonderful world spend a ton of money on gathering data which might lead to the development of intelligence specific to winning in business – competitive intelligence.
Some of us have been to this rodeo a few times. No doubt you’ve heard or said one of the statements below in what often feels like a Quixotic like quest to get good competitive intelligence.
“I wish I had better information to make decisions.”
“Do we have the necessary people and structure in place to generate competitive intelligence?”
“Am I just being told what people think I want to hear?”
Competitive intelligence needs to be (1) enabled through obtaining meaningful and relevant data, (2) transformed from data into useful information and (3) based in objective analysis and advice. Achieving all three are essential to ensure meaningful data is gathered, understood and applied objectively.
Simply stated is your competitive intelligence?
Gathering meaningful data – First things first…this is NOT spending quality time Googling. Googling for an hour is on the same level as RUMINT. The same argument can be made even using the plethora of paid databases available. Many of those databases merely make free data more available.
We live in the age of data. Data isn’t the problem. The nature of the problem is usually centered on a lack of creating meaningful questions and hypotheses to guide your research? Preparation and planning are key to gain meaningful data to fuel competitive intelligence. Researching purely by “winging it” will yield spotty results. Before the FedSavvy Strategy team starts gathering data, we develop specific questions to be addressed and identify the type of data necessary to provide answers – all before any gathering or analysis occurs.
Transforming data into actionable intelligence – Even if you gather meaningful data, the art and science behind making sense out of the data is challenging. The typical solution is BOGSAT. Yes, just drop people in a room to talk and watch the magic happen! It doesn’t matter how many smart people you fill full of coffee and the sandwiches from the local deli. You will fail.
We mortals need structure and process in order to guide us through creating intelligence. Balancing that structure between soul crushing and free wheeling is where the intelligence is born. Using a series of exercises and tasks to address the information you have is a simple, but effective path to transform data into intelligence, guiding a decision or strategy to win. We use exercises such as our version of a Black Hat review to enable such objectives to be achieved.
Further, your team of problem solvers cannot be a homogeneous group of like-minded persons. They need to have some different perspectives and the capacity for friendly conflict. If the team keeps agreeing on every single thing, you have the wrong team.
Ensuring objectivity – This is arguably the most difficult part of competitive intelligence. This is especially challenging in teams who work together on a regular basis. This can be overcome through people (1) who are not vested to the opportunity in question (2) are not overly friendly to the capture/deal team and (3) are known to be able to be objective and willing to tell the truth especially if it is unpopular.
Dissenting from majority opinion can be a good thing, but it is difficult to declare “the Emperor has no clothes.” It’s easy to agree with everyone while it takes courage to challenge. Is that courage rewarded? Challenge does not need to be unnecessarily contentious. Even if you disagree, you need to let their dissenting opinion be taken seriously. If dissenting opinions are dismissed out of hand, you breed a culture of sycophants. Such a culture leads to ruin…Sears, Kodak, etc. We use exercises and a team of people who are not married to a capture team’s worldview in order to objectively challenge notions. We’re mindful of common traps leading to failure.
Competitive intelligence is achievable if you focus on gathering meaningful data, develop a process to transform data into actionable intelligence and ensure objectivity.
As always, do your homework. There are many opportunities out there. Good luck and good hunting. Should you ever need some help…just contact us.
© FedSavvy Strategies and FedSavvy Strategies blog, 2012-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to FedSavvy Strategies and FedSavvy Strategies blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.