Competitive intelligence

Competitive Intelligence

Acting upon the right information is absolute power

What is CI? That is one term that means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Why? Certainly because of its origins, but also because it is still a young discipline in the realm of business. We say business because elsewhere, Intelligence has a much older and richer history. As a matter of fact, Competitive Intelligence has built its foundations from the military and the CIA. Here is our definition of CI as it applies to business:

CI is a set of methods and tools that deals with defining and monitoring business threats and opportunities through a series of actions like information identification and collection, data management, analysis and analytics, dissemination and publication to assist decision makers in their strategic planning and actions.

Although it is intended to support strategic decision making, a more tactical approach to Competitive Intelligence exists to support certain mission critical functions like sales, business development, and the like.

A typical CI operation will collect and analyze information about the following topics:

  • Competitors
  • Products
  • Individuals
  • Concepts
  • Customers
  • Markets dynamics
  • Newcomers
  • Market shifts
  • Innovations
  • Suppliers


Nowadays, Competitive Intelligence encompasses a wide variety of methods and techniques ranging from soft approaches like human elicitation, social engineering, simulations, creative thinking, and competing hypotheses to name only a few. On the technical end of the spectrum, it calls upon techniques originating from Business Intelligence (BI), programming and Data Sciences to support both collection and analytics needs of the intelligence cycle.

Although it has often been associated with Industrial Espionage, CI is a perfectly legal discipline. Granted, a fine line exists between the two. Like many other professions out there, if done properly and within legal limitations of one country(ies) of operations, all goes well.