Challenges to the Market Intelligence Process
Business Intelligence operations and initiatives suffer severe challenges these days around as much as many other non-core business disciplines. Except your business purpose has anything to do with business intelligence as a product or service to others, chances are that nobody has market & competitive intelligence on top of their daily agenda.
This is not to say that it should but it shouldn’t be neglected and underestimated either. So what are today’s challenges to an intelligence unit and how to best respond to them, eliminate them or at least limit their impact?
First and foremost it is the massive amounts of data about customer buying patterns, market trends, and competitive activities besides many others that is available and literally not-consumable in a reasonable amount of (business) time available to everyone of us. A useful intelligence product (outcome) addresses this issue by being swift, to the point and oriented solely on end user requirements. So, to gather those requirement very carefully and to review them from time to time might be a good pro-active approach right there.
Also: companies vary dramatically in their ability to capitalize on the potential of this intelligence! The differences reside not just in the capabilities of market intelligence information systems, but also in the company’s ability to effectively observe, orient, decide, and act - in other words, in their market intelligence processes. This hard and sad fact would have to be recognized by a company first in order to find recognition. Maybe bad examples or success stories could clear the path to become outspoken about this area of concern. Once recognized suggestions would have to be made and pushed towards implementation how to overcome this incapability. Most likely internal education programs and setting up an educated network of intelligence professionals (e.g. marketing and sales staff who take on this role additionally to their active functions or as supplemental roles in sales support functions) could address the situation effectively.
The market intelligence process should be an interactive approach across a strong network of market intelligence excellence champions, this is how you could enable the organization to become truly market customer oriented with a strong sense of competitive threats and risks as well as business opportunities.
In order not to fail implementing mutual intelligence processes all parties involved will have to buy in. Logic means: this will have to happen prior to newly establishing such processes as well as an ongoing measure to support the market & competitive intelligence efforts.
Common arguments rejecting change might be: “My processes and tools are fine, work for me…”
This is a difficult crowd as they would always claim not to find any capacity and resources to support common and shared, centralized intelligence efforts on top of their own. A good strategy to deal with this type of resistance might be to invest energy in convincing these individuals via success stories or other motivators and tightly involve them in a rewarding way in important structural or functional activities around the market & competitive intelligence process. Once these colleagues had an opportunity to shine with the process and tools in front of management and employees they are die-hard supporters and ambassadors. Actually, in this light this crowd might be your best bet and a very lucky circumstance to have them around, transforming them into supporters that way might create the strongest support front possible.
Another argument could be “You need to be amalgamated into the daily business, which you are not, how would you know to tell qualitative and quantitative differences of intelligences and how to prioritize?” A tough one as well and perfectly fine and correct. No intelligence unit in the world could possibly match the rich and intense market focus of marketing and sales professionals. Therefore market research specialists and intelligence analysts need to be working as close as possible to those markets. Being embedded into the marketing organization, preferably with additional sales or marketing functions could prove effective. While the market & competitive intelligence unit provides processes, framework and tools for the business intelligence effort, conducting high level information filtering and pre-analysis, the business units themselves should care about the detailed transformation into actionable intelligence.
There might be companies (likely smaller ones) that incorporate all intelligence functions in one unit. But without real market closeness intelligence would always remain of lesser quality and less defined in terms of targeting and weight.
Many marketing and sales staffers who are used to rather fragmented and ad hoc intelligence approaches might be concerned to lose speed and flexibility if a centralized intelligence unit was established. A valid concern these outspoken colleagues would be best to be invited to craft the smoothest and most effective processes possible for information flow, data gathering and intelligence dissemination.
Untrained individuals with free intelligence access might misinterpret intelligence and even take incorrect decisions due to that fact. Also a very serious concern, this certainly needs to be addressed and systematically approached. In most intelligence efforts there needs to be room for secure and limited access information as well as tightly controlled access rights. Business units need to drive and own this setup.
The concern that intelligence still needs to be brought into business context actually cries ignorance, we heard that one but what’s difference from a fragmented and unstructured, less managed intelligence process? In fact, supporting this logical and crucial step of making intelligence actionable, global and common templates, tools and processes can be very helpful to conduct this process more efficiently and effective.
Some business leaders might be concerned about legal issues and abuse of intelligence access, rights. It needs to be made sure that any intelligence is to be granted license review and carefully selected to feed delivery channels. The entire user base needs to be educated about this important fact. If licenses do not match user request a single contact within the company could be a good idea, further fostering internal discussion and mutual decision taking based on this limited intelligence. Also it might be a good idea to approach the potential for abuse with the legal department.
As there will always be concerns against anything, especially against change, it is always a good strategy to collaborate with the owners of such concerns, establishing benefits for them first might just transform them into the biggest intelligence program supporters.