Planner: Calculating Costs of a Competitive Intelligence System

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How much it really costs to keep tabs on rivals.

Macy's had it easy. Back in the day, keeping tabs on Gimbel's and A&S meant just walking down the street to do some window-shopping. But in today's global economy, no company—including your rapidly growing pharmaceutical firm—can afford to limit its business intelligence to eyeballing the other guys' merchandise. Ignore the technological and regulatory shifts that will shape your industry for years to come, and you risk losing everything.

Your company can keep up with the Joneses by implementing a competitive intelligence (CI) system. The first challenge: Define what the system should be. "Competitive intelligence" covers anything from a staffer overhearing a rumor at a trade show to a high-level analysis of a competitor's investment strategies. Formalizing your system means defining the range of data you want to collect, how you will get it, where it will be kept, how it will be distributed, who will see it, and how it will be analyzed and acted upon.

Give yourself a year or two to perfect the system before adding any hardware or software for it, says Leonard Fuld, president of Fuld & Co., a consultancy in Cambridge, Mass. While the right technology can help, a successful competitiveintelligence system is built on clearly defined business processes. "And 'process' is just a fancy word for knowing how to do something right," Fuld says. That takes time—so don't rush things.

Once your processes are in place, a CI database application will automate data collection, storage and distribution tasks. Data can be pulled from subscription news services or entered into a handheld computer by a sales rep on the road. The application's Web-based interface includes analytical tools that allow managers to model what-if scenarios.

The payoff is sharper analysis and increased productivity, according to Raoul Farcot, senior vice president of Cipher Systems, a competitive-intelligence software vendor in Crofton, Md. "You spend more time on analysis, and less time on cutting and pasting and tracking info," he says.

To see the details behind this planner and fill in your own estimates, click on the "Get the Tool" icon above and download the interactive worksheet.

This article was originally published on 2005-08-04
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