Investigation – The Heart of Competitive Intelligence

Mario Bekes and Clive Smallman

Insight Intelligence

It’s not you. The world has become more complex. It is becoming yet more complex still. Globalisation, urbanisation, improving health and lengthening lives, and above all technological change are changing the world, the places we work in and our social lives.

Competition is intensifying. Technological and economic disruption is enabling new entrants and substitutes to enter markets, and the dynamics of customer and supplier power are ever varying. Once your organisation gets past a certain size (and it’s not very large), in this competitive and rapidly evolving world, the need to maintain your edge becomes more and more vital. You must be competitively intelligent.

As well as developing intelligence to enable your company to get a competitive edge, your competitive intelligence should extend to defending the reputation of your brand, often expressed as brand equity.

So too does your competitive intelligence need to extend to self-defence against crime and fraud.

Investigations lie at the heart of competitive intelligence. They are a vital source of data, and not just in cases of crime, fraud or brand vandalism.

What is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive intelligence is the systematic collection and collation of data on competitors, environments and strategies, and its analysis and presentation as ‘intelligence’ to decision-makers. Intelligence comprises actionable, timely and relevant insights that, when presented to decision-makers, enable them to make better sense of their competitive position or options. Sense-making around competitive intelligence relies on intelligence providing clear cues to decision-makers to enable them to improve the future reality of their organisation.

In this form, competitive analysis is usually construed as an offensive business tool.
However, it is also very much a defensive tool, especially when considered in the context of this book. Decision-makers also need intelligence to enable them to make decisions that protect their organisation from crime, fraud or malicious attacks on their brand.

The Competitive Intelligence Cycle

To be competitive and to effectively manage operational and reputational risks, organisations need to develop and operate a competitive intelligence system. The objective is to develop intelligence from a variety of sources, to enable decisions about business operations or growth, to protect brand or reputation, and to protect or investigate crime or fraud.

Corporate investigations and competitive intelligence are inextricably linked. You can undertake an investigation in the absence of a competitive intelligence system, but, why would you? Where is the data going to go and what is its context?

If you have a competitive intelligence system, how are you going to collect the data that makes it function?