Open Source Intelligence: The CIA Cares and You Should, Too!
The CIA maintains the massive National Intelligence Open Source Center (OSC) who's secretive "ninja librarians" cull through millions of Tweets, Facebook posts, newspaper articles, LinkedIn comments and other sources every day. Established in 2005 as a direct result of the 9/11 Commission, the OSC is well funded because the US government believes in the value of Open Source Intelligence. We believe there is definitely a lot that businesses can learn as applied to competitive intelligence.
The explosion of online content created in the past decade has provided an unprecedented amount of data and intelligence to dig through. This overload of data can be too much to handle, so many people simply ignore it and hope that "the really big things" will pop up on their radar. Yet as most CI practitioners know, it is within this stream of open source intelligence that real insight can often be found.
The Associated Press published a great story earlier this month as to how the US government is using what is in plain view to gain some serious understanding. They use it to measure reactions to political or military actions, to analyze and predict social unrest (like in Egypt), or just to understand the "mood on the street" in areas of interest. Companies can do the same things.
By focusing on what your competitors are saying and doing, and just-as-importantly what is being said about them, you can find great insights into both strategic and tactical moves. Piecing together seemingly disparate data points can lead to real connections. Here is a real world example of how Company A gained awareness into what their competitor Company B was doing nine months before it happened.
- Company B advertises job postings for Customer Support Managers in India, where they don't currently maintain a presence. They do this on their website and via job posting sites like Monster.com
- Company B issues an RFP for a substantial telephone system on a public RFP site
- A substantial amount of support engineers leave Company B for new opportunities, which is visible on LinkedIn.
- Market Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence employees at Company A notice these disparate events and connect the dots: Company B is about to outsource their main call center, providing them significant cost savings versus compared to their Southern California location.
- Company A then proceeds to develop an offensive attack focusing on their superior customer service.
Watching your competitors' websites and other online assets can often yeild actionable intelligence you couldn't find elsewhere. You don't need to spy on your competitors to know what they're doing; you just need to look at what they're doing today right in front of your eyes!
Want to learn more about what you should be monitoring? Download our FREE Checklist to make sure you're not missing the "10 Must Monitor" parts of your competitors' websites, and what they each reveal.