What is Competitive Intelligence? Three Definitions
The way companies define Competitive Intelligence (CI) is very important to the evolution of their internal expectations. Not only do companies have different ways of defining their own CI practices, websites that are supposed to be authorities on terms mean have differing ideas of how to define competitive intelligence.
Lets taker a closer look:
At Wikipedia, competitive intelligence is defined as "the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization."
Arik Johnson at AuroraWDC, defines CI as "...the purposeful and coordinated monitoring of your competitor(s), wherever and whoever they may be, within a specific marketplace. Your "competitors" are those firms which you consider rivals in business, and with whom you compete for market share."
In their 1993 paper J.E. Prescott, & P.T. Gibbon define CI as "...a formalized, yet continuously evolving process by which the management team assesses the evolution of its industry and the capabilities and behavior of its current and potential competitors to assist in maintaining or developing a competitive advantage."
Semantics aside, you can see by these three different definitions that competitive intelligence is the complete monitoring and understanding of what is happening to your competitors at all times. The need for CI is increasing more and more daily, especially with the economy as volatile as it is currently. If one of your competitors goes in a different direction and they take a large portion of market share away from you, you might as well throw in the towel. Think RIM's Blackberry vs. Apple's iPhone! The need to monitor your competitors is now, do not wait until the treat is already on top of you.