What Will Competitive Intelligence Be Like in the Future?
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What Will Competitive Intelligence Be Like in the Future?


5 Minutes Can Change The Way We Think & Work

competitive intelligence in the futureEveryone wants to know what the future holds.

Part of the future’s appeal is just imagining what can happen and how. Some think global issues, like famine, could be widely eradicated through breakthroughs in biotechnology. Others predict many words and phrases originating from daily Internet usage may influence standard English (see here).

But what does the future of competitive intelligence really look like? What will CI be in the next 10 years? Or in the next century? Before we go into what could happen, let’s take a closer look at how far competitive intelligence has come...

Back in the 1980’s, when the first competitive intelligence functions were blossoming inside companies, CI was very different. Ellen Naylor, a CI professional for over 28 years, writes about her experience of doing competitive intelligence back in 1985. Here are some things she did that immediately stand out when we think about doing CI today:

  • No PC at desk
  • Memorizing contacts and organizing them with a Rolodex
  • Giving presentations by using flip charts or overhead projectors
  • Reading hard copies of news or industry publications
  • Communicating with people directly was the source of real-time intelligence

While her experience was different across CI functions back then, seeing how competitive intelligence was done 29 years ago is fascinating. Simply because the methods of how it was done seem archaic compared to present day. CI professionals might say the same thing about us in 10 years, but what will they be using or doing that’s so different? Here’s our prediction on what it could be...

Using Artificial Intelligence

The closest we have to commercialized artificial intelligence (AI) is IBM’s supercomputer Watson. Some have argued that Watson doesn’t represent true AI, meaning that it’s thought-processing isn’t up to par with the human brain. While that is true, Watson represents the initial strides made in artificial intelligence to go past simple question-and-answer systems.

In the near future, AI could be used to help CI professionals analyze competitive intelligence - combing through selected sources it found or was given to make hypotheses about competitor activities or market trends. If it becomes advanced enough to simulate human thought patterns, it could aid decision-making or elicitation situations where it could “know” how to extract and retain information during conversations with people.

No matter how advanced it can get, there will be limits to artificial intelligence functionality and output. Rest assured, the human brain will still be a CI professional’s best tool for competitive intelligence analysis in the future.

Choosing Secondary Over Primary Intelligence

As more and more data gets created online, the Internet is becoming the go-to source for competitive intelligence. Since that’s faster and more economical than getting primary intelligence, the future will only bring even more advanced technologies to mine this data efficiently for CI professionals.

This is a double-edged sword. Through there will be enormous amounts of data ripe for collection in 10 years, it may be a challenge just to get relevant data. Big Data technology will have to keep up with this data demand since gathering secondary intelligence could become even more accessible and cost-effective than gathering primary intelligence. Does that mean CI professionals will eventually rely solely on secondary intelligence? No, but using Big Data technology will become a standard practice.

Increased Connectivity, Tighter Information Guidelines

The proliferation of smart devices and online connectivity will only increase in the future. You can see this happening with the development of wearable technology, like Google Glass or Samsung’s Smart Watch, which gives users the ability to capture and share information instantaneously online. As this type of technology develops, competitive intelligence data from the external environment can be gathered easily. People will be able to take snapshots of a company’s trade show booth or merchandising tactics by simply walking by.

On the flipside, companies and CI professionals must have greater control of how much information their employees share through their personal or professional networks. Social media is often a catalyst for information slip-ups by employees, so CI professionals must implement tighter controls on what cannot be said about the company and minimize what is already known about the company from the outside. As of now, companies still haven’t completely spelled out guidelines to prevent leaks from social media, leaving plenty of room for breaches and potential lawsuits.

What do you think? What does the future hold for competitive intelligence in 10 years? How will competitive intelligence evolve?

Speed to Intelligence
katie lewis clearCi This article was written by Katie Lewis, Sales Enablement & Marketing Specialist at clearCi. Have questions, comments, or want to write for our blog? Contact her at marketing@clearCi.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.


As I see it, although information gathering has changed in immeasurable ways since the beginning of time the art of turning that information into useful intelligence has not changed to the same degree. The basics are still the same, it's just that the information is easier to obtain. In my opinion inot a lot will change in the future. Good usable intelligence only comes from analysing information and then filling in the gaps by whichever means are available. So even though collection of information is now easier and more plentiful turning into intelligence requires the same skills as it always has and always will be.
Posted @ Wednesday, March 26, 2014 4:11 PM by Andy Richardson
I definitely agree. Analysis tactics won't change much in CI, but the information gathering aspect definitely will (and already has)!
Posted @ Thursday, March 27, 2014 1:49 PM by Katie Lewis
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