by Monika Polewicz, Ag-West Bio

around-a-laptopChances are, regardless of the size of your organization, your employees are collecting strategic and competitive intelligence. Anyone who reads trade journals, scientific articles, goes to conferences and trade shows, or converses with a colleague in the industry is performing strategic and competitive intelligence activities.

Strategic and competitive intelligence can be defined 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“ (Prescott& Gibbon, 1993)
a systematic and ethical program for gathering, analyzing, and managing external information that can affect your company's plans, decisions, and operations” (Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP)
– “the process of enhancing marketplace competitiveness through a greater – yet ethical – understanding of a firm's competitors and the competitive environment. Specifically, it is the legal collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities and intentions of business competitors, conducted by using information databases and other “open sources” and through ethical inquiry” (SCIP)

Major goals of strategic and competitive intelligence include: detecting competitive threats, eliminating or lessening surprises, enhancing competitive advantage by reducing reaction time, and finding new opportunities. The scope of competitive intelligence includes (but is not limited to) three major areas: market intelligence, competitors’ intelligence and technological intelligence. Market intelligence provides a road map of current and future trends in customers’ needs and preferences and outlines new markets and opportunities.

Competitors’ intelligence evaluates the development of competitive strategy over time through changes in competitors’ structure, new product substitutes and new industry entrants. Technical intelligence assesses the cost/benefit of current and new technology and predicts future technological gaps. Competitive intelligence activities may help identify R&D areas and world experts, help to formulate short and long-term strategy, answer questions, solve problems and gather information regarding initial public offerings, mergers and acquisitions.

Aside from growing market share, benefits arise from sound competitive intelligence activities. These benefits include improving the organization’s knowledge of its respective markets, improving the quality of the organization’s products relative to the competition, improving communication across the organization regarding competitive activities and enhancing confidence in strategic planning.

Now more than ever, one can find a variety of tools and resources designed to help gather information from a variety of services and sources, in support of your competitive intelligence efforts. The process includes many components: scanning public records, monitoring the Internet and media publications, speaking with customers, suppliers, stakeholders, industry experts and academics. Some of the most commonly used competitive resources include peer-reviewed literature, patent databases, trademark and domain names, press releases, analyst reports, market research reports, industry newsletters and general news.

Strategic decisions are concerned with the environment in which the firm operates, the resources and the people who form the company. Strategic decisions about an organization’s future depend on a number of factors, including the industry landscape, the organization’s core competencies compared to its competition and the expanding global economy. Due to global trade, today’s business environment is changing more rapidly.

Organizations must be able to predict and react to changes that occur inside and outside of their industry. To be able to develop strong strategies, decision-makers need to know the competitive landscape. Competitive intelligence is more important than ever for an organization to keep its competitive advantage. A common mistake is to collect information without considering how it will be used. There is no value in information that just sits on a shelf. Competitive intelligence must be analyzed and disseminated within the organization to be used strategically: it must be examined, packaged and delivered in a way that is most useful. Information is not intelligence until it is converted by analysis into a value-added product.

In September 2012 Ag-West Bio launched a Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Program. The program allows Saskatchewan small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to enhance the business environment in which they operate. These services enable SMEs to perform market-oriented research, gain access to technology information, allow technology development collaborations and reduce the risks associated with commercialization.

Altogether, the program accelerates the growth of technology and improves the sector’s competitiveness. The SMEs are provided with access to information databases such as Elsevier’s Scopus, ScienceDirect and illumin8. As part of the program, Ag-West Bio has developed and presented one-on-one, group and industry-wide strategic and competitive intelligence training seminars on how to compile, analyse and disseminate competitive intelligence.

Google™ is probably the most comprehensive tool when it comes to strategic information gathering and market research; however, many individuals find Google intimidating, as they do not know how to sift through the large amount of data to obtain only the most relevant results. As part of the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Program, Ag-West Bio trains Saskatchewan SMEs on how to get the most of Google while looking for specific information.

This training covers basic search tips, overview of search operators and site-specific search. Additionally, SMEs are shown how to filter information by type of content, such as web, news, books, blogs, discussions, finance, patent and scholarly information. For more information regarding Ag-West Bio’s Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Program contact Monika Polewicz ( or Brad Bly ( This blog is extracted from materials originally developed by The Society for Competitive Intelligence Professionals  


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