Saturday, 16 August 2014

Crowdsourcing for competitive intelligence

Wikipedia defines competitive intelligence 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 making strategic decisions for an organization.”

By the looks of it, it seems like an important function in an organization. However, sadly, competitive intelligence is both underrated and undervalued. Large companies have miniscule teams, mid-sized corporations have only one professional dedicated to monitoring the activities of the competition whereas small corporations have no competitive intelligence personnel dedicated to the task and only utilize a fraction of a resource’s time.

Regardless of the number of people employed in competitive intelligence of a company, all face one particular challenge i.e. the arduous task of gathering and assimilating information and subsequently reorganizing it into different formats. This particular task involves considerable amount of time. Most of these personnel would rather devote their time on analysis of the data gathered rather than collection of the data itself. Add to that the need to monitor various social media channels in addition to traditional websites, which has these professionals scrambling for time. These professionals pride themselves on being the first ones to break the information, good or bad, but that requires continuous monitoring of the social media and other sites. To remedy this, crowdsourcing plays an important role.

Crowdsourcing is a term coined in 2006 by Jeff Howes. It is defined as a function carried out by using talents on various professionals on the internet to achieve a particular result.

In this case, crowdsourcing the collection and gathering of data would vastly help the Competitive Intelligence personnel to get down to the main job of analyzing this data and finding out the implications.

An example of an organization dealing in crowdsourcing of competitive intelligence is Competipedia, set up by Xerox. It is a secure wiki based site set up by Xerox for its employees to locate competitive information.

Competipedia has certain aspects that are particularly well designed. One of them is the wiki based approach that enables the users to update and maintain up to date information about their competitors. So, the competitive intelligence (CI) professionals can directly view the new information on the site instead of calling the sales representative for new data. Another aspect was filing up of sales form at the closure of a deal. The sales representative would, at the end of the deal, have to fill up a form noting down the details of the sale. The CI personnel would then analyze whether the sale was profitable or not. To ensure that the sales representatives maintained content regularly, incentives were given in terms of points. On being accumulated, these points would then translate into gifts. Finally, Competipedia app was launched so that the sales personnel could update information on the go and the CI personnel would get almost instantaneous access to the updated information.

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