December 2011 | Vol. 3 Issue 12               In Collaboration with the Frost & Sullivan Institute


Is CI Still CI?
The Changing Face of the Profession

  By Cliff Kalb
C. Kalb & Associates

Excerpted from
CI Magazine (March-April 2006)


In 2003, a major multinational pharmaceutical company conducted an internal study of the role of professionals in a variety of decision-support functional areas. My analysis of this research led me to reconsider the definition and role of competitive intelligence (CI) professionals and their professional society (SCIP).


Before the 1980s, little academic literature existed on a business discipline labeled “competitive intelligence.” The seminal piece of work that created competitive intelligence was the 1980 Michael Porter book, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competencies. Over the next 25 years, other academics wrote texts in this fledgling field, while CI practitioners and consultants also contributed to the literature.

The literature led to the creation of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), in 1986. (Editor’s Note: acronym now stands for Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals). At that time, SCIP had the following mission:

“The mission of the Society is to help professionals develop expertise in collecting and analyzing information, disseminating competitive intelligence and engaging decision-makers in a productive dialogue that creates organizational competitive advantage.”

Over time, SCIP’s membership grew to more than 6,000 members in more than 40 countries. It attracted professionals who believed the discipline would emerge as a fully recognized functional area within the business community, as had been the case with marketing, finance and human resources.

However, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, SCIP’s membership declined. It was my privilege to serve as president of SCIP during this period (1999–2000). This decline can be attributed to both a general downturn in the business cycle and to four perceived key weaknesses in the development of competitive intelligence:
  • No broad academic base: Few, if any, major universities established competitive intelligence as a program major within their graduate schools of business.

  • Little academic interest: A deep academic knowledge base supported by peer-reviewed academic journals was not widely established.

  • Lack of certification/licensing: The “profession” of CI established no globally accepted performance measurement standards or testing procedures to certify or license a professional in the field.

  • Lack of consistency in measurable business outputs: Standards to measure the impact of CI on changes in either business revenue or profitability have not been well defined.


Phase 1

SCIP has reached its twentieth anniversary. As it enters the “adult” phase of its evolution, it seems appropriate to step back and examine its mission, its membership and its ability to retain its premier position as a group that truly recognizes the contributions of its members within the business community. In 2003, and again in 2005, the mission statement was revised to read: “The mission of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals is to enhance the success of our members through leadership, education, advocacy and networking.” One key change was the recognition that intelligence professionals should encompass personnel from related disciplines. A second change was the focus on enhancing organizational performance. The society must rededicate its efforts to supporting the membership’s focus on producing measurable outcomes for the products and services of their work.

In the late 20th and early 21st century, knowledge management emerged as a new field. Some believe that this field will come and go, while others assert that it is actually an umbrella discipline that encompasses competitive intelligence. When knowledge management is added to the more traditional groups such as market research, forecasting, strategic planning and business information management, we are left with even greater overlap. Furthermore, the use of the word “intelligence” in the SCIP name may be interpreted as either spying or military activity. To counteract this misperception, I offer a proposal to change the name of SCIP into one that embraces the knowledge management community and avoids the term “intelligence” in the society’s name. The change of the society’s name to SKIP broadens its interests to the related discipline of knowledge management and eliminates any potential negative consequences of the word “intelligence.” The term “insight” seems an appropriate, less controversial alternative.


Figure 1: Phase one – hypothetical evolution

Phase 2

Looking down the road, I anticipate the need for another name change in “SKIP’s” second phase of evolution.

Figure 2: Phase 2 – hypothetical evolution

Imagine this scenario. Phase 2 integrates the functional competencies common across all decision-support areas. An academic base is established in business schools around a major, decision science, which teaches both entry-level and advanced courses. A broad body of literature—both entry- and advanced-level texts—becomes widely used. Academic peer-reviewed journals are established to enable research to be published, debated and disseminated. As such, decision science becomes a true profession with a research base, academic standards and widely available training at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This phase moves the “decision scientist” to a higher stage of professionalism, as is the case with other well-established business disciplines, such as marketing and finance.

Phase 3

The “Society of Decision Science Professionals” would probably exist for some time before a final phase of evolution could occur. The final proposal clearly represents a bit of an “outside the box” fantasy scenario, representing the next step in achieving the broadest possible definition of a profession that encompasses well-defined activities of a discipline absolutely indispensable to business success.

Figure 3: Phase 3 – hypothetical evolution

In this final phase, the academic base has been well established for many years, and a major in decision sciences is commonplace in the leading business schools worldwide. The process further evolves to include standards for professional certification and, potentially, licensing of “Certified Advisory Professionals (CAPs).” While such licensure might not be provided at the university level, it could be provided by CAPs, just as bar associations provide it for attorneys and medical board examiners provide it for physicians. Maintaining professional status in the field would require ongoing continuing education, as is the case in many other professions to renew certification. In this final phase, the true value of Certified Advisory Professionals as top-level advisors and strategists is firmly recognized in the global business community. This recognition would ultimately result in a profession that is highly compensated, well respected and solidly established as a true business discipline.

This is an excerpt from an article by Cliff Kalb published in Competitive Intelligence Magazine (March-April 2006). The original article was based on the author’s SCIP 2005 Annual Conference presentation of the same name. Read the full article here.

About the author

Clifford C. Kalb is the president of C. Kalb & Associates, LLC. In 2006, when he wrote this article, Kalb was vice president of life sciences, at Wood Mackenzie, Inc., a knowledge- based research and consulting firm. He spent more than 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry in senior positions in both line and staff management with Merck, Roche and Pfizer. He is a SCIP Fellow and has served as a past president of both SCIP and the Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence and Research Group. In 2005, Kalb was named “One of the 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life Sciences Industry” by Pharmavoice Magazine.
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