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


SCIP Wisconsin Chapter: Primary Intelligence: 
Sources of Gathering Knowledge

  By Roger Phelps
Phelps Research Services


SCIP Wisconsin concluded its 2011 meeting schedule with a presentation on Primary Intelligence: Sources of Competitive Knowledge. The presenter was Roger Phelps from Phelps Research Services who has presented widely on the topic of Primary Intelligence at many national and regional SCIP meetings. The November 10 meeting was hosted by Fiserv in Brookfield, WI and was attended by 15 CI professionals from Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

The premise of the presentation was that many firms who have CI professionals and mature CI practices nevertheless fail to fully embrace the full value of primary intelligence as a critical methodology. Instead, many companies use it only selectively or when secondary intelligence fails to fulfill Key Intelligence Topics (KITs).

The presentation focused on three aspects of Primary Intelligence adoption:
  • Mapping KITs to primary intelligence targets

  • Locating difficult-to-find primary targets

  • Reconciling primary intelligence with the ethical and legal concerns and forging a pragmatic company policy for primary intelligence
Mapping KITs to primary intelligence targets

Attendees were provided a template of how to map KITs to likely primary intelligence sources by using a well-established process of separating CI objectives into individual KITs and then formally mapping them on a diagram to the primary targets most likely to have the knowledge required to fulfill the KITs. This process included suggestions on how to use the mapping process to develop customized discussion guides for the actual primary intelligence interviews.

A case study of a CI project involving primary intelligence targets was presented. To reinforce the process, the SCIP attendees did some sample KIT mapping themselves based on a theoretical project. Some creative ideas emerged from their participation.

Locating difficult-to-find primary targets

Everyone who has participated in primary intelligence has encountered problems from time to time in identifying the optimal target executives to contact. This is a common stumbling block especially for beginning primary intelligence CI professionals. To address this dilemma, the presentation focused on three techniques that have been proven effective over the years:
  • Building and maintaining your own executive database

  • Learning and using the top-down referral technique

  • Learning and using the industry conference mapping technique
Case studies were presented for each of the three processes.

Reconciling primary intelligence with ethical and legal concerns, and forging a pragmatic company policy for primary intelligence

The final part of the SCIP Wisconsin session was devoted to what many CI professionals view as a critical issue. How can a company make effective use of CI primary intelligence while aligning these practices to their employer’s legal, ethical and professional guidelines and mandates?

Using SCIP’s published Code of Ethics as a basis, attendees were shown a step-by-step process for developing a customized Primary Intelligence Guideline document for their companies. By definition, each company will have a somewhat different resulting document each reconciling company policies and proven primary intelligence practices.

About the author

Roger Phelps is the president of Phelps Research Services in Madison, WI. For the last ten years his company has been providing competitive intelligence services for a wide variety of private and public firms. Primary intelligence has been the focus of many of these client engagements. He has been a SCIP member since 2002 and has spoken on the topic of Primary Intelligence at five national SCIP conferences and numerous SCIP chapter meetings. His company has been involved in thousands of interviews with its clients’ competitors and has advised many clients on developing primary intelligence expertise as a strategic CI resource. Roger has an MA in Economics from the University of Wisconsin and a long career in business management, business development and research.



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