July 2013 | Vol. 5 Issue 7   In Collaboration with the Frost & Sullivan Institute 

Harnessing Speed to Intelligence
With clearCi’s Joe Levy

Joe Levy
  Interviewed by Frank Smith
Publications Manager & Lead Writer, Events
Frost & Sullivan

Today’s interconnected world has made information more free than ever before. Freedom, however, has created a more intense demand on time, agility, and resource know-how to sort through information.

With its competitive intelligence software product launched in 2011, Fort Lauderdale, Florida–based clearCi is uniquely positioned to deliver what the company is calling Speed to Intelligence, a strategic concept wherein organizations can proactively scout and monitor topics of concern at a consistent speed.

To do so, clearCi pulls in updates from publicly available websites, including government filing sources, news sources, social media, and subscription research sites, and it sorts through these sites how a human would — clicking a link, doing a search, selecting options, and examining options to find crucial competitive intelligence information. The tool can also be automated to find new additions or changes to content, reporting even how information has changed over time inside the tool. Its software monitors, disseminates, analyzes, and understands information about a business’ competition or its market from any source, anywhere online, in any language, in any structure, and any format.

In the words of clearCi’s Founder and CEO Joe Levy, companies can, “Find answers to curious questions, and share executive insights within the tool. You’d be surprised how much information already exists in the organization to answer those questions so people can lead their teams.”

Levy made time for an interview with scip.insight to discuss clearCi’s Speed to Intelligence concept as well as his personal journey toward a career in CI.

SCIP: What was your professional journey toward CI?

JOE LEVY: I spent about a decade in the Army. I also worked a lot in software while in Silicon Valley. When I was working in software, I was doing CI. Of course, I didn't realize that this concept of competitive intelligence even existed. When launching the Corporate Ventures Group at the company I was with, I explored the market for different areas of growth and opportunity, and one of them happened to be the competitive intelligence function. Which, of course, software could be leading. So that road started about six or seven years ago and has led me to where we are today.

SCIP: What is speed to intelligence and why is it important?

JOE LEVY: Speed to Intelligence is the heart rate of an organization. It's how quickly information is captured and turned into intelligence so that everyone across the organization can use it—not just the CI function. We've broken it down into two rates, which we conveniently named Proactive and Reactive. The Proactive rate is like having a steady heart rate with appropriate blood flow. You’re monitoring things, you’re looking out for areas of concern you need to pay attention to so you're continuously being aware of things you need to be aware of. The Reactive rate, then, going back to the heart rate concept, is your elevated heart rate, your adrenaline moment; you have an opportunity or situation you have to react to. So a law changes, a new market entrant happens, some company fails, there's a substitute that comes in, there's an invention — all these things. You need to be very quick to find this information and synthesize it to make decisions because of it. Those two forms of Speed to Intelligence are really helpful. It's about being able to monitor proactively combined with the efficiency of being able to react as quickly as possible. Technology tools increase that awareness and also make sure your Speed to Intelligence is as fast so competitive information flows efficiently and effectively.

SCIP: How are today's companies not taking advantage of data measurement?

JOE LEVY: The best way that I can answer this in a short answer is to say that they're doing nothing in most cases, or worse, they think they're doing something that leads to nothing. So they're not taking advantage of capabilities and technologies that exist. On the flip side, they're using too many tools and those tools don't communicate with each other. They're not cross-functional. You have different people in different departments spread out across different markets or business units using different pieces of information and they're really just running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I think they could take advantage of data management a lot more effectively, and actually having a strategy for it and trying to — in a way — simplify things. Sometimes they don’t know how to filter the information so it’s a matter of training.

SCIP: How does clearCi address these needs?

JOE LEVY: It goes back to the idea of using tools that communicate with each other and improve the flow of relevant information across departments. Intelligence is not a functional problem. It doesn't exist in a CI department; although, some companies have it set up that way. As a matter of fact, we’ve seen a few CI departments hoarding data with the intent of centralizing it. Intelligence is a company problem, and if your company doesn't have the information it needs to compete better — whether it's about your market or a competitor. At every level — HR, finance, strategy, sales, etc. — they all need this outside information; without it they won't be as effective. clearCi helps people to continually monitor sources — anywhere, any language, any format — and get it to the right people. clearCi also makes sure that before it gets there, information is filtered and relevant for analysis. Having a tool that keeps information from coming at you in real-time like an open fire hydrant is ideal, so data can be filtered and viewed differently over time in a way that makes sense. That's when you start to get some interesting insights, when you begin to connect these dots that maybe didn't appear all at once when it was generated. Obviously our tool helps to do that as well.

SCIP: What advice do you have for companies to better align communications between departments to better support CI?

JOE LEVY: I've been attending the SCIP meetings for a long time and talking to a lot of people in CI. The thing that comes up most often is actually this concept of communication not happening right. That's a cultural issue. That's part of an organization's culture: how secretive are people, how much information do different silos within the organization share with each other. So they need to address that cultural issue first. That can be from the managers and department heads upward; it doesn't necessarily have to come from the top down, though that's always helpful. Then, I think, companies should leverage two things: (1) Competing is a skill, and it needs to exist in and be improved in every functional area; and of course (2) Technology can facilitate information flow but not if it gets stopped by the cultural boundaries, then it won't make a difference.

SCIP: What are some changes you would like to see in the CI industry?

JOE LEVY: I think there are two: (1) It's a conceptual shift that competing should be viewed as a skill across the organization for every manager and not just necessarily a specific function. Every person should understand that competing is a skill. This means HR executives need to become more aware of CI as a job requirement for most functions. (2) I'd like to see that the competitive intelligence industry evolve and embrace technology to actually do real CI. It’s not just about using Google searches to find what’s online, it’s more about using technology over time to unlock insights and share them over the long-term. CI tools are not just for CI or research-oriented positions. Most departments should be actively on them too.

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