June 2011 | Vol. 3 Issue 6                                   Distributed by the Frost & Sullivan Institute


Should You Trash Competitor Profiles?

  By Varsha Chitale

Competitor profiles are perhaps the most frequently produced competitive intelligence output. But they are also probably the least critically evaluated because we have always done them; it never occurs to us to question why.

Recently, some CI gurus have begun to question the need and reason for creating competitor profiles. There‘s certainly some merit in the argument that mere compilation of information easily available on the Internet is of little use. It is the analysis and recommendations that are valuable to an organization.

However, in order to do good analysis, good information is required. Competitor profiles cut out the “noise” to provide relevant information on the competitors and to flag areas that require further investigation. They thus form the basis for competitor analysis.

Because different users of competitor profiles (and analysis) within an organization have different needs, creating a common output for all of them also results in information overload. But, there is value in appropriately slicing and dicing a profile in order to give users the right kind and amount of information they need. And to that end, we believe that competitor profiles should be re-thought.

We recently had an opportunity to confirm our belief during an interactive session at May’s SCIP 2011 International Annual Conference in Orlando. We divided session attendees into teams, and each team put itself in the shoes of a particular functional user group–Operations, HR, Sales & Marketing, Finance or Product R&D. They discussed, debated and critically evaluated a laundry list of items to focus on the elements they would like to see in a competitor profile. Next, a “pain point” or key area of concern was introduced for each function. The attendees then prioritized the information areas that were critical for addressing their respective pain points. Finally, each team presented its results and described the discussion and debate that led them to their conclusions.

We had interesting and similar insights from participants in both the main and encore SCIP sessions. The team presentations highlighted the following learning on competitor profiling:

  • Different functional groups have different “needs” as far as the contents of competitor profiles are concerned.

  • Some information areas are required by multiple functional user groups, but each of them looks at this information from a different perspective. Each functional user group, therefore, requires a different set of analyses. A generic macro-level SWOT analysis, which is traditionally included in most competitor profiles, has limited utility across functions.

  • Most teams found that it was challenging to put themselves in the shoes of one particular user group. However, once the pain point for each function was introduced, participants found that it was easier to prioritize the information needs of the function. This demonstrated that CI analysts need to a) have a deep understanding of their own business and the issues faced by different user groups in the organization; and b) communicate closely with their user groups to ensure that the intelligence delivered to them is relevant and useful.

  • Within teams, there were conflicting opinions on the content of the competitor profiles that arose from differences in individual industry perspectives. In other words, information needs vary by industry, business model, customer characteristics, etc. As such, it is not possible to create a standard template for competitor profiles that can be used across industries and companies. The contents need to be customized for each organization.
To conclude, in order to facilitate actionable competitor analysis, it is essential to adopt a granular approach to competitor profiling. We need to pull out relevant parts of a competitor profile for different sets of users within a company–and technology can be used to do this very neatly.

About the author:

With close to 20 years’ experience in consulting and market research, Varsha Chitale has undertaken business and economic research in a variety of organizations. Currently she leads the competitive intelligence practice at ValueNotes. The company specializes in providing business intelligence and research, with expertise across industries, particularly in financial services, media, engineering, healthcare, IT and the outsourcing industry. Chitale earned her MSC of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As part of her drive to educate India Inc. on the merits of competitive intelligence, Chitale conducts seminars and training on CI for senior executives of Indian companies.


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