January 2013 | Vol. 5 Issue 1    In Collaboration with the Frost & Sullivan Institute 

An Introduction to “Future Ready CI”

  By Luis Madureira
Business Partner

Starting at the End

The biggest criticism I have received about S(ocial) M(arket) INT(elligence) (abbreviated as SMINT) is that it is nothing new. Well, though this might be true it is also wrong. Because SMINT, as I will explain, is an optimization of competitive intelligence (CI) as we know it, it is not a new way of doing CI. However, it is wrong to say SMINT is nothing new because it allows for greater efficiency and relevancy by speeding up the intelligence cycle and the data to process intelligence. If SMINT were business as usual, competitive intelligence professionals (CIPs) would already be using it. Are you

The other criticism is that social media will only allow for tactical intelligence development, not strategic development. My point of view on this is twofold: Can you split strategy from tactics? And, if you are paying attention to the external environment, the industry, and the market — how can this not be strategic?

Putting SMINT Into Context

Over the last few years, I have witnessed an ever-increasing rate of change in the competitive environment both globally and locally. Meanwhile, key intelligence topics (KITs) for business decision-making are changing accordingly. In parallel, the response time given to CIPs to develop intelligence on KITs is diminishing.

A quick analysis leads us to three main reasons: First, more than ever before, the consumer and customer are amplifying social nature through the social media megaphone, out there in the open domain; Second (and partly as a consequence of the first), big data is today a fact of life, with quantity, velocity, and variety of data becoming unmanageable, specially if you are trying to make sense of a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment; Third, due to advances in technology, and namely the Internet of Things, big data will only become bigger.

Some additional notes need to be highlighted at this stage. Many businesses are already struggling to make sense of the data they already possess, either being their own data (e.g., for business intelligence), or customer service and consumer data (e.g., from consumer or market research), to give just a few examples. On the other side, CIPs struggle to integrate the data scattered across the information silos across their own company (e.g., integrate consumer research with revenue data with market shares, etc.). The increasingly social mindset, corporate social responsibility, and governance transparency pressures creates the need of for an optimized counterintelligence. The amount of critical data that is being ”dumped” into the public domain under these flags — or even by just pure carelessness of employees is staggering.

As technology, business management, and consumer expectations change, CIPs need to be aware of these changes, sometimes even ”master,” in order to keep up and be able to sustain their company’s competitive advantage. Most times, buzzwords are twisted in meaning and the only way to really understand if something is really important is to actually deep dive on the subject. Again, time and resources restraints apply. The question is how do you keep up?

SMINT as an Opportunity for CI

In my executive address at the 18th SCIP 2012 European Summit, I tried to bring these dilemmas to the attention of the CI community at large and ignite the discussion on what could be at first sight considered a big threat, can actually turn out to be an opportunity to CI development, bringing the recognition it deserves in modern business.

The concept I developed to encapsulate all this is social market intelligence (SMINT).

S(ocial) M(arket) INT(elligence) deliberately avoids the confusion with social intelligence (a discipline in the realm of social sciences), to differentiate from ”CI-as-usual” to highlight the ”social” approach as a means to integrate the five strategic vectors of CI. All of this has been encapsulated into an easy memorable acronym SMINT. I did not call it CI 2.0 or CI 3.0 on purpose. This is to reinforce the fact that this is an evolutionary school of thought rather than a new CI paradigm.

SMINT is an integrative thinking mindset applied to competitive intelligence that builds on top of ”CI as usual,” namely the intelligence cycle, and leverages all the analysis techniques and frameworks we have been using for a few decades, namely since Michael E. Porter who gave a big push with its model thinking approach to competitive strategy and analysis.

As such, and as a proposed definition, SMINT makes sense of the increasingly fast-changing business ecosystem by developing actionable insights on the external environment, market, industry, players, and consumers to understand, compete and win in near real-time, though establishing a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Real-Time Strategy…

As per my executive address presentation, and building on the OODA Loop from John Boyd as the closest thing to real-time strategy, the competitive advantage will come not from access to data, not from the quality of analysis alone, but from the trade-off between speed and quality of insight, let’s call it insight agility. This means being the first to spot an opportunity or threat, and transform it into actionable insights that can be derived into strategy and executed to gain market position. As per the definition above, CIPs can understand, compete, and win in near real-time. Again, please note that I am referring to insight agility, not just being first for the sake of it.

I believe that the near real-time claim is probably the most important part and can spur more controversy. Many CIPs can claim they already integrate and approach the full business ecosystem, but the speed at which one can digest and transform data from the competitive environment into strategy is something I highly challenge any CIP to do. This, I believe, is something that only a SMINT-type approach can enable, or at the very least considerably improve from the current status quo.

…and the Strategic Flux

The other side of this is that I am considering strategy and execution as one. As such, the aim for SMINT is to enable a strategic flux that will enable a constant and sustained iteration that will ultimately be a single strategic direction slowly or rapidly correcting its way, according to the external environment impacts, change drivers, and competitor moves. If that is the case, then modern business is becoming more about adapting to disruption and pure chaos.

Important Small Details

Another small detail that makes a huge difference is the dynamic aspect of SMINT, namely in regards to the usage of data and information sources. On a given KIT, the capability of Listening 2.0, versus the monitoring capability of Listening 1.0 (and ”CI as usual” web tools as well), implies that the sources are dynamic. Dynamic means the sources are being identified and added in real-time to include relevant data as it is generated. Instead of identifying and then monitoring, now the data for a given KIT is collected from a sources set that may not have been previously defined — or identified.

On top of all this, analytics need to be brought into a whole new advanced level because the ability to crunch big data, and derive meaningful information from it, is paramount. This is a topic that has been widely covered, so I am just making sure this is brought into the overall SMINT equation here.

Are You, Really?

Again, are we really approaching CI from a SMINT approach? In my view there are two approaches that have come the closest to SMINT. The first, in B2B, uses an inbound marketing approach that utilizes the intelligence derived from a similar process to SMINT (but identical in mindset), to differentiate and sustain a competitive advantage in a highly commoditized market. I am referring to Edwin Vlems and MCB, a metals wholesaler. The second comes from the B2B and B2C environment, and uses a command center to strategically direct the brands communication and engagement with fans. Yes, they are doing it at the brand and marketing level mainly, but what will happen when they find out the power of applying it through a CI lens perspective and the company as a whole?

For further information and an overall view on the impacts of SMINT in CI please visit my LinkedIn profile or consult my Slideshare slide deck presented at SCIP’s European Summit last November.

About the Author

Luis Madureira holds a unique and balanced set of skills derived from 17 years of proficient and resilient International leadership in senior roles across Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and Angola. He has a vast functional expertise in Competitive Intelligence, Strategy, Advisory, General Management and Commerce (Marketing, Trade Marketing and Sales), developed in Top FMCG companies such as Heineken, United Coffee, Red Bull, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Diageo. He is now Business Partner for OgilvyRED. Holding a SCIP / ACI CIP-II certificate, he is a visionary and creative entrepreneur being a regular International Lecturer and Invited Teacher of Marketing in Internacional MBA Hispano Luso, of Competitive Intelligence in Master Interuniversitario en Analista de Inteligencia in Universidad Rey Juan Carlos / Carlos III de Madrid, and part of the Institute for Competitive Intelligence Faculty.




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