Competitive intelligence in an enterprise

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Competitive intelligence - a concept implying legal methods of information extraction. Unlike industrial espionage, this method does not refer to illegal activities. The basis of competitive intelligence is the analysis of the investigated enterprise within the legal framework. An enterprise means any government or commercial structure that produces something or operates in the field of services, including information. The analysis is based on systematized information from available sources.

Surveillance, hacker break-ins, threats, blackmail are unacceptable, but the law does not restrict the introduction of agents under the guise of job seekers. There is a nuance here: it is extremely difficult to make claims, for example, against a job seeker, since it is extremely difficult to do this without nondisclosure subscriptions. This is the main difference between competitive intelligence and industrial espionage, although their goals are the same - to obtain the most complete and reliable information about the activities of competitors.

Overt and covert collection of information

Despite its legal status, competitive intelligence can be overt and secret.

Explicit collection of information allows you to get the information you need without hiding it from a competitor. It means constant and purposeful activity to identify intentions in the business environment, goals, resources, vulnerable elements. Any actions in the field of work of the organization are allowed: the conclusion of contracts with it, the establishment of relations, even joint work. But all this is done with only one purpose - to identify tactics, strategies and get a real picture of the activities of the controlled company.

Covert intelligence is conducted without the knowledge of the structure under investigation. The principles of fair competition may be violated here, but information is obtained only within the framework of the regulatory and legal field. Covert competitive intelligence involves the surreptitious collection and analysis of information, the possession of which brings economic benefits.

Targets and goals

Whatever the task of competitive intelligence, it pursues the same goals: tracking the market conditions of the object under study, checking information about trends, new products, etc. Economic and financial indicators are determined. The work is carried out systematically, but it can also be ad hoc at the request of specific services.

Determination of the true objectives of the investigated enterprise:

  • Study of the structure potential.
  • Defining directions for copying and adding your own strategies.
  • Ways to fight and intercept successful market entries.
  • Determination of internal structure, direction, financial policy and organizational structure.
  • Analysis of the total market capacity and participation of all players in the product niche, identification of the search for ways to enter the market.
  • Assessment of the degree of profitability of contracts.
  • The concept of the management structure and the factors that pushed for certain management decisions.
  • Ways to achieve internal well-being, including the social component in organizing the work of employees.

One way or another, competitive intelligence pursues not only the goal of destruction, but also the creation of its own infrastructure based on the experience of other enterprises.

Competitive intelligence also uses counterintelligence methods to protect itself from provocations from market participants. Protection is based on the same methods of information extraction. But here information about the activity is not used to harm anyone, but in order to strengthen their own protection.

Division into types and directions

Competitive intelligence can be divided into several types based on time and quality priorities.


The operational method works in a small time interval and allows you to obtain information about a specific action for a certain period from the archive developed by the security service. It can be either structured or stored in raw arrays (backlog for the future).


Situational intelligence data is close to operational, but begins to be sought upon request to the security service and cannot be stored earlier. That is, reconnaissance is carried out promptly, but due to newly discovered circumstances. The resulting data is rapid response intelligence.

Long term

Long-term is intelligence collected by operational, situational and other methods, but postponed until the time of the request. Such data is processed based on a specific situation.


Analytical priorities are close to long-term, but have advantages in structuring results. In such arrays it is easier to search for information of the past tense. These data are processed and have a catalog and a clear structure, which ensures ease of search. It is such data that is easiest to store in databases, unlike, for example, situational data, which often represent a written report, notes, or even an oral message to management.

Each type and method is not complete or prioritized. The methods used in competitive intelligence must complement each other, they cannot be unambiguous. The work is based on a selection of them and the addition of the necessary information to achieve the best result.

By using the analysis of various types of information obtained using competitive intelligence, it is possible to build reliable data applicable to a specific situation. The percentage of reliability with this approach increases many times. Here the reinsurance factor is triggered, because the information obtained by only one method will have a lower truth coefficient than the combined information from different sources. The use of competitive intelligence implies a complex of tactical actions and tools.

Competitive Intelligence Information Gathering Techniques

The most difficult stage of obtaining the necessary information is the initial collection. There are no specific areas of receipt inherent in all enterprises. The primary receipt of information depends on the activities of the organization. At this stage, protection from collection is more difficult than obtaining the information itself.

This can be explained with such a simple example: now many institutions display various certificates or portfolios. They also describe the exclusivity of their products, relying on partial disclosure of qualities. This undoubtedly provides advantages in building a customer base. But at the same time it can be the basis of information leakage. After all, there is no guarantee that the company listed in the portfolio, which received the service, will be more loyal to intelligence agents.

This may require much less resources to find out than the same supplier. Thus, product samples are obtained without direct contact with the manufacturer. Further, more sophisticated tools are used to help identify manufacturing methods and technologies. Even hired substance analysis laboratories can participate in such activities. And now the exclusive product no longer has any secrets. Such methods are applicable not only to physical products, but also to services.

Data sources used by competitive intelligence:

  • seminars, exhibitions, conferences;
  • customers and suppliers, including general ones;
  • information from retired employees;
  • data from job seekers;
  • information from third parties and competitors;
  • purchase of products;
  • supply of components;
  • marketing surveys disguised as employees of statistical agencies;
  • direct employment;
  • acquaintance with the employee.

This is not a complete list of ways to get closer to the information you are looking for. There are no detailed instructions here. As a rule, they start with one and in the process of development it becomes clear where to direct efforts. Having decided on the most profitable methods, they begin to use them. In the process of implementing the planned actions, competitive intelligence can identify the most effective and least costly. Based on the data obtained, planning is built to invade other people's secrets. There can be several stages, and here it is important to be able to predict, trying to predict the steps of a competitor.

The first stage is obtaining readily available information using competitive intelligence. These include:

  • registration data;
  • Legal information;
  • activities;
  • licenses and certificates;
  • contacts;
  • founders and partners;
  • capital;
  • account numbers, details.

Having received the introductory information filtered from the public one, you can proceed to obtaining more in-depth information.

The second stage is obtaining specific information. They can be as follows:

  • debts of the organization;
  • court cases;
  • relations and communication with criminal structures;
  • the degree of kinship in the enterprise;
  • search for mutual acquaintances;
  • staff turnover;
  • finding out the whereabouts of dismissed persons;
  • reasons for dismissal;
  • frequency of conflict situations.

Close cooperation or legal espionage using competitive intelligence

Penetration is also a justified action for successfully stealing information from a competitive environment. Acquaintance with an employee of a company of interest and establishing friendly relations with him is one of such methods. Having gained confidence in an employee of the attacked structure, it is quite possible to find out useful information.

History contains examples of marriage in order to obtain the necessary information. If we take not individuals, but, for example, the era, then we can recall how in the days of the USSR, marriage with foreigners was practically nullified. This was just a manifestation of protection against military and industrial espionage. Now the borders are open, but the methods of extraction remain, and the methods of competitive intelligence are proof of this.

There are certain rules for implementation. For example, such activities are rarely suitable for people who are somehow "spotted" in an enterprise that uses competitive intelligence. For such purposes, it is worth hiring third-party agencies. They are quite professional: even the selection of what is being introduced will be most likely to be accepted into the state. Professionals take into account the psychology of the personality, the quality of communication, the degree of knowledge on the desired topic. You also need to take into account that the return on the embedded agent is quite long in time. This is due to the degree of speed of infusion into the team and to how quickly information that constitutes a trade secret will be available to it.

Any secret has the right to life, with fair play there are practically no leaks on the market, and competitive intelligence is not used. But there is no fair game for a long time, this is a business, and here they are guided by obtaining maximum profit. Oddly enough, the segment where there is a lot of competition is more resistant to trade secrets and their use. But a truly unique product is so difficult to hide from competitors that sometimes the cost of protection exceeds the profit. Such firms quickly go bankrupt or are taken over by organizations with stronger foundations. Strategic games are also not scary for those who do not make a secret of their activities, but earn a reputation and clients with the right service and approach to clients, there will simply be no place for competitive intelligence.