We set-up a test to find the most capable CI analysts out of a group of programmers and network engineers. Neither group had any exposure to the real world of commerce. They were all techies really. The test we devised was designed to test the acquisition, assimilation and analysis skills of each group. Each group was given the same challenge which was to conduct a competitive intelligence exercise on a existing company who were looking to develop a new internet product to create growth in an existing market. We wanted to assess how well each group approached this challenge, how innovative they might be and how closely their conclusions matched with the real life outcome. Both groups comprised 5 members. Our Programmers were all educated to degree level, whereas only two out 5 network engineers held degrees.
Each group had 2 days in which to reach a conclusion.
Both groups took very different approaches. Programmers decided to take a formal approach by brainstorming what they thought competitive intelligence was all about and drawing up a list of tasks which were assigned to each of the members of the group. Some of this work involved conducting background research on this topic on the web - with an big emphasis on understanding what was meant by "competitive intelligence", before even beginning to approach solving the problem. This research took approximately a day to reach a good understanding of what was meant by "competitive intelligence".
Group 2, the network engineers took an entirely different route. Two of the networkers were assigned the task of scanning for vulnerabilities within the company and its competitors systems. Whereas the other 3 engineers were assigned the task of scanning the net for references and information associated with the company's in question, building a database for holding the resulting data and then classifying the incoming information in a form that could be assessed at the end of day 1. Some limited scripts were written to assess information leakage through search engines, identify competitor association with unethical entities and reputation breaking content that would be of value to the executive management team.
The Programmers concluded that they had a firm grasp on what "Competitive Intelligence" really meant and decided that their mission for Day 2 was to understand the strategic objectives of the company, retrieve market research data that related to this product's development and conduct a comparative analysis of competitor products - with a view to making recommendations by the end of the day.
The networkers assessed the quality of the data that they had consolidated in the database on Day 1. All of the 5 competitors of the company were deemed to have a significantly negative internet footprint that could seriously affect their product marketing efforts. The company itself were also exposed and the team decided to spend the second day developing a report entitled "competitive intelligence", which could then be presented to the board.
Day 2 came and went and the Programmers and Network Engineers were squeezed into the boardroom to present their findings to the Marketing VP. The Programmers conclusions were that it was a good exercise and they felt that a new product, priced aggressively would be the order of the day.
The network engineers concluded that there was no point to developing a new product. All the Marketing VP needed to do was to implement the recommendations to address the vulnerabilities in his existing product, then concentrate his marketing message at the competitors obvious weak points - and watch the orders come rolling in for the current version of the internet product.
And so it was - that the network engineers won the day!