One last point: Help-wanted ads are a very underrated source of business intelligence.They offer great clues about where a company is heading in its pursuit of markets andtechnologies. CareerPath.com http://www.careerpath.com and the Monster Boardhttp://www.monsterboard.com are two sites that our analysts use all the time. Companiesare between a rock and a hard place here. Most of them desperately need talented people,so they have to advertise their openings aggressively. But the more jobs they post, themore they expose themselves to people like us, who know how to analyze the postings. If you examine the kinds of backgrounds that a company looks for in its systems people,you can get a good sense of its technical infrastructure.
Search and Ye Shall Find
You can't talk about competitive intelligence on the Web without talkingabout search engines. I've had the most success with Excite http://www.excite.com ,which lets you start with a broad search and then narrow it. Say a search unearths a Website that's really valuable. You click on a button ("More Like This"), and Exciteimmediately searches for items related to that site. It's a nice feature.
Search engines are a mystery. A few months ago, a colleague of mine did atraining class on using the Internet. She had everyone in the class plug the same queryinto AltaVista http://www.altavista.digital.com - and every single one of them got adifferent result. The same colleague did a search that morning and got a bunch of hits.She did the same search in the afternoon and came up empty. I guess the moral of thestory is, don't take "no" for an answer.
I use AltaVista. It gets me to the hard-and-fast business stuff that I expect to find. Ialso use MetaCrawler http://www.metacrawler.com , one of the leading "meta" searchengines. It gets me to stuff that I don't expect to find: obscure newsletters, reports thataren't officially sanctioned by companies or research firms - material that AltaVista oftendoesn't produce.
There's No Place Like Home (Pages)
It's so obvious that I'm reluctant to say it: If you want to find out about your competitors, spend time with their home pages. Home pages are such an obvious resourcethat people often don't take them seriously. I've been spending time with the home pagefor Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer-products company http://www.unilever.com . It'sa great place to gather intelligence on that company. It includes all kinds of data aboutR&D operations: where they are, what they specialize in. You can take that informationand go to the IBM Patent Server http://www.patents.ibm.com , which archives 2 million patent citations. You'll make some interesting connections and see how Unilever is usingits scientific resources. That's just one example.Some companies go into real depth about their structure and leadership - complete withorg charts of different departments and bios of executives. Unilever's site is like a AAATrip-tik: It allows outsiders to navigate through the organization. When a company lets