Competitor intelligence is the analytical process that transforms disaggregated competitor intelligence into relevant, accurate and usable strategic knowledge about competitors, position, performance, capabilities and intentions.
Competitive intelligence is a way of thinking.
CI uses public sources to locate and develop information on competition and competitors.
Competitor intelligence is "highly specific and timely information about a corporation.
The objective of competitor intelligence is not to steal a competitor,s trade secrets or other proprietary property, but rather to gather in a systematic, overt (i.e., legal) manner awide range of information that when collated and analyzed provides a fuller understanding of a competitor firm's structure, culture, behavior, capabilities andweaknesses.
But definitions, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, are like watches and none is ever exactlycorrect. True, we do competitive intelligence openly, but we would rather the targetcompany be kept in the dark. (Surprise is no small thing in competition.) True, we usuallydigest, analyze and arrange the materials in our reports, but sometimes, as in a databasesearch that lays out production figures for ten years in report format on a certain product,analysis and digestion may simply be gilding the lily. The heart of the matter issometimes just in the raw numbers or facts. True, we may sometimes need a wide rangeof material on a broad span of corporate functions, but sometimes a very focused andnarrow bit of information is what is required. (What kind of machinery are they using inthat plant?) And it is true that we only use publicly-accessible information, but sometimesour client would like to know the color of the CEO's shorts, and forgive us, but we'd liketo answer that question for our client too. Sometimes, somehow, the color of those shorts becomes known.Does corporate competitive intelligence bear any resemblance to the intelligence work done by the CIA, or in John le Carré novels? It is ridiculous to deny that there aresimilarities. To the extent that both require probing the environment for information thatcould hurt or help the client organization, yes, they are alike. In both cases, whether working for a corporation or for the government, the chase for information is interestingand exciting, as is getting "the goods for the client. Both require the selection, collection,interpretation and distribution of information. But beyond this, similarities fade. Projectsin CI can sometimes feel as if they were life-and-death matters, but they are not. Notreally. The CIA and other government intelligence agencies have been known to work outside of the law. Corporate competitive- or business-intelligence does not operate thisway.