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Volume 7 Number 2 March-April 2004 43

out of the box

RAOUL FARCOT, Cipher Systems
In todays increasingly complex
competitive environment, software
applications are essential in successful
competitive intelligence (CI)
organizations. Various technologies
support the search, analysis, and
dissemination of strategic research
details. And relational databases often
store the information gathered for its
future use. Weve come a long way from
paper-based filing systems and bulging
A key concern for intelligence
professionals is choosing the right tools
to meet current needs, while preparing
for the future. Unfortunately, all
technologies are not created equal. In
addition, if you choose the wrong
solution for your specific needs, your
project is bound to fail. Increase your
success rate by understanding the basic
software categories before you begin
your search for the right application.
There are two major software
categories available to support CI
processes: enterprise solutions and
stand-alone software. Each fulfills
different organizational needs and poses
a unique set of selection criteria. You
need to understand which category is
right for you and then you can evaluate
your options within that category.
Enterprise solutions provide the
answer to the problem of too much
data spread across multiple
departments. They supply a
comprehensive solution for CI
organizations. Some examples of
enterprise CI solutions are:
eWincite Intranet Server
Knowledge Xchanger
Strategy! Enterprise
Wincite LAN Server
Wisdom Builder
Enterprise solutions are typically
server-based with minimal software
required on users machines. They
support multiple users, accessing these
solutions simultaneously. Through
collaborative functions, they typically
create and enhance synergy among
several user groups. Enterprise solutions
often support all phases of the CI
process including information
acquisition, analysis, and widespread
An important distinguishing factor
of enterprise solutions is their capability
to grow with your organization and be
extended to multiple divisions, across
regions, or even across borders for
international organizations. They can
often be integrated with your existing
software infrastructure on multiple
levels. For example, enterprise solutions
can leverage data from your CRM
application and take advantage of your
existing email and messaging systems.
Enterprise solutions in the CI space
support organizations with a significant
amount of data (such as news feeds,
web sources, existing repositories) and
established processes within a research
analysts group overseen by a CI
manager. They enable the processes
within the dedicated group while
supporting the dissemination of the
results throughout the entire
An effective enterprise solution
usually relies on an internal server
configuration that allows multiple users
to access, search, retrieve and share
information across your entire
organization. You must have the
technical resources necessary to build
and support this environment. If you
do not, you may consider external
hosting, or application service provider
(ASP) options.
Because CI is not a one-size-fits-all
process, most enterprise solutions are
not out-of-the-box installations. They
require extensive configuration and
customization to meet your specific
needs. Consequently, they can be rather
costly and require time to implement.
Overall, enterprise solutions
implementation requires significant
support from management and
technical resources. An extensive
amount of time should be spent
defining functionality and technical
requirements up front to make sure the
resulting implementation is a success.
Standalone software meets specific,
immediate needs. These technologies
give a productivity boost to your CI
organization. Selected wisely, these tools
may be pieced together over time to
form a complete enterprise solution.
Standalone software tools are
usually client-based. They may require
the installation of the main software
directly on each users machine. These
tools are typically focused on one or
two specific CI functions. They
enhance the productivity of individual
research analysts or business
professionals, rather than whole groups.
Most CI tools in this category are
considered unstructured information
management technology geared to
support the day-to-day production of
competitive intelligence.
Standalone software tools in the CI
space often fall into one of the
following categories. This is in direct
contrast to enterprise solutions that are
44 Competitive Intelligence Magazine
out of the box
typically comprised of all or many of
these functions, in addition to
document or content management
features and workflow support.
Search and retrieval (Copernic
Agent, BullsEye)
Web monitoring (Botbox, C4U)
Text/data mining (BrandPulse,
TextAnalyst, QL2 Software)
Graphical analysis/text visualization
(Anacubis, Brimstone Intelligence)
Text categorization (Temis - Insight
Clusterer, ClearForest)
Report production (Crystal
Reports, Ciphers Report Wizard)
Standalone software tools have a
much smaller impact on the
organizations budget and technical
resources. Designed primarily for
individual or small group use, you often
do not have to get buy-in from upper
management or rely heavily on internal
technical resources. Time to
implementation is much less than for
enterprise solutions. However, there are
still some important organizational
Although you may purchase
individual software tools in a piecemeal
fashion, you cannot do so blindly. Make
sure that the tools you select are in
compliance with your organizations IT
standards (such as operating systems,
security requirements, and download
procedures). Consider future growth
and focus on tools that embrace open
standards and easy integration,
especially those that offer a migration
path to a total enterprise solution.
Now that you know the categories,
define the selection criteria.
Select an enterprise solution if you
have a large organization to support and
have access to the technical resources
necessary to implement a complex
solution. You should also gain
management support and spend a good
amount of time defining and validating
your system requirements prior to
selecting a solution. Consider the
following details when evaluating your
enterprise solution options:
Technical requirements:
client requirements
Content management
selected websites and web
information sources
specialized trade information
existing legacy databases
fee-based news databases
Collaboration and sharing
Ability to capture information from
field representatives who are in
contact with key customers or
other key groups in the financial
Ability to capture information from
internal and external experts
(research analysts, executives/
managers) who have an extensive
network of contacts and in-depth
knowledge of the industry.
Once you have defined these and
considered other related business
requirements, you will need to look for
applications that meet your specific
needs. For details on some of the more
prevalent CI enterprise solutions
consult The Fuld CI Software Report
( For a more
comprehensive listing of selection
criteria reference AssessingCompetitive
IntelligenceSoftware: A Guideto
EvaluatingCI Technology, by France
Bouthillier and Kathleen Shearer.
Individual software tools are
usually less costly and easier to
implement than enterprise CI solutions.
Most tools also provide you with the
possibility of a trial period before you
purchase the product, usually not an
option with larger enterprise solutions.
Select software in this category if you
have a relatively small group or
organization to support and few core
product users. These tools are also a
good selection if you have limited
The main challenges in selecting
standalone software technology:
Lots of tools lots of vendors
so little time!
No comprehensive product surveys
available, only partial surveys of the
market (e.g., Unstructured
Information Management - An
Overview of the Enterprise Search,
Text Analysis, and Visualization
Market published by Infosphere in
March 2003
No reliable non-biased organization
currently evaluating, ranking and
providing recommendations for
tools in each functional area.
Before beginning your evaluation,
determine which technology area is
most critical to your day-to-day
operations (document management,
search and retrieval, text
summarization, etc.). Then, select a
subset of vendors within that category
to review. Sites like and
are good places to start. Finally, contact
each individual vendor to assess the
quality and capability of their particular
software offering.
Here are a few basic criteria to
Do the features and key user
benefits meet your user
Do the technical requirements
meet your company guidelines?
How many years has the vendor
been in business?(we recommend
at least two)
How many customers are actively
using the product?
Volume 7 Number 2 March-April 2004 45
How many dedicated programmers
support the product?(we
recommend at least three)
What is the fixed and recurrent
licensing cost?
What are the maintenance
requirements of the product (cost
and labor)?
In the end, you need to select
software that not only meets your
needs, but that you feel confident will
be enhanced and supported for some
time to come. Further, the software
should have the capability to be
integrated into a larger enterprise
solution as your organization grows.
When it comes down to it, the
category of technologies you pursue will
be based on your available resources and
specific organizational needs. In any
case, the decision is an essential
component of the software selection
process. It is the only way to properly
define the subset of vendors and
products that can appropriately satisfy
your requirements.
Raoul Farcot isvicepresident at Cipher
Systems. Heisresponsiblefor managing
Cipherstechnology and strategic research
projectsfor Cipherscorporateclients.
Raoul can bereached at or
(410) 349-0537.