The practice of competitive intelligence (CI), also referred to as competitive marketing, compete, market insights, and other derivatives is commonplace in the tech industry. Many of the largest tech companies in the world have a group dedicated to tracking competitors and market changes. Other companies have the function held within a key person's or small team’s roles, and it usually resides in the product marketing or strategy department. While the general duties of the competitive intelligence team in tech are similar to many other industries, tech does present some unique conditions and challenges.
This post will explore some of those challenges and demands for competitive intelligence in technology and present ways that competitive intelligence can be maximized for competitive advantage.
Two very significant sets of challenges for competitive intelligence in technology relate to the core characteristics of the tech space.
Challenge 1: Speed, the competitive set, and integration
Tech changes faster than other markets, which gives competitive intelligence leaders less time to assess and react to threats.
Competitors emerge and fail at very high rates. This forces competitive intelligence leaders to track and evaluate a constantly changing and evolving set of competitors.
Most tech products integrate with other products. This forces competitive intelligence leaders to track development in end-user markets where there may not be a direct customer relationship.
Challenge 2: Stakeholder demands, job hopping, and time limitations
Most tech competitive intelligence stakeholders either spread across the organization or are focused in a single area. A broad stakeholder base causes the competitive intelligence leaders to be spread too thin, potentially missing details. The narrower focus can miss the broader picture.
Job hopping presents an opportunity for leaders to talk with former employees of competitors, yet high turnover forces the competitive intelligence leader to constantly adjust priorities and focus.
Time limitations lead many tech competitive intelligence leaders to automate data collection and analysis, and many of the tech competitive intelligence leaders end up using the same databases and artificial intelligence (AI) tools. The result is a type of group think that often misses the emerging threats and uses similar strategies to address known threats.
To respond to both sets of challenges, competitive intelligence leaders must prioritize for the greatest impact and returns and use multiple data collection and analysis techniques. This requires understanding the strategic goals of the company, the product development and sales cycles, and effective tools to share competitive intelligence with stakeholders.
The prioritization process begins with strategy goals, which require both knowing what the company’s strategy is and the ability to provide competitive intelligence to meet these strategic goals. When time and resources are limited, only effective competitive intelligence units only work on competitive intelligence projects that align with the strategy.
Aligning with product development and sales cycles is a dynamic process. Product development in tech is often done quickly. Effective competitive intelligence scours the market for indicators of competitor activities and uses this information to help guide product development. As the development process continues, competitive intelligence needs to monitor competitor progress and continue informing the process.
In the sales cycle, competitive intelligence often identifies incumbents and competitors for the sale. This helps develop battle cards and tailor sales presentations. Post-sales, win/loss analysis is used to help identify areas for improvement in the sales process, messaging, and product. Win/loss can also help determine features and functions that can be included in further product development.
Competitive intelligence in tech uses many of the same tools and techniques common to all competitive intelligence leaders. The characteristics of tech place greater emphasis on speed, and effective tech competitive intelligence leverages primary source competitive intelligence to respond quickly and with insight.
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