Post from Andy Green
The terms Business Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence (CI) are often used synonymously because they are both processes that support management decision-making. In the case of the latter process – Competitive Intelligence or Analysis – that strategic decision making is underpinned by a series of activities based on the classic intelligence cycle. So, the action of defining, gathering, analysing and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and other aspects of the environment. A plethora of SME companies operate around the bazaars providing CI as a service and many of the Tier One multi-nationals spend millions a year on hiring their services. Much of this activity goes on perfectly legitimately – well within the law and the professional standards and ethics set by the community – and without the need to resort to industrial espionage. Espionage equals spying and you get shot for spying – well you do if you are one of Smiley’s People.
So I was mulling all this over the other day as I was sat on a British Airways flight to Turkey. It was the first time I have flown with BA in about 15 years and I looked around the aircraft at the rather tawdry blue seating that had seen better days; at the section of padding which had come unstuck from the bulkhead and left a snail trail zigzag of adhesive on view; at the rather dour cabin crew who had last smiled when the IOC announced that London was to host the 2012 Olympics; and at the entertainment screen in front of me which simply failed to find any of the movies that were meant to be available. A bit later I needed to visit the facilities at the rear of the plane. My timing was poor, so I had to follow the slow moving drinks trolley as it made its way back to the rear galley. When we got there, I was amazed to watch a member of the cabin crew reach into the trolley and tuck 4 vodka miniatures into the pockets of their waistcoat. Clearly, getting their stash together for the layover in Istanbul.
So, what of Competitive Intelligence? Well, some advice for BA’s new chief executive, Keith Williams. Save your money and don’t hire one of those expensive companies who will spend six months collecting and analysing data. Instead pop over to Heathrow Terminal Three and go and see some of those nice people from Mr Branson’s outfit. For a few hundred pounds you could spend some time on one of their planes and you would have all the competitive intelligence you could use. Oh, and it would save you getting shot.