Competitive intelligence research is a standard requirement for most library and information professionals. Whether it’s a basic snapshot or in-depth analysis of the competitor landscape, it is something that we have all had to do. The CI reports we help create offer our organisations a perspective on changing market conditions so that management can identify risks and opportunities early enough to adapt or change strategy.
The recent webinar hosted by SLA CID was a timely refresher on how important non-commercial sources of information are. Taken together, they provide a social, political, legal and regulatory framework in which your competitors, clients, and your own organisation sit.
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What is non-market intelligence?
Jim Millar defined it as “the social, political, and legal arrangements that structure interactions among companies and their public. They provide an early warning of threats and opportunities emerging from the global public policy environment, and [provide an analysis of] how they will affect the achievement of a company’s strategy.”
The examples Jim gave included the actions of government and legislative bodies, public interest groups and lobbyists, and all kinds of quasi-government agencies. All of these control and regulate businesses, regardless of the industry in which they operate. This presents organisations with both threats and opportunities.
Why is non-market intelligence important?
Organisations must be aware of the threats and opportunities because they could fundamentally change the way a company operates.
Recent regulatory decisions have had massive financial implications on these high profile examples:
- Federal Aviation Authority grounded all Boeing 737 Max aircraft
- Quebec appeals court upholds C$15 billion tobacco class action ruling
- Purdue Pharma and Sacklers Reach $270 Million Settlement in Opioid Lawsuit
However the opportunities are there for companies who are prepared to do the research.
- Funding - this can be obtained through grants, tax credits/incentives, industrial and R&D assistance. Very often financial assistance can be found at both regional and national levels.
- Reputation management - it can be useful to know how your organisation is viewed by government, which can influence the public. The Facebook data scandal is a prime example; social media means that news travels fast.
- Procurement opportunities - tenders databases can tell you what your competitors are bidding for, and what opportunities you could be missing.
- Public consultations - these platforms enable people to share their views, and to embrace grassroots political campaigns. In this way companies can influence and engage with the legislative process.
Tools and techniques
Here are some tools and techniques to get you thinking about intelligence strategies.
- Stakeholder management - this approach takes into account the position of all stakeholders for full collaboration and future action. This includes external partners and suppliers, and internal employees.
- Scenario mapping - this has long being recognised as an excellent way of working through potential outcomes. Organisations can take into account potential legal and regulatory changes and choose to either proactively participate in the process through lobbying. Or be prepared for any eventuality.
- PESTLE - Barbie Keiser outlined this method as a strategic framework for understanding macro-environmental variables that affect strategic planning: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental. For each factor, think about the impact of each by the non-market environment.
- Freedom of Information Access for Competitive Intelligence - transparency in government has increased the availability of information. However there may be circumstances when an FOI request can assist: finding key players, identifying government initiatives, confirming alternative policies, and checking timelines for current projects
Resources for non-market intelligence
It has always amazed me what information is freely available from government sites. One of my favourites is the Houses of Parliament, where quality research papers are available on many current/hot topics. Although Jim focuses on US and Canadian sources, my knowledge is of UK sources, hence my links.
There are primary sources of government material, e.g., legislation, but often it is the publicly available company information which is of real value when researching competitors. Companies House, intellectual property filings, national statistics and census data, official public records, and court reports.
There are a lot of resources to navigate, but your library and information team are skilled at competitor analysis and intelligence. Ask them for help today!