Strategic or Competitive Intelligence – Can You Outsource This Work?

I’ve written a previous blog post regarding something called Strategic or Competitive Intelligence. It is an important subset of knowledge management, and inextricably woven throughout all successful marketing strategies. I wrote an article on the same topic entitled How Important Is Strategic Intelligence Gathering to the Marketing Efforts of Your Firm?, for the Pennsylvania Bar News. This isn’t a flash-in-the-pan strategy which will disappear in short order. [Can you say TQM?]

The simple fact is that making good business decisions requires good information. Information about industries, competitors, and changing marketplace conditions. But finding that information is an arduous and time-consuming task which requires specific expertise. Is this an area which management can effectively outsource?

Those at large firms have the luxury of employing marketing people who are trained to and spend a substantial amount of time doing research and gathering critical information for the firm’s attorneys. But for most lawyers — that 65% who operate in a solo or small firm environment — it is almost impossible to get the information you need to make strong strategic decisions without shooting from the hip. Finely honed instincts help, as does asking the right questions of the right people. But nothing is as powerful as good solid information.

That’s the concept behind a company called Information Is Power (IIP). Their home page proclaims the slogan, “The Knowledge You Need to Win.” The company is a provider of proactive marketing and sales intelligence. According to a news release, they are now employing Open Source Intelligence (OSI) — a technology used by the U.S. Department of Defense to combat terrorism — to deliver the actionable information its clients need to gain market share and economic advantage in a wide range of highly-competitive industries.

According to the release, IIP uses custom-designed keyword filters, advanced robotic search technology, Boolean logic and the discerning eye of trained professionals to glean valuable kernels of Proactive Marketing Intelligence (PMI) from the mountains of public information available on the Internet, in trade publications, newspapers and services like Factiva.

According to William Drewes, president of IIP, “a single fact can change the direction of a negotiation or marketing campaign; we use OSI to find that metaphorical needle in a haystack of extraneous information.” For each client, IIP initially creates hundreds of keyword filters that robotically sift through virtually all licensed and public information sources, including for-profit copyrighted news outlets and other subscription sources going back a minimum of two years.

This information typically includes intelligence about the client’s competitors, customers, prospects, partners and the client company itself. The filtered information is then evaluated by IIP analysts — chosen for their direct experience in a client’s industry — who select the most relevant and actionable pieces of intelligence. The information is then immediately stored in a database and made immediately available to clients through IIPs secured web portals, or through email delivery.

I have no idea of the pricing structure, and as yet know of no law firms who have used IIPs services. But I can see that they, or a company like them, can provide a very valuable service for firms seeking to outsource their strategic information-gathering needs.

One thing is for sure . . . in the absence of good information you cannot make good reliable business decisions.


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