While the ethical, economic and creative merits of gathering intelligence, spying and watching the competition can be debated, there is no doubt that this “inside” or “privileged” information collected is considered strategic, and in some cases critical, for decision-making. This entire process is being labelled as “Business Intelligence”.
What can you do to create and oversee your very own Business Intelligence network? Read on intrepid reader, and discover an introduction to the world of intelligence gathering.
Beginner’s guide to setting up a simple Business Intelligence system
Who will do it, and why?
- Determine specifically what information you want to collect or whom you want to monitor. Examples include: industry trends and developments, a specific competitor, customers or suppliers, specific corporate executives or sales persons, and specific products. Why do you want this specific information?
- Determine who will have access to this information, who is going to accumulate it, who is going to process or analyze it, and who are the decision-makers responsible for setting policies or taking actions based upon the information and analysis.
- Determine where and how you are going to accumulate, store and share the information and the analysis of the information. Examples include notebooks, electronic archives, corporate networks and intranets, a “war room”, a monthly presentation. You must “institutionalize” this information, and make it accessible by those who could benefit from it in the future.
Build your system
- Make a written list of specific industry terms, company names, product or brand names, executive’s or salesperson’s names, etc. These are your Key Search Terms
- Set up Google Alerts and Yahoo Alerts with these specific Key Search Terms.
- Do a search on-line, using your Key Search Terms with a Meta-Search engine. Recommended meta-search engines include Clusty, Dogpile, Surfwax, or Copernic. This meta-search activity should be scheduled at least once or twice a month. Important found web pages, documents, blogs, files, etc. should be bookmarked, shared (possibly printed and stored in your files) and reviewed on a regular schedule.
- For corporate searches and financial information, use Hoovers or Google Finance or Yahoo Finance
- Get a copy of the companies latest annual report, it will list top corporate executives names, and many times summaries of strategies and comments about the past year.
- Find, store and monitor your competitor’s, supplier’s, or customer’s website on a regular basis.
- Monitor the web log community. Use Google Blog Search, Bloglines, and Feedster to search for your blogs containing Many companies, current employees, ex or disgruntled employees, consumers, trend spotters, and industry watchers are using blogs to report and comment of items of interest to you.
- Industry association magazines, web pages, and newsletters. Subscribe to them, make sure they are read, and all pertinent news and articles clipped, marked, analyzed and stored.
- Trade-shows. Trade-show attendees should write a brief (1 page or less) list or summary of the event that highlights or mentions any interesting or exciting trends, level of enthusiasm, employee movements, rumours, and other items of interest.
Periodic Review of the system, what works, what doesn’t?
- Review your Google and Yahoo alerts, are you getting the information you want? Can the terms be refined, expanded, modified or added to?
- Make certain you are regularly reviewing and doing the searches. Program one type of search per week, don’t try to do it all at once. An example would be; Week 1 – blog searchs, Week 2 – Meta-search engines, Week 3 – financial search, Week 4 – industry and association information.
- Store it and share it if it’s important. Keep a list of important websites written down. Create a system that will work if you are not there. If you had to leave on vacation for 4 weeks, could someone else run the system and searches easily?
- Make certain that the information is gathered, analyzed, and some action taken. Even if the action is to do nothing. Design an accountability system so that decision-makers acknowledge the receipt or analysis of the information. This will insure feedback (too much raw data, not enough analysis, not focused enough, too focused) in order to modify the information gathering.
- Do not gather information that you do not need.
- If you do not organize or analyze the information, the system is worthless.