We have described the main types of information that company decision-makers need to know about their competitors. This information needs collecting, interpreting, distributing and using. Although the cost in money and time of gathering competitive intelligence is high, the cost of not gathering it is higher. Yet the company must.design its competitive intelligence system in a cost-effective way.
The competitive intelligence system first identifies the vital types of competitive information and the best sources of this information. Then the system continuously collects information from the field (sales force, channels, suppliers, market research firms, trade associations) and from published data (government publications, speeches, articles). Next the system checks the information for validity and reliability, interprets it and organizes it in an appropriate way. Finally, it sends key information to relevant decision-makers and responds to enquiries from managers about competitors.
With this system, company managers will receive timely information about competitors in the form of phone calls, bulletins, newsletters and reports. In addition, managers can contact the system when they need an interpretation of a competitor's sudden move, or when they require to know a competitor's weaknesses and strengths or how a competitor will respond to a planned company move.
Smaller companies that cannot afford to set up a formal competitive intelligence office can assign specific executives to watch specific competitors. Thus a manager who used to work for a competitor might follow closely all developments connected with that competitor; he or she would be the 'in-house' expert on that competitor. Any manager needing to know the thinking of a given competitor could contact the assigned in-house expert.7
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