Dolly Goulart is Director of Research & Analysis at the Qualcomm Library.
- How do you define Competitive Intelligence, and what does it encompass?
To me, competitive intelligence is the practice of proactively identifying trends or behaviors in companies or markets of interest. It’s rather difficult to accurately predict the future, but through various intelligence methods, one can start to identify key themes that can then help create a story or help to predict future areas of focus. It’s all about using information to help understand the landscape in a way that isn’t readily obvious.
- What kinds of organizations use CI? Within those organizations, who are the primary consumers of CI?
I think all organizations use CI to an extent. Even a mom-and-pop business uses CI when they look at other providers of the same service – what do the other providers charge, how long are they open, how can we charge less? Any business launching a new initiative, competing for market share, or simply trying to improve their own product(s) should be actively engaged in CI. To which extent is largely determined by what they are trying to achieve. CI in the traditional sense is thought to be consumed by strategists and decision-makers in groups like corporate finance, business development, or marketing. However, it stands to reason that most employees benefit from some amount of competitive intelligence as it can help shape a product/business strategy at all levels of the organization and across all departments.
- What kind of sources do you turn to for information? Do you use data analytics, or social media, and if so, how?
Intelligence can come from multiple angles. If one is gathering information from just one source, regardless if it’s a public resource or a subscription database, it isn’t intelligence – it’s information. Someone needs to do something with it to make it intelligence. Looking at a variety of sources and identifying patterns or trends is very important. Relying on just news is inappropriate, one should also be looking at additional sources of information relevant to the business/market they’re investigating – sources such as regulatory filings, analyst insight, product sales information, hiring trends, etc. In terms of analytics, I think they’re important when you can use them to distinguish change. Many people talk about the importance of looking at social media for CI. It may be useful, but it only reflects one point in time. Typically, it’s very difficult to easily find a truly useful nugget of information from social media. However, being able to analyze differences in social media across time periods is very important. Were they talking about these issues last year, or does it appear to be a new area of focus? Using analytics for the high volume of information typically found in social media is extremely helpful.
- What skills are necessary to be a successful CI librarian?
The standard skills that makes anyone a good researcher also applies to CI, at least in terms of locating information. However, the trait that makes someone successful at CI is curiosity. If one is curious, they find themselves asking different questions and following different trails. Because of this, they oftentimes uncover information that wasn’t readily obvious from the sources they started with. That’s the key – being curious enough to uncover something different and savvy enough to know what to do with it.
- How do you communicate the results of your research to decision makers?
Results can be communicated in a variety of ways, it really depends on the audience and the nature of the project. When our team is relaying results on a project, we always try to package it in an organized way that allows the client to quickly make a decision. What we don’t want to do is spend time doing research only to provide the client with an overwhelming amount of information that they then have to try to find the answer in. Again, if you haven’t done anything with the information, you haven’t turned it into intelligence…you’re still just relaying information. The act of identifying key points, trends or takeaways moves you closer to providing intelligence and makes it easier for the client to move forward.