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A New Field of Study in the Magazine: Intelligence for Business Environment

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I’m joining the „Intelligence Info” team in an endeavor to explore a new field within this magazine where the concept of intelligence holds vital importance. As loyal readers of the magazine already know, its pages have been a source to discover and delve into complex approaches regarding the impact that various aspects of the notion of intelligence can have on various fields such as geopolitics, defense, security, history, medicine, and education.

The concept of intelligence encompasses diverse meanings, such as mental ability, general cognitive notion (IQ), knowledge, information gathering activity, specialized information gathering agencies, business intelligence (BI), competitive intelligence (CI), artificial intelligence (AI), open-source intelligence (OSINT), information technology applications (SIGINT, AGI), and counterintelligence measures.

From this wide array of possibilities, I believe in the opportunity to add a new area of discussion, namely Competitive Intelligence, to those already established in the „Intelligence Info” magazine. This is because information plays a crucial role in business and for the activities of companies, and in a broader context, for enhancing the competitiveness of any type of organization.


The Universality of Information

In today’s interconnected world, the concept of information has evolved into a multifunctional and universal notion. In the context of the global economy, information transcends borders and sectors, directly impacting international society.

In recent decades, the global economy has undergone significant transformations based on the information paradigm. While the notions of wealth and power still rely on the possession of physical assets and resources, today the most valuable currency is information. The revolution in computing and communication has ushered in an era where data and knowledge are the driving forces of economic success.

The collection, analysis, and utilization of information are found in all fields of activity. Information represents the lifeblood of modern businesses, governments, and international organizations. Globalization of trade, finance, and technology has created a complex web of interdependence among nations. In this environment, information flows freely beyond political and geographic boundaries. Companies and governments, to gain a competitive or strategic advantage, must use information to make informed decisions in a rapidly changing landscape. This further underscores the universality of information as an essential resource.

At the strategic level, regarding international security, information plays an essential role in maintaining the balance of international relations and resolving conflicts. Nations rely on their intelligence agencies to gather necessary information. In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability to understand and interpret information from different sources is crucial for maintaining peace and stability.

Looking to the future, it is likely that the importance of information as a resource will continue to grow rapidly. New insights from artificial intelligence, data analysis, and communication technologies will further accelerate the pace at which information is generated and disseminated. This brings together opportunities, challenges, benefits, risks, and dangers for society, and as we navigate the complexities of the future, harnessing the power of information in a responsible and ethical manner will be vital for shaping a prosperous and peaceful world.


Intelligence Represents More Than Information

There are several significant differences to consider when discussing information in a business context.

Firstly, in English, there are two distinct notions: „intelligence” and „information.” In Romanian, we have the notions of „inteligență” and „informație,” and in recent years, the use of the neologism „intelligence” has intensified. For the subject of this material, it is crucial to clearly define the notions of „intelligence” and „information.”

If we choose to use these notions without depth, there can be confusion in translation and usage due to the different meanings each of these notions has and the fields in which they are used.

According to the definition from dex-online[1], „informația” is communication, news, or information that brings a certain situation to someone’s knowledge. Information can even be a set of data obtained from various sources. Information is something that, once known, contributes to a better understanding of a particular situation.

On the other hand, „intelligence” represents much more than that. It is that information that, due to its value and relevance, leads to decision-making and actions. In the business environment, „intelligence” is not just „information” but information with the potential to influence high-level decisions and, in many cases, make an organization more competitive in its field of activity.

This distinction leads us to the concept of „Competitive Intelligence” (CI), or in simpler terms, the activity of obtaining actionable information for business. And even though human intelligence plays a crucial role in carrying out this activity, it is preferable to avoid translating the concept of Competitive Intelligence as „competitiveness intelligently.”

Personally, I believe it is best to use the established term: Competitive Intelligence (CI), and in this way, all those involved will understand exactly what it is about.


What Is Competitive Intelligence (CI)

Competitive Intelligence (CI) represents an activity of crucial importance in the business world. As I mentioned in a presentation three years ago[2], CI involves obtaining, analyzing, and utilizing data, news, and information from open and official sources. This information pertains to aspects such as products, services, competitors, customers, and any other aspects related to the environment, market, or industry in which an organization operates or has interests.

The fundamental purpose of CI is to provide actionable information that supports the decision-making processes of top management within the respective organization. This means that CI is not just about collecting data or general information but about obtaining relevant and useful knowledge to make effective strategic decisions.

An essential aspect of CI is that its dynamics largely take place outside the organization. This means that CI focuses on analyzing and interpreting what is happening in the external environment of the organization, including the activities of competitors, changes in the market, customer requirements, and legislative changes that could affect the business.

For a top manager in an organization, access to relevant, timely, and updated information regarding these aspects is essential for formulating and implementing successful strategies. Through CI techniques, valuable insights about the actions of competitors, the needs and preferences of customers, as well as legislative changes that can influence the organization’s business can be obtained.

By using these intelligence, managers can make more informed decisions based on insights that predict future developments. Thus, they can adapt effective tactics and create competitive advantages that ensure a solid position and sustainable growth for the organization in the market.

Essentially, CI provides organizations with the tools and knowledge needed to navigate successfully in the complex and competitive business environment. CI becomes a vital resource for the development and growth strategy of any organization aiming to thrive in the market.


What Competitive Intelligence (CI) Is Not

To better understand what Competitive Intelligence (CI) represents, it is important to highlight what it is not.

There are two main aspects to consider in this context: CI is not Business Intelligence (BI), and it is not economic espionage.


CI Is Not BI

I mentioned three years ago that BI is a set of information strategies and technologies that focus on identifying, reorganizing, and managing data and information from within the organization. BI aims to transform this data into analyses and info-graphics useful for the decision-making process within the organization.

The essential differences between CI and BI include:

  • Focus on external data vs. internal data: CI focuses on collecting information about the external environment, such as competitors’ activities, market trends, and environmental factors. In contrast, BI focuses on the internal data of the organization, such as financial and operational data.
  • Information sources: CI primarily uses public, official, and authorized sources, such as financial reports, news, and market analyses. BI relies on data generated internally by the organization, such as financial and operational data.
  • Strategic vs. operational purpose: CI has an extensive strategic purpose, contributing to understanding the context and future developments of the market and the formulation of competitive strategies. In contrast, BI focuses on operational aspects and improving existing processes.
  • Types of data: CI often involves collecting and analyzing a broader spectrum of information, including demographic data, consumer behavior, and market trends. BI focuses more on structured data, such as sales and costs.
  • Expected outcomes: CI anticipates competitors’ moves and helps develop market strategies to gain a competitive advantage. BI supports making more informed decisions regarding operational efficiency and resource management.

It is important to note that the information obtained through Competitive Intelligence is often integrated into the Business Intelligence process to complete the overall picture of the organization and the market.


CI Is Not Economic Espionage

Another common confusion is related to the relationship between Competitive Intelligence and economic espionage. While both activities aim to obtain information about competitors and the market, there are fundamental differences related to ethics and legality.

Economic espionage generally involves illegal or unethical activities to obtain confidential information, including manipulation, data falsification, theft of information, or unauthorized access to confidential data. The purpose of economic espionage is to gain an unfair advantage over competitors through illegal means.

On the other hand, Competitive Intelligence is based on ethical and legal information gathering from public, official, and authorized sources. CI aims to understand the market and competitors to develop legal and ethical strategies. Participants in Competitive Intelligence maintain their reputation as ethical and responsible professionals.

Thus, the main difference between CI and economic espionage lies in the ethical and legal approach to obtaining information. CI is a transparent and honest practice, while economic espionage violates national and international laws, which can have severe legal consequences, from damaging the reputation of organizations and individuals involved, paying significant compensation, and even imprisonment.


The Ethical Rules of Competitive Intelligence (CI)

To further emphasize the fundamental difference between Competitive Intelligence and economic espionage, it is crucial to discuss the ethical rules that govern CI practice. An essential aspect of CI is adherence to codes of ethics and relevant laws. Therefore, let’s analyze the Code of Ethics of a prominent professional association in the United States, the Strategic Consortium of Intelligence Professionals (SCIP, formerly known as Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals and initially, the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals), which focuses on promoting and developing CI activities.

The principles of this code of ethics include[3]:

  1. Promotion of the profession: This principle encourages CI professionals to continue to increase recognition and respect for their profession and for CI as a whole.
  2. Always in compliance: It is essential for all CI practitioners to comply with all applicable laws, both internal and international.
  3. Transparency: CI practitioners must provide accurate information and accurately disclose all relevant information, including their identity and affiliation with the organization, before starting interviews or contacts with individuals for professional purposes.
  4. Avoidance of conflicts of interest: It is important for CI specialists to avoid conflicts of interest in carrying out their tasks to ensure objectivity and impartiality in the information provided.
  5. Honesty: While performing their duties, CI experts must provide honest and realistic recommendations and conclusions to their beneficiaries.
  6. Acting as ambassadors: CI practitioners must promote this code of ethics within the companies they come into contact with, in dealings with third parties, or within their entire business community.
  7. Strategic alignment: CI experts must faithfully adhere to the policies, objectives, and guidelines of their organizations.

This code of ethics is a solid foundation for guiding CI practice in an ethical and professional manner. Adhering to these rules ensures that CI activities are conducted correctly and ethically, avoiding any unethical or illegal behavior. This clearly emphasizes that CI is a practice based on integrity and respect for others and that CI professionals play an essential role in obtaining information to make informed and ethical decisions within their organizations.


Advantages for Readers through the Publication of CI Articles

The publication of CI articles in the Intelligence Info magazine can bring numerous significant advantages to readers. These benefits include:

  1. Access to strategic and current information: Readers will have the opportunity to access up-to-date information from a variety of fields. This will allow them to stay informed about trends and changes in their areas of interest and make better-informed decisions.
  2. Understanding the context: CI articles can provide readers with a deeper understanding of the context in which events in their fields of interest occur. This can be especially valuable for those who need to make strategic decisions.
  3. Identifying emerging opportunities: The CI section can highlight emerging opportunities in various economic sectors. This can draw the attention of readers interested in investments or new business development.
  4. Guidance in decision-making: Articles that identify potential risks and threats can help readers make decisions about resource allocation. Thus, they can manage risks more effectively and take preventive measures.
  5. Comparative historical perspectives: For readers passionate about history, articles that include comparative analyses of historical events and figures can bring a profound understanding of historical lessons and offer relevant perspectives on current events.
  6. Strengthening the magazine’s image: Publishing CI articles can strengthen the image of the Intelligence Info magazine as a credible and authoritative source of strategic information. Readers will perceive the magazine as a valuable resource for high-quality information, decision-making, and professional development in various fields.

In conclusion, the publication of CI articles can bring significant benefits to readers, helping them to be better informed, wiser in decision-making, and better prepared for the challenges in the business world and other areas of interest.


[1] https://dexonline.ro/definitie/informa%C8%9Bie

[2] 2018, Business Intelligence vs Competitive Intelligence differences and convergences, https://youtu.be/MPK8_PIxeTs , at Grand Hotel Bucharest, event organized by SCEB

[3] https://www.scip.org/page/Ethical-Intelligence

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