Ethics Of Competitive Intelligence


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Ethics Of Competitive Intelligence Version 1.0

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Ethics Of Competitive Intelligence

  1. 1. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.0 Ethics OfCompetitive Intelligence By Ziaullah Mirza Online Publication 2011 (Part 1)
  2. 2. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.0 Basics of Competitive IntelligenceCompetitive intelligence is the art of defining, gathering, analyzing, anddistributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors, individuals,concepts, information, ideas or data needed to support executives and managers inmaking strategic decisions for an organization. Includes a broad array fromgovernment intelligence to market intelligence to business intelligence.Competitor Intelligence can include competitor analysis, knowledgemanagement, market research and business strategy and business research.Competitor Intelligence can be used as an everyday business tool to analyzestocks or look for weaknesses in your competitor.Competitor Intelligence can be used for everyday consumer activities such ascomparing renter’s insurance plans to buying motorcycle insurance.Before You Do Competitive Intelligence On A Competitor – Practice On Yourself.10 Ways To Find How Much Traffic / Business Your Competitor is Getting –Using the Internet For Competitive Intelligence.Ever wonder how that competitor of yours is doing? Curious about how you can findout how much traffic or how many orders they receive?You can use the internet to perform competitive intelligence on your competitors,and then take that information and use it to improve your site. By using theseexisting online Internet tools and social engineering queries, you can find out howmuch business your competitors is earning.“Before you can run these competitive analysis tests on your competitors, tryrunning this on yourself or your company or your own site first”If you are thinking about starting a business, you can “Test” the business byestimating how well you might do.As a side note, the best way to test this is to try these techniques on your site tosee if your competitors can determine how much business you are doing.Let’s start with the easiest methods and work upwards:1. Stat Counter: See if they have a visible stat counter – visit every day for aweek and see how the counter changes. Then visit it weekly to watch for changessuch as spikes around Christmas, or if there is a news story related to yourindustry, if that results in more traffic.
  3. 3. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.02. Order Something: Another way to get competitive intelligence on a competitoris to order something small and see what the invoice number is, then go back andorder a week later and see how that invoice number changed. Repeat as often asyour curiosity and bank balance allows you to.3. Check Alexa Ranking: Alexa is a service that estimates traffic based on visitorsto various sites using the Alexa toolbar. From the Alexa site, it says;“How are Alexa’s traffic rankings determined? Alexa’s traffic rankings are based onthe usage patterns of Alexa Toolbar users over a rolling 3 month period. A site’sranking is based on a combined measure of reach and page views. Reach isdetermined by the number of unique Alexa users who visit a site on a given day.Page views are the total number of Alexa user URL requests for a site. However,multiple requests for the same URL on the same day by the same user are countedas a single page view. The site with the highest combination of users and pageviews is ranked #1.Alexa’s traffic rankings are for top level domains only (e.g. We do notprovide separate rankings for subpages within a domain ( or subdomains (e.g. we are able to automatically identify them as personal home pages or blogs,like those hosted on Geocities and Tripod. If a site is identified as a personal homepage or blog, its traffic ranking will have an asterisk (*) next to it: Personal PageAvg. Traffic Rank: 3,456*. Personal pages are ranked on the same scale as aregular domain, so a personal page ranked 3,456* is the 3,456th most popularpage among Alexa users.4. Check Statbrain: Statbrain is another service to estimate the amount of trafficto a site. They say,”How accurate is Statbrain? Statbrain estimates the number ofvisits that a website has based on offsite factors like backlinks, Alexa Rank etc.Statbrain does not have access to log files or any counter information. The numberof visits that Statbrain estimates gives you an idea of the number of visits that awebsite has, but not the exact visitor number.”I have tested it against some of my sites and I would say it is in the ballpark.5. Yahoo Search: Use Yahoo Search to determine who links to a particular siteIn the search box enter EACH of the following permutations, as even though theyappear the same, they may produce different resultshttp://www.DomainName.comhttp://DomainName.comDomainName.comlink:http://DomainName.comlink:
  4. 4. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version“” with the quote marks“” with the quote marks“” with the quote marksPlease note, that some of the above searches will return zero results, while othersmay return thousands of results.6. Google Search: Use Google Search to determine who links to a particular siteIn the search box enter EACH of the following permutations, as even though theyappear the same, they may produce different resultshttp://www.DomainName.comhttp://DomainName.comDomainName.comlink:http://DomainName.comlink:“” with the quote marks“” with the quote marks“” with the quote marksPlease note, that some of the above searches will return zero results, while othersmay return thousands of results.7. WhoLinks2Me: Use online link analysis resources to analyze competitors links.Try WhoLinks2Me8. Social Engineering Look-Ups: Try “social engineering look-ups” and try andguess the adminpage for the competitors stat… not all these work, but you get the idea.9. Social Engineering Searchers: Try “social engineering searches” ie“” +logs“” +stats“” +”number of visitors”“ “+visitors… not all these work, but you get the idea.
  5. 5. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.010. HTML: Try peeking at the HTMLDo a view source and see if you can see a reference to a stat counter. Usually youcan find the code for a stat program right before the closing body HTML code, ie/bodySome times domains use free stats counters I just randomly searched and found you can see their stats.An Overview of Competitive IntelligenceCompetitive intelligence has undergone a groundswell of interest in recent years, aninterest in part fueled by an increasing availability of information itself (the much-touted information explosion) and an increase reflected in the proliferation ofcommercial databases world-wide. What else is driving this growth?In purely competitive terms, no time before ours has presented so manyopportunities or dangers. The recent changes in Eastern Bloc nations and thedawning of a unified Europe call for American corporations that can compete thatoperate at the edge of their knowledge and capabilities. European and Japanesecompanies have grown to hold a dominant position in U.S. patents over the pasttwenty years. Japanese firms are using our universities as a competitive tool byfunding programs and research. In 1989 West Germanys world exports exceededours, as well as those of other developed nations. Even with its inevitable social andeconomic dislocations, a united Germany will be force to be reckoned with.Given this changing scene, competitive intelligence is an activity of increasingimportance. Whether the need is for knowledge of an industry, a market, a productor a competitor, reliable global information is central to our national success. AsFrederick the Great said, "It is pardonable to be defeated, but never to besurprised. With todays information resources, and a CI program that reflects theneeds of the corporation, surprises can be minimized.But this is a book about the process and resources of competitive intelligence, notabout the electronic transformation of information itself. It may well be that theelectronic manipulation and storage of information will have the effect on our timesthat the invention of the movable-type printing press exerted on fifteenth-centuryEurope. For the first time in history, books and the literate population needed toread them came together. In much the same way, access to an increasing world ofinformation empowers the modern corporation to understand itself and its marketsmore completely than ever before.Competitive Intelligence Definitions
  6. 6. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.0We like to think of competitive intelligence as the selection, collection,interpretation and distribution of publicly-held information that has strategicimportance. Needless to say, there are other definitions of competitive intelligence.Here is a sampling.Business intelligence [an alternate term for competitive intelligence] is the activityof monitoring the environment external to the firm for information that is relevantfor the decision-making process of the company. [1]Competitor intelligence is the analytical process that transforms disaggregatedcompetitor intelligence into relevant, accurate and usable strategic knowledgeabout competitors, position, performance, capabilities and intentions. [2]Competitive intelligence is a way of thinking. [3]CI uses public sources to locate and develop information on competition andcompetitors. [4]Competitor intelligence is "highly specific and timely information about acorporation. [5]The objective of competitor intelligence is not to steal a competitor,s trade secretsor other proprietary property, but rather to gather in a systematic, overt (i.e.,legal) manner a wide range of information that when collated and analyzedprovides a fuller understanding of a competitor firms structure, culture, behavior,capabilities and weaknesses. [6]But definitions, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, are like watches and none is everexactly correct. True, we do competitive intelligence openly, but we would ratherthe target company be kept in the dark. (Surprise is no small thing in competition.)True, we usually digest, analyze and arrange the materials in our reports, butsometimes, as in a database search that lays out production figures for ten years inreport format on a certain product, analysis and digestion may simply be gilding thelily. The heart of the matter is sometimes just in the raw numbers or facts. True,we may sometimes need a wide range of material on a broad span of corporatefunctions, but sometimes a very focused and narrow bit of information is what isrequired. (What kind of machinery are they using in that plant?) And it is true thatwe only use publicly-accessible information, but sometimes our client would like toknow the color of the CEOs shorts, and forgive us, but wed like to answer thatquestion for our client too. Sometimes, somehow, the color of those shortsbecomes known.Does corporate competitive intelligence bear any resemblance to the intelligencework done by the CIA, or in John le Carré novels? It is ridiculous to deny that thereare similarities. To the extent that both require probing the environment forinformation that could hurt or help the client organization, yes, they are alike. In
  7. 7. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.0both cases, whether working for a corporation or for the government, the chase forinformation is interesting and exciting, as is getting "the goods for the client. Bothrequire the selection, collection, interpretation and distribution of information. Butbeyond this, similarities fade. Projects in CI can sometimes feel as if they were life-and-death matters, but they are not. Not really. The CIA and other governmentintelligence agencies have been known to work outside of the law. Corporatecompetitive- or business-intelligence does not operate this way.Competitive intelligence has nothing to do withespionage!CI, as we will discuss it here, does not use illicit or illegal methods to accomplish itsgoals.Some common goals of competitive intelligence: o Detecting competitive threats o Eliminating or lessening surprises o Enhancing competitive advantage by lessening reaction time o Finding new opportunitiesCompetitive intelligence has such a broad scope it can use information related toalmost any product or activity, or information on recent industry trends or issues(packaging companies track changes in environmental regulations constantly), orword about geopolitical trends (e. g., today 30% of all business aircraft are sold toPacific Basin companies). CI can be driven by something as seemingly mundane asthe need for a biographical profile of a newly appointed corporate executive, orsomething as important as the news that a steel competitor is making majorinvestments on R&D in ceramics and electronics. It might even be the suspicionthat a future competitor in an unrelated industry will soon threaten the corporationthrough new technology.A future competitor of the Royal Typewriter Company was introduced by a couple ofyoung men, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, ingeniously soldering a collection ofmicro-chips, wires and a cathode-ray-tube into a sort of jungle-gym computer intheir California garage. What came of this homely tinkering was the AppleComputer. Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniaks work on the home computer started anindustry, an industry that was to reshape the typewriter business, and a lot of otherbusinesses as well, in profound ways over the years that followed. (Later, when IBMdecided that Apple had defined a market for their PC, following Apples leaddefinitively changed IBMs business.) A future technological threat to the vacuumtube was the micro-chip, and a future competitor to the buggy-whip business wasHenry Fords automobile. One question is, if they are in unrelated industries, howdo you find them before its too late?Some of these future competitors will bob to the surface, where good managementwith sound competitive analysis can spot them in time, and steer around them;
  8. 8. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.0others will ride in like an iceberg, silent, with 90% of their mass below the waterlinewhere it can do the most damage. In some cases, vision and the ability to see whatis coming are of little use. "Lets not worry about it, those little cars arent whatAmericans want to buy," is an instance of Detroits sighting the competitive icebergback in the 1960s and not reacting for thirty years. It is quite possible that Detroitauto manufacturers will never be able to compete with the quality being built intoJapanese and European cars. One commentator observed that the institutionalpersonality of the Detroit auto manufacturers is so pervasive and strong that theonly way it may be able to change its ways is to move to another part of thecountry. "Send a bright young person full of new ideas to Detroit and within sixmonths he or she will be thinking and talking the party line. These are goodAmerican cars, and just what our customer wants."Japanese camera manufacturers have recently introduced cameras using magneticmedia, rather than photosensitive film. (Photographs captured digitally are viewedon video monitors (TV), a factor slide projector manufacturers should haveidentified some time ago, and should have included in their systematic competitorscans, along with the products of competing slide-projector producers.) EastmanKodak will easily be able to provide magnetic storage disks for these cameras, aswill Fuji, 3M and a host of other manufacturers, but may eventually ship its slideprojectors primarily to the Smithsonian, where they will be viewed only ascuriosities. Eastman Kodak may or may not want to compete in video monitors (thereplacement technology for the slide viewer and slide projector) against Sony,Panasonic and a host of other foreign entrenched electronics manufacturers. Muchof the technology and production capacity for home electronics appears to havebeen lost to Japan and the Pacific Basin. Such capacity may have been permanentlylost to the U.S., unless current research on digital HD (High Definition) TV providesus with new access to the consumer electronics marketplace.Not every company, no matter how large and powerful, properly understands thenature of its own business, or its customer base. Nor does every company ordivision always understand or act in its own best interests. Without the visionempowered by such an understanding, no amount of CI will help forestall theinevitable. Without such an understanding, threats cannot be seen for what theyare, if they can be seen at all. In important ways competitive intelligence is aboutexactly this; about perceiving threats, and ways of getting at the information youneed once the threat is somehow perceived.Who Does Competitive Intelligence?Those working in CI range from public, legal or corporate librarians and informationcenter analysts to management personnel, specialists in financial data, business-development people and strategic planners to ex-CIA operatives and retired militaryintelligence personnel, information specialists and academicians. (One of theauthors of this book, John Moorhead, is a former U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer.)Many corporate practitioners, according to a survey done by the Conference Board,are marketing directors or marketing research managers. It seems that at this point
  9. 9. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.0in CIs evolutionary progress, to quote Lawrence of Arabia, "nothing is written."Outside agencies that perform competitor intelligence work run the gamut fromcertain public relations firms and the consulting arms of CPA firms to youngcompanies devoted to competitor analysis and industrial research.Competitive intelligence has only recently emerged as a distinctive field ofendeavor. Only one association, the recently-formed Society of CompetitiveIntelligence Professionals, now exists to serve this field directly, but a number ofothers, such as the Information Industry Association, the Planning Forum andperhaps even the American Marketing Association and the Special LibraryAssociation serve some related interests and over-lapping information needs.Every discipline, no matter how ancient or recent, has schools of thought, gurus,cherished beliefs, taboos, and so forth. Newer ones simply have less baggage.Gurus, or authors of key works, will be covered in a later chapter. The tabooagainst using non-legitimate information resources weve already talked about.There is also a commandment to be ethical in the pursuit of information. At thepractitioner, or "schools-of-thought level", three recognizable groups of CIspecialists stand out.The first group holds that interpretation and analysis are the essentialactivities in CI. "It is clearly possible", as a professor of statistical measurementonce said, "to lie with numbers, but it is much easier to lie without them." Thequestion here is, do our tools of analysis have validity and reliability, and what isthe device or matrix that will most easily communicate the complexities of anindustry or a corporate position relative to its peer corporations?The second group holds that the hunting, gathering and location of reliableinformation is the essential activity. The question here is how to keep abreastof the proliferation of databases, hardcopy resources (books, magazines andreports), and how to keep abreast of the procedures to get at non-publishedinformation. (Locating and requesting a document or a government filing recordrequires some finesse, even when one is being open and ethical.)A third group believes that the gathering of valid/reliable information andthe analyzing of it are equally important. If one of these two activities is weakor impaired, the other will probably be flawed.Its understood that raw information or data dumps have limited usefulness, andare not usually a product that is given to the client. Data and nearly any type ofinformation usually needs to be integrated and analyzed into a document that iswell organized and that can easily be read and interpreted. Graphs, tables andcharts are often useful communication aids.At the same time, if one does not know the kinds of information than can be foundduring the hunting and gathering process (either electronically or in hard copy) one
  10. 10. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.0cannot ask the right questions. For example, PIERS, a Journal of Commercedatabase (begun over 100 years ago) with import/export data now available on theDIALOG database gateway service, allows the researcher to track the movement ofexport/import materials from one company location to another company locationabroad. Only knowing about this resource would lead a manager to ask, (in alegitimate, legal world) "what products or materials have been shipped to Xcompany in the past year?"If management cant be expected to ask the right questions about the competitiveenvironment without understanding the forms of information that shape thatenvironment, what does this mean to CI?It means campaigns and programs to inform and educate management... acorporate management that has taken the right first step in setting up a CIfunction, but who now need to understand what kinds of information can be found.Without such proselytizing, at minimum, competitive intelligence will beunderutilized; at worst the CI program will die an untimely and unwarranted death. End of Chapter 1 ********
  11. 11. Ethics of Competitive Intelligence – Version 1.0____________________Footnotes[1] Benjamin and Tamar GiladThe Business Intelligence SystemNew York, AMACOM, 1988, p. viii[2]Seminar guideThe Competitor Intelligence Groupdivision of Kirk Tyson Associates, Ltd., 1986, p. III-11[3] William RothschildHow to Gain (and Maintain) the Competitive Advantage in BusinessNew York, McGraw Hill, 1984, p. 179[4] John J. McGonagle, Jr. and Carolyn M. VellaOutsmarting the CompetitionNaperville, IL, Sourcebooks, 1990, p. viii[5] Leonard FuldCompetitor Intelligence: How to Get It; How to Use ItNew York, John Wiley & Sons, 1985, p.5[6] William L. Sammon, et al.Business Competitor IntelligenceNew York, John Wiley & Sons, 1985, p. 62FAQ can be sent at