What is Competitive Intelligence?


Definitions of Competitive Intelligence

  • To develop a mode of governorship whose object is the control of the strategic information which has as a finality the competitiveness and the safety of the national economy and the national companies. (Alain Juillet)
  • Systematic program to collect and analyze the information upon the activities of the competitors.... in view to achieve the strategic goals of the company. (Larry Kahanner)
  • Analyze the information, upon the competitors which are involvedwithin the decision process of the company. (Leonard Fuld)
  • Knowledge and forecast of the surounding world -in view to assist the decision of the company’s CEO. (Jan Herring)
  • Master the Information which allows decision making. (Ben Gilad)
  • Systematic program to treat, analyze, understand, disseminate information upon the activities of the competitors, the technologies and the general tendencies of the company's activities, in view to achieve the best strategic goal of the company. (Henri Dou)


A broad definition of competitive intelligence is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.

Key points of this definition:

  1. Competitive intelligence is an ethical and legal business practice, as opposed to industrial espionage which is illegal.
  2. The focus is on the external business environment.
  3. There is a process involved in gathering information, converting it into intelligence and then utilizing this in business decision making. CI professionals erroneously emphasize that if the intelligence gathered is not usable (or actionable) then it is not intelligence.

A more focused definition of CI regards it as the organizational function responsible for the early identification of risks and opportunities in the market before they become obvious. Experts also call this process the early signal analysis. This definition focuses attention on the difference between dissemination of widely available factual information (such as market statistics, financial reports, newspaper clippings) performed by functions such as libraries and information centers, and competitive intelligence which is a perspective on developments and events aimed at yielding a competitive edge.

The term CI is often viewed as synonymous with competitor analysis, but competitive intelligence is more than analyzing competitors — it is about making the organization more competitive relative to its entire environment and stakeholders: customers, competitors, distributors, technologies, macro-economic data etc.

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