In spite of some authors who regard Intelligence Services as something linked to the interests and security of a state, as something developed within a secret society, what is definitely true is that the activity of companies and executives themselves implies using certain elements which are absolutely connected to intelligence, beyond what we could understand as mere information management.
I believe we should take Business Intelligence as the management of the relevant information for the sake of a company, which could also affect its continuity –this is; its security. It is the management of specific and confidential knowledge which is linked to the company and the own executive’s competitiveness.
Obviously, competitive intelligence implies big amounts of strategic intelligence, meaning by this, the management of an executive in the search for solutions or possible alternatives which are posed in the different strategies that a company can adopt. It also means that our executives must analyse all possible scenarios including all possible risks and threats that can come up so they can get competitive advantages. Interestingly enough, the so called “case method”, which is taught and practised by several Business Schools, is just a simplified version of Strategic Intelligence, although in a standard layout.
The difficult part when applying systems for Business Intelligence lies in the fact that one must take into account, as well as the already-known elements, which depending on your information systems, can make a real difference between you and your competitors, the elements that are linked to a simulation of future environments that the executive must align with the decisions he has made and the ones he or she will make. I am clearly not talking about situations where industrial espionage is involved, but being able to anticipate future scenarios where both the company and the executive can find themselves in.
This leads us to the prospective action as the real source which is to make a difference in Business Intelligence. Those companies that, as a result of their Intelligence Services, are able to understand and forecast the future better will also be able to influence on it so that they can gain competitive advantages which will make them stand out over the rest of the companies. This prospective action is just a tool which tries, using that information available, to highlight the fact that, the better the information you have, the better forecasted results you will get, and doing so, you will also have better business scenarios to be foreseen, and therefore we will be able to define better business strategies that might fit our businesses. I am using the plural because the scenarios and their future applications are varied and never unique. This is why their fulfilment is so complex. I also want to point out that prospective mentality in executives, together with intuition, is a specific characteristic that is not really valued nowadays in recruiting processes, especially when taking into account that this is usually an innate skill which generates competitive advantages for those companies who hire them.
Nowadays, there are very few companies in Spain –and I would dare to suggest that even in Europe, which have their own Intelligence departments, or at least they do not make it public. Neither are there companies in the global market that provide this kind of service or, at least, they do not do it openly. These companies act, rather than as single point of information for managers who analyse markets, competitors, networks or influencing people adding nothing but a few strokes of intelligence, whether by using the traditional way to search for information or through the existing analyses over the Internet using social networks, blogs, or just scattered pieces of information which new technologies have access to by putting together and scanning intelligently. There no great experts in the private sector either, at least not those who may have a global vision and can apply it to their business environments, since intelligence analysts are currently linked to secret state organisations.
However, in my own prospective exercise, I forecast that, in not too long, we will see company groups which, more or less openly, will offer Business Intelligence Services for companies that will use this information wisely in order to compete taking this as an advantage over their competitors.