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China Competitive Intelligence Software International Summit – Beijing PRC – Live Blog Meeting Notes
I am honored and delighted to serve as the Chairman of The 1st China Competitive Intelligence Software International Summit produced by the China Institute of Competitive Intelligence in Beijing PRC.
I’ll be live-blogging the meeting throughout the day today – Friday 6 March 2009 – beginning directly after my own keynote presentation to start the meeting. My slides are embedded below or if you’d like a PDF version click here to download. If you have questions about how to implement these ideas at your organization, please send me an email.
Unfortunately, the next speaker, Prof. Wang Yuefen from Nanjing University of Science and Technology gave her very visually interesting presentation in Chinese, so I only caught about half a percent of it, but she went into all of the top CI software vendor apps over the years, ranging from Autonomy to TRS and other apps like 365Agent and Goonie… wish I could share more.
Break for lunch – really delicious noodle soup and veggies! Back to work…
My good friend and Aurora WDC business partner, Gabriel Anderbjörk, chairman of Comintell, the CI software company, gave a presentation entitled “Developing a World Class Implementation Process – Ensuring Maximum ROI from Intelligence Software“.
Gabriel talked about how the value of CI is really a function of the change in revenue at any given decision point due to any given information element plus the change in cost at that decision point due to the same information element.
But most companies try to force CI software into solving a poorly defined problem – simply asking the question “why are we doing this?” can be a powerful way to think through the purpose of CI software in the first place. The first two of the three prerequisites for information value are straightforward, but the third was surprising:
- Timing (and the fact that old information tends to grow stale and lose value);
- Relevance (ensuring information being delivered can really make a difference); and
- Competence of the Receiver (it cannot be taken for granted that users know what they’re doing).
The three components of a capable CI program are the perspective, orgranization and process of the system, a technology platform to organize and automate everything and the training necessary for all of the users to make sure they are competently applying the tools and techniques. To the question of “why are we doing this?” (simply deciding others are doing it and they’re playing catchup isn’t enough) must be added the questions “who will use the tool?” (having clear target groups defined) and “how will they use the tool?” (content, functionality and interoperability).
There are two determinants of information needs – the environment and the strategy. But the biggest problem with strategy is that, nobody knows what the strategy is, usually because it’s a big, fat secret! As a result the company cannot entrust employees to work better with competitive intelligence – how could they if they don’t know what to even concentrate their efforts on?!
But the number one problem of CI and technology is ensuring usage and impact of analyzed information. Gabriel shared a few quotes from 1980′s Competitive Strategy to show us how Michael Porter felt about intelligence and software:
- “It is unlikely that data to support a full competitor analysis could be compiled in one massive effort. The data… usually comes in trickles rather than rivers and must be put together over a period of time to yield a comprehensive picture of the competitor’s situation.”
- “Compiling the data for a sophisticated competitor analysis probably requires more than just hard work. To be effective, there is a need for an organized mechanism – some sort of competitor intelligence system – to ensure that the process is efficient.”
- “Whatever the mechanism chosen for competitor intelligence gathering, there are benefits to be gained from one that is formal and involves some documentation is all too easy for bits and pieces of data to be lost, and the benefits that come only from combing these bits and pieces thereby foregone. Analyzing competitors is too important to handle haphazardly.”
Most companies fail at CI not because they don’t understand how to see differences in their environment but because they don’t know what the generic status quo situation looks like to compare those changes to. They spend all their time looking at the ad hoc issues and opportunities and forget to keep watching the generic continuous defined trends.
Ad hoc needs to then eventually go continuous over time. So, when implementing software it’s most important to begin with the generic trends monitoring because the big, quick returns will also come more quickly even as it engages everyone in the company on topics they understand.
But, how can we help computers understand our market environment? Comintell uses a model called “Dimensions of Business” – simply put, the perspective put on the business taxonomy – Markets, Customers, Products and Competitors are mapped out for the taxonomy to govern the entire system. Gabriel shared a war story about how one of his company’s (anonymous, of course) customers went about determining what a competitor was going to do in a particular SE Asian country; about six months later a colleague was asked if they’d heard anything about it and of course was met with indignation that headquarters could possibly know more than the field office. However, the following day, the colleague checked into it and was flabbergasted that, not only were they in the market, they were part of a consortium and they didn’t have a clue. The point is, the intersection of markets and customers and products and competitors is where possibilities start to appear – but if the dimensions are not known, they can’t be monitored very effectively.
Next, implementation itself (by the way, 80 percent in and Gabriel’s demonstrated how the most part of the CI software implementation process is actually the preparation before any implementation ever takes place). Three steps to implementation – mapping system requirements, installation and setup of the system itself and the training and release of the system to first users.
What’s the biggest roadblock to the whole implementation process? IT doesn’t have the server ready.
Training and release is another critical phase – and the release is not the END of the process it’s the beginning of the business process – the time when you should start recovering your investment costs. That’s why it’s so important to prepare for a launch project – and that could be as many as two years long to really get right – it’s simple though – it boils down to communicating the presence of these investments to users… pretty easy to get right, and just as easy to get wrong. Launch actions include naming the system, defining roles, assigning ambassadors, doing training and internal webinars, feedback forms and support, providing news on the site and also make it entertaining – Gabriel’s first implementation at Ericsson featured the “Snake” game that was about to appear on Nokia’s next line of mobile phones.
Many of Comintell’s clients have used various names to get the system labelled and the word spread throughtout the company – “Compass”, “BizKit”, “Market Intelligence Xchange”, “Market Information Centre” – all are attempts at branding simply to help the system succeed by having people use it. Gabriel wrapped up with Darwin’s classic quote – “It is not the stronest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
Jay Kurtz from KappaWest Management Consultants, also a partner of my company’s Aurora WDC, took over after Gabriel for the remainder of the day with a presentation called “Linking Business Wargaming to Intelligence Tasking and Topic Definition for Corporate CI Systems“. Jay described how wargaming is a critical simulation skill for organizations to be able to see the same situation from another perspective – it looks at three “lines of force” - what your company plans and does, what your competitors plan and do (since your plans could end either in success or in complete failure under various circumstances and behavior of competitors, direct, indirect and in new forms), but also the “uncontrollables” or forces we cannot necessarily influence.
Jay described the alternatives of planning based on the Red Path vs. the Green Path: Red Path planning involves taking all of the known elements of the organization and its resources and then planning for the future reality that might face the firm; Green Path planning does just the opposite by taking the future reality the company expects (through wargaming as a technique) to make a plan to be implemented in the form of designing the organization and resources.
For example, Poland felt extremely comfortable riding horses and planned for the last war – so they had the world’s most powerful cavalry… right before the outbreak of World War II… which, of course, did them no good.
With four levels of planning, wargaming can be focused on any level of the company. Strategy focuses on what we want to accomplish, tactics focus on how the firm will accomplish those plans. Doing all the right things makes you effective (and ineffective if you do the wrong things), if you are doing all the things right, you’ll be efficient (and inefficient if you do things wrong). Victory goes to those who do the right things and do things right, but any less that top effectiveness in either dimension means that you will either die or merely survive. But when times change, victory in the past can turn to liabilities in the future.
After a wargame, the After Action Report is used to develop plans to succeed based on the likely behavior of the participants who embodied various competitors and other actors… these plans are then executed. When to use a wargame? Whenever external indicators are showing the big picture environment has started changing, whenever internal indicators are showing old strategies aren’t working anymore or whenever the strategic plan needs updating, testing of new strategies planning for major projects or programs (M&A, NPD, New Biz Dev), or when worst case scenarios need to be examined, major bidding opportunities arise or simply to make the team work better together.
Wargame “hard” deliverables are to catalog key lessons learned, develop recommendations for changes in strategy/ops/tactics, develop contingency plans and surface critical intel gaps, but “soft” deliverables are improved team work, less “silo mentality”, improve decision making and planning. Typical teams include, the “home” team (your company), competitor(s) teams, market/customer team, channel team, umpire team, support team, “x” or “wildcard” teams (who often develop the most brilliant strategies) and, of course, the facilitator team.
It is critical that top executives participate in wargames because the output is such a shock to them that they realize how out of touch they’ve been. The future reality is changing and it’s much more credible when they experience it rather than have somebody else tell them about it.
Various implementation teams after the wargame process is complete will be focused on what must now be done by whom and when to transform the findings into action. The “menu” of business wargaming tools include Market & Competitive Maps, Decision Maps, Probability/Impact Grids, Risk Profiles, Silver Bullet Analyses, Force Field Diagrams and Delphi Studies.
For example, interpreting the market/competitor map can tell us the status of the market and whether it’s going to be growing or will be a red herring that we’ll invest in without success. It allows a competitor to “triage” its way to clear leadership in selected markets where its advantages match the growth opportunities – companies can decide then which market segments need Immediate Concentrated Attention, Delayed Secondary Attention, and which the company should Ignore or Abandon. If there were teams all considering these factors, then they could ultimately make decisions about how to ally with other competitors to predict the outcome more effectively.
Jay finished by showing some cases of real companies using wargames – financial software, nicotine patches, cellular phone services, biotech (which told them whatever they would do they were guaranteed failure), defense systems procurement – and, indeed, it’s much better to die in a wargame than in real life. But it’s also a nice outcome to be able to know you’re going to win instead of lose.
There ends Day One – good show everybody – we’ve got software demonstrations tonight before dinner…