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Intelligence

Time to get competitive with Intelligence analysis tool

By | Intelligence
When gathering Competitive Intelligence, there is often more than one path we can go down.

To help us decide the best path, we use a tool called Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, or ACH to keep things simple.

Analysis of Competing Hypotheses

Created in the 70s by the CIA, to reduce limitations in its analysis, ACH is proven and effective, and we find it to be a great tool. At the same time, there is a lot of conflicting information out there about how it works. We’ve found it has often been explained in a way that makes it sound more complicated than it actually is.

In short, ACH works as a 7 step tool to test all the options open to us. It then judges which path is best for our clients.

Step 1

Collect the information surrounding the problem, and start to think about what is going on and what you are going to do about it.

List all the things that could be going on. No silly answers excluded or criticised.

Step 2

Find the evidence, assumptions and deductions for and against each theory found in Step 1.

Step 3

Put the theories where you have found evidence into a matrix to enable you to compare and contracts with each other. Try your hardest to disprove each hypothesis.

Each hypothesis is given a number to rank them between -2 and 2 to test the evidence, assumptions and deductions against the hypothesis. The higher the number, the more likely that evidence supports the theory.

 

Deductions – The process of reaching the answer by thinking about the known facts.

For instance. The Russians will support the Syrian regime because they want to maintain their influence in the Middle East and have a Mediterranean seaboard.

Octopus Intelligence

We are Octopus, the Global Competitive Intelligence Agency. Get the better of your competitors and market.

Thank you www.octopusintelligence.co.uk

If you would like a pdf version of this, please feel free to email us on hello@octopusintelligence.co.uk

Smart Intelligence Boy with thumbs up

Intelligence is smart! Here are 6 reasons why

By | Intelligence

We live in unparalleled times. Almost everything is changing. And change will affect you, and it’s a dangerous assumption to think it won’t. Now, more than ever before, you need to be smart about Intelligence.

Intelligence isn’t the same as information and data. It’s about you and your competitors. Also, it’s about reporting concisely to decision makers in an easily actionable manner. It’s about protecting the well-being of your business.

1. Intelligence is smart and future-proofs your business

Learning what your competition is doing is a game changer. So you need to know who has their eyes on your business and marketplace. Also, you have to understand what they’re planning and determine what to do about it. So, don’t make the mistake of relying on only single sources such as Salesforce reports. Establishing what’s really happening with complete impunity is vital.

2. Smart intelligence understands the impact of new technologies

Right now, stories of technology replacing humans are commonplace. Do you have an understanding of how technology is likely to impact your marketplace? Or a conduit to how technology could open up new market opportunities for your business or for that matter your competition? How about technology aiding your productivity? However, this isn’t about product development. It’s about what will happen and how it will impact you.

3. Smart intelligence gives you the heads up on buying, selling and investing

When buying, selling or investing in a business, it’s a mistake to assume financial reports give useful intelligence. These are focused on historical information rather than what is really happening now and is likely to happen shortly. So, the smart thing to do is to confirm historical information, and use matrices to supplement historical data. In other words, find out about the skeletons in the cupboard.

4. Smart intelligence protects what you have

Can you be entirely sure that there are no dangers lurking within your organisation? Are plans being made to take vital information, secrets or practices to set up in competition? The truth is this happens more frequently than many business leaders realise. It’s usually a complete shock and can be utterly devastating when it happens. Be proactive, and be informed ahead of events. Smart intelligence protects your business.

5. Smart intelligence supports you to build international business

The challenges of building new opportunities can be daunting. So imagine the problems like those above happening in entirely unknown territories. By engaging professional support that is intimately aware of the local dynamics, culture and political landscape – and a whole host of things the export advisors never tell you – you can have more confidence in the people and country that you are investing in.

6. Smart intelligence ensures you have the right people

How much work do recruiters really undertake to fully inform you about the people you may be placing great store in? Smart intelligence gives you the heads up on new senior employees, business partners, suppliers and service providers.

There many protocols you can apply before making decisions to engage with people before you commit. Even in this age of technology, people are the ones that make the difference, cost the most and can be your biggest asset or most significant liability.

Thank you www.octopusintelligence.co.uk

Who are we? We provide a range of services for improving your internal intelligence capacity, making sure you get what you need and it does what you need it to. 

Our clients are smart.

They recognise the vital importance of intelligence in their planning and strategic activity.

We’re there for them anytime, anywhere, any issues. As a global organisation, we’re dedicated to and passionate about discreetly and efficiently delivering intelligence.

Call us on 0844 499 6179.

Girl starting a race representing How to start Competitive Intelligence to beat your competitors?

How to start competitive intelligence to beat your competitors?

By | Intelligence

It is a highly competitive and tough environment.

Intelligence gives you insight into the market.

But it is easier said than done.

When asking us to find intelligence on their competitors and markets, some of our clients struggle to determine what they really need.

The problem is that the subject can be too vast, without the parameters needed to define the scope of the research.

Because we want to build long term relationships – and because our researchers need clarity in their objectives – we suggest you consider this process next time you need some intelligence:

Competition:

Agree who you believe to be your main direct and indirect competitors.

Markets:

Answer these questions. What markets you are looking at? Are they new or existing markets? Do you know enough about them?

Engagement:

Define what you need to know and what you will do with the intelligence.
Create an Intelligence Statement, which should be no more than two lines and ideally one sentence.

Questions:

Agree on a set of Key Intelligence Questions (and associated actions) which need answering. Any more than five and you should consider splitting the project in two.

Actions:

Ask what are you going to do with the Competitive Analysis once you have it.

Any Competitive Intelligence Agency worth their salt will want to work with you on these questions to find the right Competitive Analysis.
These questions will create structure, clarification, a focus, reduced mission creep and a certainty that the relevant intelligence has (or hasn’t) been found.

In the future, you may want to introduce relevant ongoing monitoring and reporting that uses structured analytical techniques to improve the quality of your Intelligence Analysis.

Gaining such levels of intelligence will enable you to make better decisions and create sustainable and truly effective marketing campaigns.

Interested in know more? Please contact us or sign up to our daily one liner here. Follow us on Twitter.

Sweet jars representing Competitive data in silos is not good

Competitive data in silos is not good

By | Intelligence

Your data has hidden depths

So it’s time to stop keeping data in silos.

The key to your next brand-rocking campaign could lie within your powerful competitive intelligence but unless you know how to turn that information and intelligence into inspiring marketing messages. And then get these messages out there to the right audience in the real world.  So you’ve still only explored the tip of the iceberg.

You could be doing more with your intelligence.

Turn insight into action and outcomes.

Put your marketing brains on.

The benefits of combining intelligence and marketing could include:

    • Improved customer relationships and customer retention
    • Wider or more profitable customer attraction
    • Also, damage limitation and brand clarity – and more.

Don’t let your Intelligence end with the report. Use it to improve marketing by driving insight-led campaigns to show the rest of the world how amazing you really are, compared to your competitors.

The facts are at your fingertips.
Use them.

That’s why octopus works with Inbetween within our core intelligence product and our Brand Intelligence offering.  To identify the hidden potential embedded within the intelligence that we conduct for our clients.

So. if you are interested in knowing more? Please contact us or sign up to our daily one liner here. Follow us on Twitter.

Powerful ways to exploit your competitive intelligence discoveries

By | Intelligence

Don’t underestimate the value of competitive intelligence.

It can pave the way for new, effective strategies. Allow you to get an edge on your rivals and help you discover insights that can change the way you do business, forever.

But unless intelligence and apply the key recommendations, there is a risk that its value can become hidden, or lost, forever. As you may know Octopus help companies make better decisions. Because, thanks to us, they have the right intelligence at their fingertips.

Our intelligence gives them the power of knowledge; the power to change the way they do business. And potentially the power to change lives.

Often large companies request Competitive Intelligence by one party in order to solve a particular problem and the reports are then shelved.

Hoarding outlawed!

Imagine if, instead of hoarding intelligence and  the original questions answered? Shared around the business in a way that added value to every department it touched.

Answering simple questions about your competitors often leads to a myriad of potential opportunities. And early warning of threats. It’s actually an iceberg.  The first piece of information is simply the tip.  Hidden far below the immediate answers is the bit that changes your business for the better.

Competitive intelligence can obviously be used to benefit your research and product development departments, and your sales strategy. But it can also provide a direct and indirect benefit to your marketing strategy.

That’s why Octopus works with Inbetween Together we produce a core intelligence product, a Brand Intelligence offering, and a Content Strategy solution. To identify the hidden potential embedded within the intelligence that we provide for our clients.

Competitive intelligence is an exclusive game

By | Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence War Games: a new weapon to advance your business

Have you heard of Competitive Intelligence? So,  you may be looking to move ahead of your competition? Do you need fresh insight to make important decisions while keeping your team onside? Also, Are you facing a tricky situation and need to change the direction your ship is heading?

Make better informed decisions

Here’s a great way to make better informed decisions. It’s called War Games, and it’s one of the best tools in the Competitive Intelligence armoury.

A War Game is a military and business exercise which you carry out to test or improve your tactical expertise. Different scenarios and actions are thrown into the exercise, and teams have to react to them. These teams represent your company and your competitors. It’s a highly effective way to test your assumptions about your ever-changing competitive environment, also helping your organisation to better understand itself and move forward confidently.

How to play a War Game

Playing a War Game is rather like playing a board game such as Risk or Chess.

First, split your people into teams. Each team should represent a competitor and other external influences such as a government or regulator. One team must represent your own company. The teams acting as your competitor must become your competitor. They should study them, and think how they think. They should research them and get under their skin. Each team should map the current business situation and assess what could happen in the future.

You will need an umpire to assess each teams’ success and determine how realistic their plans are, and an independent external facilitator to avoid your company culture and viewpoints leaking into the findings.

Next, create a number of rounds to represent a period of time spanning a couple of months (if you are being tactical) or one or two years (to be more strategic).

Creating a new strategy

Once each team has an understanding of the competitor it represents, it goes away to create a growth strategy to enable it to win the game. The strategy and plans must be realistic. It’s important that each team must be able to achieve its strategy in real life.

The teams must then reconvene and present their plans. The opposing teams and judges can ask probing questions. This questioning represents the end of the 1st round. Assumptions are explained, and the teams can use a myriad of software analysis tools available to do so.

However, it is essential that the War Game is run in an old-fashioned way. This means people interacting face-to-face in the same room (with break-out rooms) using paper, flip charts, pens and Post-It notes. You need to feel what’s going on and watch the teams’ reactions to feedback and comments from the umpires and other teams.

Reviewing plans

The 2nd round consists each team going away and reviewing their plans and strategies following the 1st round’s presentations. As well as presenting its plans, each team should also attempt to predict the other teams’ thoughts and ideas and perhaps counter what the other teams are planning to do.

For each strategy and action plan, teams must detail the resources and funding needed. If they are not currently available to the competitor, they should tell the judges how they intend to get them.

Rule nothing out

The whole process can get very heated and feel very real, and the passion will bring some cracking ideas to the fore. War Games also prove to be great fun for everyone taking part.

Military and intelligence organisations play such strategic games all the time, answering questions like “What if Israel joins the bombing campaign in Syria?” or “What if Russia invades Lithuania?” You can do the same. “What if Competitor X brings out a game-changing product?” etc.

Throughout, nothing should be ruled out. Judges can throw a spanner in the works, and if it makes sense for two teams to merge, then this can happen too. You can bring “What if…” rounds into the game asking the teams to devise their actions on a scenario. The reactions and final outcomes are really powerful and give you amazing insight to what your enemy could do and feel.

Selecting the winner

Once your War Game is finished, each team writes up its findings and the umpires bring everything together. The winning team is decided by the umpires, but there is nothing wrong with opposing teams providing input too.
Ultimately, the result is that your entire organisation is the winner, with the War Game process answering your most pressing and important questions, such as:
Given the situation you face are there any benefits of a surprise and how much do you think it will cost you?

Strategy

Do you want to focus on one strategy or test a number of alternatives?
How about developing a company-wide culture of strategic thinking to help you develop new ideas, services and products?
Are you sick of those immediate, let’s do it now crises?
Do you want to find a great way to bond your team together, which does not include the pub and a karaoke machine?

Consider this valuable extension to your War Game

Another extremely useful tool – as used by the CIA – is the Red Team model. The Red Team is a group of people which has not been involved in your War Game so far. It looks at what you have decided to do and your reasoning behind it. It will then attempt to completely discredit the plan and provide reasons why the plan would not work.

This is not as daft as it may sound. Looking to discredit the plan could (and does) reveal glaring gaps in the decision makers thinking and helps counter groupthink. Red Teams can save a lot of time and resources by at least making you think about every possible scenario.

Find out more today

War Games offer you new ways to think about your businesses, competitors and your decisions – as well as getting your team onside with a complete understanding of your strategy – as a simulated experience. War Games are a great weapon to help you win in real life.

retained red ship

How to help ships safely navigate angry waters with powerful counter intelligence

By | Intelligence

Your information has real value to many people. And it’s not just your secret ingredients or patents either. So why do so many companies happily give their valuable information to competitors on a plate?

The fact is, competitive intelligence can be collected more easily than you may think – ethically and legally too. So where can they find information about you?

A good Competitive Intelligence (CI) consultant will link lots of information together from many sources to build a picture.

For example, they can read a situation from company newsletters and press releases. It‘s also relatively easy to get information on the phone. It just takes time. A telephone call taken when you’re on the hop can reveal a single piece of information. 20 phone calls to other people in your organisation will reveal even more.

There are also many elicitation techniques used when chatting at a conference, trade show or networking. Add beer to the equation and, bingo, more information is revealed.

Intelligence against you

It’s not just companies who want your information. Countries have corporate intelligence functions too.

The Japanese have an open intelligence operation. The Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) is often seen at conferences and trade shows. Usually, they’re the ones with the large cameras, claiming not to be able to read the ‘no photography’ signs! Russia and China don’t work to the same rules as Competitive Intelligence Agencies, but neither do the French, Israeli, German or US government agencies either.

Again, there’s no reason to make it easy for them.

Why would someone spy on you?

There are plenty of reasons. Do you have a new growth strategy? Has this affected a competitor or supplier? Have you taken a slice of work off a competitor or moved into someone else’s patch?

Getting noticed means you are doing something right. But your success is going to disrupt someone else. They may well be looking to retaliate.

Counter Intelligence

So how do you reduce your competitors’ chances of finding information about you?

Frontline: First, make sure your receptionist is Competitive Intelligence savvy. Often forgotten, they hold significant knowledge about your company. They are the front line and come in regular contact with outsiders.

Phone: Have a phone policy where everyone asks who is calling, where from and their contact number in case they get cut off.

Trade shows: At trade shows, brief the team about people asking too many questions. When talking to an interested person ask for their card and dig into their background. Don’t let them take photographs.

Conferences: Record all documents you have at a conference. Check them in and don’t leave them hanging around. When presenting material to an audience, are you giving more than the information you want to give them? Tell them what they need to know, nothing more. This is especially true in the Q&A session (where it’s easy to let your guard down).

People

Employees: Over-enthusiastic employees keen to impress must aware what they are saying to people. Boasts about how great your latest product is could be heard by the wrong person. Keep a close eye on disgruntled employees. They may be out for revenge or working for your competitor in the future. Keep them on-side and depart as friends.

Recruitment: When placing a job advert online look at what you’re saying about your organisation. Are you giving away your expansion or relocation plans?

Travel: Talking about your company on a mobile phone or to a colleague on flights and trains or is unwise. Even more so if you are travelling to a trade conference. Your competitors are likely to be on the same flight.

Documentation: Does your public documentation include information which could be useful to a competitor?

After hours: Make sure your salespeople are aware of what they’re talking about in hotel lounges and restaurants. Try and stop work talk on a Friday night in the pub.

It’s vital to test your defences.

If you have a CI team or a friendly CI Agency, get them to collect against you. See what they can find. Have your CI team brief trade show attendees to determine what to look out for. Review all documentation, marketing and press releases.

Ask what does it reveal about you? It‘s important to:

  • Assess your vulnerabilities
  • Determine the competitive threat
  • Decide what you need to protect yourself
  • Develop countermeasures
  • Review your counter intelligence processes

CI is part of business. Use it to gain an advantage, just as your competitors do against you. Competition is healthy.
It’s rare for a traditional competitor to destroy you, but is there any point leaving the door open for them?
Any questions? Feel free to get in touch with me on graeme@octopusintelligence.co.uk

two people looking at a MAC in Market Surprise

Market surprise is reduced with competitive intelligence

By | Intelligence

A Market surprise is common. They didn’t realise that their competitor supplied to a worldwide manufacturer. We couldn’t believe they didn’t know either, but that knowledge was worth £10m+ of very winnable business.

Companies focus on the day job and often miss the most obvious of things.

This is where CI can reveal amazing results, even if you do it yourself.

How Intelligence can help

Intelligence also assists you understanding your competitor’s business models and their relative strengths and weaknesses versus your own.
Allows you an insight of the way your competitors do, and plan to do, business based on recent, evidence-based intelligence, rather than outdated sets of assumptions.
Assist getting mergers and acquisitions
Shift strategies in time to match the changing realities
It’s not market research it is the ability to out-think, outmanoeuvre and outperform adversaries.
Common mandate in military intelligence is to reduce uncertainty for policy makers
Big picture and long range forecasts.
Helps avoid strategic surprise.
What indications that a competitor is to make a particular move.
It helps executives challenge their own orthodoxies by shedding light on business blind spots, the incorrect assumptions about the competitive arena
Helps ensure that decisions and actions are based on foresight and insight rather than gut feel or industry experience
Intelligence provides managers with a unique source of unbiased news and analysis.
It reinforces a competitive culture in the organisation by means of increased competitor awareness.
Also it helps promote an awareness of threats to the company’s intellectual capital and the need for counter intelligence and counter measures.
It also helps minimise uncertainty.
Need to know more then get in touch here or follow us on twitter and Linkedin