By Dr. Ben Gilad, ACI Faculty

If you are a competitive intelligence professional, you are probably worried about being outsourced. There are alternatives such as an outfit in India, a large information vendor or a software program. More on the latter at the end.

With the hype about AI and The Cloud and other UFOs, should you be worried?

No. Instead the CEO who decides to outsource CI should. Here is why:

  1. A PwC survey of CEOs in 2014 revealed that “CEOs plan their strategies to take advantage of transformational shifts”. This is probably even more urgent for these CEOs today.
  2. In preparing for transformation, the survey reported, CEOs “are also assessing their current capabilities – and finding that everything is fair game for reinvention.”


  1. The process by which transformational shifts themselves become known to these CEOs and their organizations should be the first capability to be re-invented. It is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition.

Supporting evidence:

  1. According to a HBR article, this is where most executives fail. “An adequate information system,” Peter Drucker wrote, must lead executives “to ask the right questions, not just feed them the information they expect. That presupposes first that executives know what information they need.”
  2. According to John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, firms need “new architectures” designed to increase the flow of information and learning inside and outside the organization’s walls.

In CI we call it Strategic Early Warning (SEW) system.

  1. The President of the division of the medical device company that outsourced intelligence to India is gone. The CEO of the Pharma company that outsourced CI to a vendor, is gone too. These outsourcing tactics are both inefficient and fail to consider Drucker’s law.

Knowledge about knowledge

Peter Drucker was the pioneer in recognizing the value of early knowledge. Before his death in 2005, Drucker declared that increasing the productivity of knowledge workers was “the most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century.”

Charles Koch, one the most open-minded and admired CEOs in the US today (and probably globally as well, and a lightning rod for the Ludicrous Ole Left), is among the few that recognized the importance of knowledge at a practical, business culture. In a recent interview he said, “..we’ve got to build better information sources, better knowledge sharing, and have a challenge culture here — that no one has all the answers. And if you’re a leader at any level and your people aren’t challenging you, you’ve got to change that.”

In CI we call it the “intelligence perspective”. Done right, it challenges assumptions. It changes management mindsets. It affects strategy.   

Northern  Light?

Deloitte’s Hagel calls for a new “new architecture” for information flows. Drucker observed that employees know more than their supervisors do about their specialty and about customers. “Knowledge workers have to manage themselves.”

Here is the gist of all of this:

I recently trained the customer-facing employees at a Boston-based company called NorthernLight in the basic CI frameworks. The company offers what I consider the ideal solution to the age old dilemma facing CI managers: overwhelming demand for tactical information which leaves them no time for the crucial transformational intelligence.

As far as I can tell, the company is unique in its space. Or maybe it is just the only smart one to call on us to teach them what customers need.. With a combination of advanced search technology and human editors, and working with the clients’ traditional information vendors, it creates a portal for managers whereby they can search relevant information easily. Unlike google, it doesn’t display noise. Furthermore, it allows the CI manager to tailor the portal beyond the standard mode, to enable deeper dive compared with the users.

In other word, this is “outsourcing” which should be welcomed by all CI managers.  In one clean, elegant and simple to use screen, the hapless, overexposed, underutilized CI analyst is freed from the task of answering random management questions that simply ask to share what is already known.

It fits perfectly with Drucker’s model of “Knowledge workers have to manage themselves.”

Don’t fear change- embrace it

That leaves the CI analyst to focus on the more strategic role. Instead of sharing what is known, and feeding management what they expect, the CI analyst can become a strategic early warning leader.

The SEW Leader nudges management to ask the right questions.

The SEW leader provides users only with what they need to make new discoveries.

No sane CEO outsources this capability.