By Jan Herring, ACI Faculty

I continue to be surprised by how many class members acknowledge that their companies do not have an agreed upon or formal definition of intelligence, i.e. competitive, market, technology or other forms of business intelligence. I have asked the question of every class since the Academy started in 1999 and the number of affirmative answers has not varied, less than 5%. Subsequently, I provide some instructional information and advice, and assign them the task of beginning the definitional process when they return to their organizations. (This is one of the three (3) “home-work” assignments that are made in the course.)

Why is this important? Most CI organizations serve a variety of customers, i.e. strategists, market researchers, sales & marketing, finance, R&D, supply-chain managers and even human resources. And Executives that need intelligence in making their business decisions and taking the resulting actions. Unless each knows what “Intelligence” is and how to ask for it, the likelihood you will be producing what they actually need is problematic. Until they have a common definition of intelligence, each is left with his or her own expectations. Some might believe you produce an advanced form of library research. Others, that you might use questionable or unethical means to acquire it and get the company in trouble. And a third, that knows better, and expects the type of legal & ethical intelligence that provides them analytical insight and competitive foresight, and in turn provides the company true competitive advantage. But until the company has that common definition, your users will be left to “guess” which it is.

The other two (2) home-work assignments were: 1) Ensure that your company has an explicit set of Legal & Ethical Guidelines for CI and that they were/are jointly developed with the Legal Department; and 2) That you have or develop a formal CI Mission statement and/or description – which is the best way to define and manage you users expectations of the CI function.

Just a reminder that you have home-work assignments – get them done and let me know how it is going.