By Dr. Ben Gilad, ACI Faculty

When Jan and I created the first formal CI functions in the US – Jan at Motorola and I at Kellogg, the position was reporting directly to the companies’ leaders. Over the years, that proximity to top executive, which was a source of impact and prestige, and led to hugely successful careers, has eroded significantly. Today the vast majority of CI practitioners report to functions deep inside marketing, and lack access to top executives.

There are several reasons for this sorry saga:

  1. Focus on competitors rather than competition.
  2. Focus on information rather than intelligence.
  3. Inability to establish an ROI.

Some of these ills are self-inflicted. Rather than getting CIP™ certified, which equips the CI analyst with the framework to develop strategic insights, many CI practitioners settle into an information fetcher existence, which is easier and lazier.

Once or twice a year, these managers attend some conference learning little besides hiring more vendors. They develop no expertise and no credibility. They are so low on the corporate totem, they have no career prospects.

I call their job “busy work” of shuffling information from one place to another. These managers would rather become human search engines and inquiry desks than stick their necks out and insist on a job which is not an information fetcher or librarian but a Competition Analyst. They earn little, last a few years and typically get laid off when the times get tough.

When bosses are ignorant

Not all CI managers are happy doing a marginal job. I often run into cases where the CI manager is visionary, bright and eager to do real work, but his or her immediate manager is a bureaucrat with little understanding of what CI means. A significant cause of the deterioration of CI into a glorified information service or marginal “tradecraft” nonsense lies with management. Interpreting the job as competitor babysitting, the executives pushed it down to product/marketing level and made it tactical as tactical can be. One unintended consequence was that the people appointed to the job had no analytical inclination (except for “searching”), and the ROI of their activities has been very low or impossible to determine.

Assuming you are not one of the information searches crowd or a vendor purchasing clerk, what can you do to get back into the position of power and influence we once had?

The answer is in front of you

Simply put, the answer is in front of you, but you need to grab it. It requires that you devise a clear strategy how to ride the latest corporate wagon. As the Economist reports, corporate universities are now all the rage! Their numbers have swelled to over 2000, and they train hundreds of thousands of managers inside companies. Corporate universities have become so hot, they are replacing executive MBAs as the foremost means for companies to train (or is it “indoctrinate”?) their next generation of leaders.

That’s great news because for the first time, we have a vehicle to explain to management what CI means (and why it is not a glorified information fetcher job). Before we had to “rely” on academia and MBA programs, which never actually got the hang of CI. Now we have a tool which impact can be as big as the internet’s impact on dating. With better results, too.

It’s really up to you- do or..?

The smartest, most impactful strategy for a CI analyst to change the job from fetching to influencing is to get into these universities, one way or another. Either you get the executive in charge of the program (typically an HR person) to let you run a session on CI, or you bring the Academy to run a session on the true value of the Competition Analyst and the focal point of CI- Strategic Early Warning. That is a surefire way to change your job description and your future, riding the current wave of every company’s race for agility.

The alternative is “busy work”, low salary, and low job satisfaction. Now go knock on HR’s door. Don’t take No for an answer. It’s your life, it’s your career, and hoping busy work or your vendors will save your job is as delusional as hoping the Greek economy will save itself.