At the Academy, we’ve been very aware of the challenges facing CI practitioners in their daily work in Corporate America or Europe. In every workshop we run we face questions from practitioners about how to overcome some common challenges to intelligence effectiveness in Corporate. To the best of our knowledge, no one tried to actually quantify the most frequent complaints.
The 2015 survey of the FGH Academy’s alumni asked specifically: “What frustrates you the most on the job?” The answers can be grouped into 3 large categories.
Nothing frustrates more than seeing your hard work go into a black hole and nothing happens. Forty-three of the responses cited “no action on analysis” as their greatest peeve. This finding correlates closely with what makes CI people happy in their career: feeling a purpose. As table 1 shows, managers who expressed satisfaction with their career choice, were significantly less frustrated with management ignoring their recommendations or taking no action at all (p=0.05).
Table 1: job satisfaction and source of frustration
Narrow focus – wrong focus
The work of competition analysts may be a lonely job – one of the most often mentioned frustration (36%) was that the company failed to integrate competition analysis with other functions working on the environment, thereby diminishing the analysts’ ability to see the big picture. Instead, management pigeon-holes the CI manager as “competitor monitoring” and loses view of the bigger picture in the market. That frustration received additional “votes” from respondents frustrated by lack of connection to strategy (close to a quarter of responses), the tactical nature of management requests (almost a third of responses) and management ignoring proactive recommendations. A quarter of the respondents claimed their management doesn’t want to hear what they didn’t ask for. That’s a classic ostrich approach to strategy and competing.
All over the place
Several of the issues that received at least quarter of the votes clustered around lack of focus in deploying competitive intelligence. “High marks” were given to being pulled in many different directions, being asked to get answers without understanding how the information would be used, and being asked for information that was actually not what the requester needed for the decision they had to make.
Frustrations, at least, are global
Cultures differ, language differs but managerial frustration seems to cross the ocean. In comparing the main triggers of frustration between the US and Europe- those issues gathering more than 1/3 of the responses – the similarity was striking:
Chart 1: What frustrates you is universal
Not all is lost
Lest it seems as if CI analysts are desperate and all management is short-sighted or paralyzed, we should note that the overwhelming majority of CI practitioners (close to 90%) were quite happy with their direct bosses who they saw as supportive and responsive and appreciative of their work. Their desire to have a larger impact beyond just “doing their job” reflects a group of ambitious, involved and dedicated professionals. Management should take advantage of this zeal.
When do executives notice and use intelligence?
The majority of those polled did report effective use of CI, at least most of the time. What made the difference? Based on our survey findings, corporate intelligence analysts experience far less frustration and have far better impact when they:
- Have intimate knowledge of the industry walking into the job. Not surprisingly, analysts with intimate industry knowledge carry gravitas with management. Management hands them bigger problems, not just the small tactical issues. It brings them into strategy formulation.
- Sit close to decision makers. Corporate intelligence professionals today are almost always certified and are experts in assessing third party’s moves. However, none of that expertise makes a difference if their analysis gets filtered and “massaged”, as was the alleged case with the intelligence reports on ISIS that made it up the ladder. While political filtering can’t be avoided completely, closer proximity to the decision maker seems to be the single most effective remedy: In the crucial area of product strategy, where failure can spell bankruptcy in commercial enterprises, more than 61% of those intelligence analysts that were directly reporting to the executive suite were called to advise on that strategy. That percentage dropped precipitously to just over 27% if the analysts were even three levels removed from management.
Last word: of course our survey is not representative. The overwhelming majority of responses came from certified practitioners (both CIP-I and CIP-II). You need to know how valuable intelligence can be to be frustrated when it is not optimally used. The frustrations of “search technicians” or information “specialists” might be very different.
It should be interesting to compare the frustrations of government senior analysts to our private sector sample. Though the stakes might be different, the No Action or confirmatory pressures might be similar.