In February 2023 TBR surveyed its client service teams on the state of competitive and market intelligence in 2023. One megatrend stood out in those results — change.
Change comes in many forms. At the highest level, changes within the markets companies play in place new burdens on the type and volume of intelligence. Teams, budgets and organizational structures change constantly. Change can also be its own challenge; markets and teams change, but the need for CI/MI and the deliverables that CI/MI professionals create does not change.
Change typically requires the most precious resource CI/MI professionals have — time. Time is under constant pressure, as CI/MI professionals are asked to do more with less. In many recent cases, this even means doing CI/MI without the benefit of a shared and centralized budget, resources and leadership structure.
As changes continue to disrupt the profession, CI/MI teams and professionals will increasingly look outside for help. They will seek out technologies, third-party analyst and research firms, and other tools that can help them automate and optimize CI/MI and free up available time for the most high-value, impactful projects.
Top 10 Impacts for Competitive and Market Intelligence Professionals in 2023
- Ecosystems of Competition
Demand for CI/MI continues to grow because markets are becoming more competitive. They are not just crowding with small, ankle biter competitors, either. Markets are converging and overlapping, and major established technology vendors are encroaching on each other’s territory. This creates an ecosystem dynamic in CI/MI for technology firms, in which vendors need to not only track their usual suspects but also assess how the broader ecosystem is forming in the area(s) they play in.
- CI/MI Professionals Taking on More Responsibilities
This is the one that most CI/MI professionals have figuratively, if not literally, tattooed on themselves. CI/MI teams are always being asked to provide more resources, answers, assets and support with less time, budget and people. CI/MI professionals must ruthlessly prioritize projects to focus on the greatest areas of impact, lean heavily on third parties for support, and find new ways to activate competitive and market intelligence via self-service, often enabled by technology. In many cases, CI/MI is becoming the full or partial responsibility of business unit or other resources such as product managers, marketers, strategy leaders, and sales enablement, strategy and operations teams.
- Staying the Course
Most CI/MI teams are staying the course for 2023 in terms of their team size, structure and deliverables, despite tech sector and macroeconomic headwinds. If anything, as we said above, they are being asked to do more with the same — or less — resources. For many, CI/MI has become an established mechanism that supports deal pursuits and development of products and services. Making major functional or strategic changes to CI/MI would require eliminating the systems that have been developed to support deal win rates and the other key KPIs that are attributable to CI/MI outcomes.
- Core Deliverables Matter
We have not seen much change in how competitive intelligence is being translated into core deliverables. Competitive battlecards, profiles, benchmarks and newsletters remain common tools to deliver intelligence. Where dividing lines exist is around CI/MI maturity. We find that many less mature organizations are more reactive, request-driven and ad hoc in their approach to deliverables, whereas established programs at larger companies have created embedded programmatic CI/Mi deliverables.
- Live where stakeholders live
Just as core deliverables have not changed much for CI/MI leaders, neither have the methods in which stakeholders seek to consume intelligence. This is suggested by the deliverables themselves. Email remains the most popular way in which to get competitive updates, and newsletters continue to be a popular deliverable for CI/MI teams. The big lesson for CI/MI teams is to take a stakeholder-led approach. Understand what they want and where they want it, and create resources that support that.
- Specialization Everywhere
We believe specialization is going to define the future of CI/MI for practitioners at technology companies and the research firms, agencies, and other types of service providers that support them. In this research, we found no material changes happening in how companies are using third-party research vendors. CI/MI programs still rely heavily on analysts and other providers to augment their internal staff. However, sophisticated programs increasingly demand specialization around the market areas, customer segments, topics and/or services they care most about. As technology tools elevate the baseline of CI/MI, those organizations and providers that can provide specialization via access to nonpublic, direct-from-market data and insights will stand to win.
- Small Teams
Even at the largest global technology organizations, CI/MI teams are typically fewer than 10 FTEs, and often fewer than five. In our surveys, we did not see any indications that companies plan to substantively grow or shrink their teams in 2023. This is why establishing specialized partnerships with research providers and analyst firms is so important; they are a lifeline for time-and-resource-strapped internal teams. This trend also underpins the importance of building a culture of self-service and all-hands-on-deck CI/MI.
- Empowering Self-service
Self-service is the foundation of all small CI/MI programs and increasingly a priority for larger teams at bigger vendors. Through CI platforms like Crayon and Klue, solo CI/MI professionals can establish a baseline program and deliverable assets and activate through self-service, freeing up their time to respond to ad hoc field requests versus build standard deliverables. At larger organizations, the trend is to move in a similar direction where possible. A key challenge we have heard from CI/MI teams is how to design (and reinforce) systems to make sure that stakeholders know exactly where and how to collect the self-service resources they require.
- Manage Centrally; Empower Everyone
The best CI/MI programs at organizations of all sizes focus on building a CI/MI sharing culture. Having the full support of an organization collecting and disseminating intelligence and insights can greatly amplify the resources of the core team. We have seen great examples of how companies are using Slack, lunch-and-learn meetings, and other similar vehicles to promote CI/MI wins outside of the centralized CI/MI organization. There is a catch, however: This type of strategy does not eliminate the need for a centralized and dedicated CI/MI team. A central team is necessary to quarterback the process, provide a baseline program of assets and resources, and be available for ad hoc requests and questions.
- Technology Enables but Does Not Replace
The emergence of CI platforms is probably the biggest technology disruption in CI/MI, but there are others on the horizon. Just as tools are being built for marketers that leverage OpenAI’s ChatGPT and other functionalities, a new crop of AI tools will emerge for CI/MI use cases. For example, in 2022 a new startup named 1up emerged, billing itself as “the competitive AI.” Others will follow suit. While these types of tools will automate how publicly available intelligence can be gathered and distributed, they are unlikely to replace intelligence methods such as win/loss interviews or unseat industry and/or sector specialized analysts with nonpublic data and insights. These tools promise to enable CI/MI through efficiencies but will not replace CI/MI roles and services providers. Rather, they will create more demand for unique, differentiated and specialized intelligence.