Developing Internal Market Intelligence Networks

March 14, 2011. Paradoxically, the market intelligence function will be both more centralized as well as more decentralized over the next few years, according to the Market Intelligence Trends 2015 Survey by M-Brain (formerly GIA). This means that organizing and producing intelligence deliverables will become more complex as companies manage a widening web of external and internal intelligence networks. The webinar World Class Market Intelligence Key Success Factors "“ Organization on April 7 looks into many of these questions and provides practical examples related to building and optimizing market intelligence networks.

On one hand, more and more companies will be coordinating, branding and facilitating their intelligence programs centrally, as senior management increasingly recognizes its strategic value. On the other hand, greater decentralization will occur as local and unit-specific intelligence activities themselves become more developed and systematic.

So how are market intelligence teams best organized in global companies? Do separate intelligence silos or integrated think tanks work better?

We ask Hans Hedin, Vice President of Business Development at M-Brain (formerly Global Intelligence Alliance) and co-presenter of the webinar for his thoughts.

Looking into the future, should the market intelligence function be centralized or decentralized for maximum impact?

“Organizations should ideally strengthen both their centralized and decentralized capabilities.

Companies need to ensure that they embed intelligence into business processes better in order to make it part of everyday business. This means making it more decentralized.

On the other hand, centralized teams are needed to manage important activities such as internal market intelligence competence training, network development and administration of the market intelligence portal on both headquarters and local levels. The centralized team is also best placed to share best practices in analysis models, information sources and reporting templates, as well as to conduct market intelligence for the corporate head office.

There are some companies that are so large that regional units alone are sizable enough to have their own centrally coordinated intelligence programs. At other companies, the business lines are so different that it justifies them having independent intelligence programs. There are also numerous examples of companies where the entire intelligence function is operated from the headquarters, and others where there is no HQ-level market intelligence coordination at all.

There is no single solution.”

Can the market intelligence function one day attain complete independence?

“Some respondents to the Market Intelligence Trends 2015 Survey indicated that their intelligence functions could one day stand alone, and not tied to any specific function such as business development, marketing or strategic planning.

I see this as a positive development as this will enable intelligence teams to be neutral stakeholders in the organization, focused on delivering to both top management and other intelligence end users across the organization.

Nevertheless, this standalone function must still ensure that it will be able to manage local initiatives and see that market intelligence is embedded into business processes in a solid way.”

What should be managed internally and what should be outsourced?

“Basic market intelligence activities should be outsourced so that the internal focus is on more advanced impact analysis and generating high-impact deliverables as well as on sourcing knowledge from inside the organization.

For example, monitoring news, blogs, websites and analysis reports can be outsourced. Increasingly, companies are also looking to outsource the management of their entire information source portfolio in the interest of optimizing subscription costs.

The generation of company or industry profiles, regular sales leads reports or monthly industry briefings can also be outsourced.

With the increasing maturity of the market intelligence profession, it is also typical for a company to hire an experienced market intelligence consultant to build up its in-house capability or to further develop the capabilities of one that has been operating for a number of years.

Right now, I am involved in about 10 market intelligence development projects where we will use the results from the M-Brain (formerly GIA) Global Market Intelligence Survey 2011 to benchmark different organizations’ market intelligence capability with peer companies and global best practices. Based on the results, we provide recommendations how the individual companies should develop their intelligence organization along the key success factors for market intelligence.”

The Market Intelligence Trends 2015 Survey also revealed that intelligence deliverables will increasingly move towards interactive dialogue between various stakeholders of the organization. How does this work in practice?

“One of the keys is to incentivize knowledge sharing with intelligence end users.

Contrary to what people often think, information is power when it is shared, not when it is withheld. Large portions of the required knowledge most likely already exist in the organization.

One common advice I give to companies is to increase their co-creation intelligence capabilities. This means running workshops, giving briefing sessions and engaging in dialogue with intelligence users in order to create intelligence together ““ and not just to collect it.

The role of the market intelligence professional will then be more like a facilitator or a consultant. I think that most companies would benefit from running interactive scenario workshops, War Games, megatrends discussions, intelligence lunching sessions and other forms of intelligence related interactive activities, in addition to providing the more standard intelligence deliverables like reports, market signal analysis, etc.

Intelligence practitioners can be influential activators by giving recognition to people who contribute, as well as by showing how their input creates value in the organization. Providing examples and high quality deliverables enables people to understand that both intelligence practitioners and end users gain from knowledge sharing. For example, competitor beat sheets produced by the market intelligence team become even better and more accurate if sales people give their feedback.

An environment of trust is important. Don’t hoard information from people who also share information with you, and try to also arrange face-to-face meetings where people can get to know each other, build trust and get motivated about sharing information. People’s participation will depend on the intelligence culture that exists in the organization. But executing interactive workshops is also a great way to improve the market intelligence culture in a practical way. Training of market intelligence related issues is also a key success factor for developing a more curious and knowledge driven market intelligence culture.”

What are some other areas that companies often need to consider when building up their market intelligence organization?

“In global organizations, another important consideration is regional intelligence requirements and the value of local expertise. Appointing a local market intelligence coordinator may be a feasible option to support the centralized market intelligence team.

This primarily serves the local end users: For a Sales Manager working in Brazil, it will definitely be easier to approach a local Brazilian intelligence coordinator with their (typically local) ideas and requests than to contact an market intelligence Director sitting perhaps on the other side of the world and looking at the operation from a global perspective.

These local coordinators will only have market intelligence as a part of their job descriptions and perhaps devote 5-20 percent of their time to this. But it will be important in order to make the market intelligence process truly global and embedded in the business.”

What will listeners learn from the webinar “Market Intelligence Key Success Factors ““ Organization” on 7 April 2011?

“The webinar will address many of the questions related to building a market intelligence organization through practical examples and M-Brain (formerly GIA)’s World Class Market Intelligence framework. For instance, we discuss how to make the transfer from data diggers and analysts to trusted advisors, what information can be outsourced and what should be produced internally, as well as the skill set and competence development of market intelligence professionals ““ and others ““ in your organization.

One key thing we will point out is also the importance of embedding market intelligence into critical business processes like strategy, marketing and sales, R&D, supply chain management and other processes.

What’s more, a case study by Merck & Co. will highlight how expert teams are built in practice. We also explain the difference between expert teams and market intelligence networks, helping listeners to understand why each should be developed.”

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