Will Competitive Intelligence Managers Join the C-Suite One Day?

There has been an ongoing debate in recent years about whether competitive intelligence professionals should step into the role of strategy advisors and join the C-suite.

There has been an ongoing debate in recent years about whether competitive intelligence professionals should step into the role of strategy advisors and join the C-suite. In the Market intelligence Trends 2020 survey by GIA/M-Brain, 68 percent of the competitive intelligence managers surveyed expect to actively give opinions and advice on C-suite decisions by the year 2020. This is also evident in one-on-one consultancy sessions at M-Brain Conferences (formerly GIA Conferences), where many competitive intelligence managers seek advice on how to improve their personal advisory skills for the C-suite.


C-suite executives are certainly open to competitive intelligence managers becoming their sparring partner, rather than being only providers of unbiased researched data. We often find that CEOs, CMOs and other senior managers say that they are open to seeing more consultative options and suggestions from their competitive intelligence managers. The key issue is whether competitive intelligence professionals themselves can step up to the plate – both on a real, practical level and on a perception level.

Through our work for companies with world-class intelligence systems in place, we have noticed some consistent best practices from competitive intelligence managers that do join the C-suite:


1) Intelligence expertise

This may sound obvious but competitive intelligence is constantly evolving. Markets drivers are different while business models are disruptive and are going beyond borders. Intelligence work today requires new insights, methodologies, tools and interaction. Intelligence professionals need to look at customers, competition and market drivers – by using primary research, secondary research and multimedia monitoring. An increase in research and analytical capabilities is urgently needed, particularly in the area of business intelligence, big data and digital risk management, and competitive intelligence managers need to be prepared.


2) Expertise in their stakeholders’ businesses

To be a true business partner and trusted advisor, competitive intelligence managers should be able to talk about what needs to be defended, what should be accelerated and what can be created, and identify the drivers, shifts, market dynamics, trends, customer behavior, competitor strategic moves, and so on, even before they are asked. They must ensure they are capable of seeing the bigger picture beyond the data along three axes; the current situation, the desired new situation and the transition “from here to there”.


3) Informal feedback loops

They must also develop the clout and relationships within their organizations through which they can circulate “prototype” solutions for input and feedback. As one competitive intelligence manager puts it; “In taking a consultative approach, we must remember there is a nine out of 10 chance our recommendations can fall flat if we don’t make an effort to solicit feedback from key stakeholders beforehand. This way, you can achieve buy-in faster from the overall group by using your formal or informal communications networks with key stakeholders. Otherwise you run the risk of presenting something to the executive body that they already know or are not interested in.”


By keeping these three areas in mind, it is not inconceivable that the majority of competitive intelligence managers will join the C-suite by the year 2020. Does your C-suite have an extra seat prepared?


By Joost Drieman, Chairman of M-Brain Conference (formerly GIA Conference) and VP of Intelligence Best Practices at M-Brain


The M-Brain Conference s a three-day event for professionals focusing on the key strategic success factors of Market and Competitive Intelligence. It is internationally recognized as the best intelligence conference with 100% recommendation. Why? Because the conference is characterized by in-depth workshops, practical case presentations, thought provoking panel discussions, interactive roundtable sessions and a lot of networking opportunities. And it is vendor free.

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