How to Set Up World Class Market Intelligence Programs

August 31, 2010. Market intelligence practitioners have grappled with multiple challenges for a long while. How to develop a company’s internal intelligence network? How to gain insights in a broad range of specialized topics? How to share market signals? How to maximize the output from internal resources? Economic instability, global competition, marketplace changes and changing customer demands have added urgency to finding the answers to these questions.

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

What are some trends in market intelligence?

“There have been some positive trends that help address these questions.

Companies with more sophisticated market intelligence functions are now using social media sources and applications to collect, analyze and share information. They are integrating wikis, social media websites, crowd analysis tools and other applications into their intelligence process.

Companies have also started to outsource the collection, structuring and analysis of their information. This approach can successfully reduce the time and resources required to identify sources, collect and structure information, and develop a company-wide intelligence system. Company staff can then focus on managing internal knowledge and integrating intelligence into key business processes.

By outsourcing strategic research, companies can utilize external experts to gain insight into a broad range of topics. This is especially true for medium sized companies that are expanding their businesses into international markets. They may not have adequate market intelligence programs in place nor are they able to build them in time.”

What difference do world class market intelligence systems make?

“The main difference is the ability to identify business opportunities and avoid threats.

In addition, companies often waste resources and time due to faulty or inaccurate business information. According to the 2009 Global Market Intelligence survey by M-Brain (formerly GIA), businesses with organised market intelligence systems and tools reduce resource wastage by as much as 50%!

Having market intelligence information organised, stored and readily available within the company’s enterprise system can save users at least 1.5 hours a week on average. That effectively accumulates to about 9.5 days a year for each end-user. That’s not to mention the ability to make better and faster decisions and act on opportunities or threats.

By continuously exposing end-users to fresh intelligence, world-class intelligence systems facilitate shared understanding and insight creation. At the end of the day, companies with better, faster and shared intelligence get to stay “˜ahead of the game’!

Regrettably, companies can invest several hundred thousand dollars in such systems but don’t spend enough time to influence the usage of the information. We have noticed that fostering the right internal culture is essential in ensuring that tools end up adding value to decision making.”

What are some personal tips you have on setting up market intelligence systems?

“First of all, involve a cross section of your managerial staff. Sales executives, general managers and other staff who spend a lot of time outside the organization often have valuable market information, which should not be missed out on. Find ways to integrate their input into the company’s market intelligence systems. A proper intelligence audit and an intelligence needs analysis are normally the first steps that need to be taken. If conducted properly, an intelligence program will have a positive impact on corporate decision-making.

Secondly, make sure the resulting information and analysis is useful. This may sound obvious but the implementation can be wrought with challenges. It is important to focus on and prioritize the information that is absolutely vital and the “˜why’, “˜when’, and “˜to whom’.
At M-Brain (formerly GIA), we talk about decision point intelligence. This means that you need to identify key decisions that are made annually, quarterly, monthly or on an ad-hoc basis and ensure that these are supported with appropriate intelligence. This should be done for all business critical processes like sales, marketing, strategy, product development, human resources and supply chain management, just to name a few. I recommend establishing an intelligence product portfolio that includes basic intelligence deliverables such as market size and market share statistics as well as more sophisticated and future oriented deliverables such as scenario analysis.

Next, educate and bring others onboard. It is important to cultivate a culture that supports team effort and knowledge sharing through the market intelligence enterprise system as well as through other channels. Consider conducting system orientation sessions when new employees join. Use collaborative platforms more actively. Recognise employees who actively contribute useful market information into the system.

Some companies have also started to outsource parts of their market intelligence function, such as identifying information sources, collecting external information, structuring information, developing information portals. Outsourcing gives companies more time to manage internal knowledge and integrate their market intelligence for maximum impact on their business.

Also, keep an open mind and ensure that you examine and cover all aspects of your company’s external environment, beyond the “˜usual suspects’, and include such information into your market intelligence information system. This could involve macro-economic issues outside your markets, new technological innovations, global consumer trends or politics in neighbouring countries, for example.

Intelligence program managers today need to go beyond the basic ad-hoc intelligence that only supports the existing strategy. They need to develop the capability to identify business opportunities and threats continuously. You can call that an early warning or opportunity system which can provide input to challenge and change the existing strategy.”

What can we learn from the upcoming webinar on “How to Set Up World Class Market Intelligence Programs”?

“We present a practical methodology for setting up market intelligence programs. Based on the collective learning from programs that have been implemented in Europe, the US and Asia, we will provide a step-by-step overview of the best practices and share the lessons learnt.

Participants will learn how to ensure a future oriented intelligence scope, how to create decision point intelligence, how to design an intelligence product portfolio, how to develop internal networks and how to apply basic marketing principles to the intelligence program.

Furthermore, I am very happy that Mr. Noam Sahbti from Vertex Pharmaceuticals will describe his experience from setting up intelligence programs in four different companies.

I promise that this will be a great webinar for companies that are interested in setting up or improving their intelligence capabilities!”

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