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Business Intelligence 101

Imagine you had all your competitorís trade secrets, their client list or their credit report. How much of a competitive advantage would that give you? How much would that information be worth to you? Well, for many companies it is worth a lot, because they spend millions of dollars on intelligence gathering. Many use covert means to collect information and data, which is in essence, espionage, (an illegal method of collecting intelligence).

Business intelligence helps companies gain competitive advantage and gain power over their competitors. Business intelligence is the practice and process of gathering information and data for analysis purposes to draw conclusions that will help oneís own agenda. There are ways of gathering competitive or business intelligence information and data, while still remaining ethical, within legal limits and without spending a fortune. To learn more about ways of collecting business intelligence information in an ethical fashion one must examine three (3) major forms of information gathering.

Basic Intelligence This is the fundamental, factual information about a businessí characteristics. These characteristics include: location, major assets, general size, number of employees, news sources about the company, etc. Such intelligence is gathered through 'open sources', like the news and publicly available records. Basic intelligence is the foundation of further intelligence.

Economic Intelligence Is much like basic intelligence, in that it strives to collect fundamental information through open sources, however at the regional market or nation level. Most small companies do not have to deal with this type of intelligence gathering.

Industrial Espionage Is any or both basic or economic intelligence using covert or illegal means. This includes internal spying, external surveillance, bribery and all sorts of other neat stuff.

Most businesses only need to engage in basic business intelligence.

The information and data collected using this method, basic business intelligence, is actually not intelligence. Information and data only become intelligence once they have been analyzed. To bring all this together we will use an example.

Intelligence Gathering Example
You are in the auto body repair industry. First intelligence move, grab the yellow pages (an open source) and find out who your local competitors are (auto body repair is a highly localized market). Now, go check out all their websites, where you can usually find tons of info about each individual company. Go scope out each of their buildings or facilities, check out how big they are, what kind of equipment they have. Get their brochures. Pretend to be a potential customer and get a price list off them. Once you have collected all this information and data, you can now start analyzing it and create business intelligence out of it. Through analysis, you can conclude what the average local competitor charges. Who the big players are, what kind of equipment they have. You can also find market trends, like where customers are coming from or how large of a potential customer base has not been yet touched, etc. All the conclusions that come out from your analysis is your business intelligence information, because that's the information that will give you the competitive advantage.

Well, this is obviously a simple example we used, however, we hope it paints a picture of how basic business intelligence is gathered and hopefully some one can put it into practice.

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