Luxembourg: Mobilise And Weaponise Your Data: It All Starts With Market Intelligence

Last Updated: 22 August 2017
Article by David Rupied

Anyone familiar with the concept of market intelligence would be able to tell you dozens of different names for it: competitive intelligence, market research, marketing intelligence, knowledge management, digital marketing, market intelligence, and the like. Confusingly, these various terms may, per their users, refer to different realities. The fact is that no precise definition is currently globally recognised.

I used to work in a market intelligence department in the telecommunications industry, during which the department name changed no fewer than three times in a single year. Given the changeability of the term and the field's undoubtedly increasing importance, and after some discussions with academics who had strikingly divergent views, I believe this question is worth further exploration.

Why can't a definition be agreed on?

From my experience, I would suggest two reasons for the imprecise terminology:

  • The applications within the field are cross-functional, leading to more variables in design, usage, and scope.
  • The academic world has been considering this topic for fewer years than it has other business topics.

A universe of possibilities

My team and I have taken on this topic of market intelligence, part of which is defining the term. We began with the basics, concluding the following:

Market intelligence refers to the gathering and analysing of information in order to provide decision-makers with accurate and digested strategic information. Seen in the light of the bigger process, market intelligence would, for example, be used to inform decision-makers before they launch a product, buy a company, or monitor their competitors.

Market intelligence professionals are NOT the final decision-makers. Rather, they are providers of information and recommendations for decision-makers.

The main goal of market intelligence is to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. However, the technics involved can be applied to other ends too.

Only some of the various definitions used in the market.

A natural question that you might ask is what the difference is between market intelligence and knowledge management (KM). Market intelligence (or whichever name it goes by) would come between the roles of the decision-maker and the KM team. KM consists of gathering information as well as managing subscriptions for the company, whereas market intelligence consists of analysing, digesting, and above all delivering, in the best possible way, this information to the decision-maker. In reality, with dedicated IT tools, the roles between the functions overlap more and more. KM departments could perform analyses since new tools can cut down info-gathering time, or market intelligence departments could use the same IT tools to do the gathering themselves. Obviously, it doesn't fully matter which is occurring; the trend is ultimately that more time is spent on analysis than on gathering. It is important, however, to formally recognise the function of analysing, digesting, and packaging data that has been collected, which the term knowledge management often does not.

Market intelligence versus knowledge management.

Increasingly important... why?

My team and I have observed that the concept of market intelligence has reached the C-suite's desks for two main reasons:

  • There is uncertainty in the business environments of most industries, even those known for being mature (e.g. telecommunications).
  • New digital tools offer opportunities that extend the potential of market intelligence.

Digital tools pave the way

With the technology powering market intelligence ever improving (for example, as artificial intelligence continues to mature), new tools for the gathering, analysing, and processing of information are ever better.

I would warn against trying to separate your knowledge-gathering/processing teams into too many specialisations, as this segmentation could lead to synergies lost. Along the same lines, it's important to consider not just the more "obvious" strategic applications of the market intelligence department and its tools, but also the more mundane functions that could be performed—for example, monitoring IT patches.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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