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Best Practices in Competitive Intelligence: Learning from Other Industries

October 19, 2011

Today’s post was contributed by Colleen Doherty, Marketing Manager at Bryant Associates, Inc. You may reach Colleen at

In the face of economic uncertainty, increased competition in the marketplace, and decreased project opportunities, how is your company responding to these challenges? Many companies that are faced with these conditions are either unsure of how to approach these constraints, or they devise response strategies that are reactionary and ungrounded in analysis. These are difficult times that we live in, but there are strategies that companies can adopt to anticipate change, mitigate risk, and grasp opportunity. This can be achieved through Competitive Intelligence (CI), defined as a method of gathering and analyzing information that allows a company to position itself for future advantage.  

On Oct. 13, 2011, the SMPS Boston Chapter was treated to an informative and interactive education session on Competitive Intelligence by Krista Sykes, Ph.D., founder of Architecture in Context.

Sykes opened the session by saying that oftentimes in business, intelligent individuals and companies make uneducated decisions. She then highlighted the concept of CI, and said that “decisions should be grounded in evidence, which is achieved through research analysis.”

The concept of CI is grounded in three principals: research, analysis, and action. Performing research and analysis doesn’t necessarily require specialized training but it does require a dedicated process to uncover and process information. CI helps business leaders predict and respond quickly to what’s coming next.

During the session, participants were divided into four groups to collaboratively analyze case study scenarios. Each group was tasked with addressing a different business situation/dilemma (market expansion, partnering, new RFP, existing firm capabilities), commonly affecting businesses in the AEC industry. The groups worked together to analyze the situation and determine strategies and tactics to approach these business situations.

A best practice found for acquiring information includes the use of personal networks and the Internet. Examples include looking at the census for demographic information, reviewing an owner agency’s Capital Improvement Program or Master Plan online, or exploring personal connections to derive information. Acquiring data and information is the first step, following analytical assessment of all information. 

In a time of economic instability and a shifting competitive landscape, Competitive Intelligence is a tool that promotes solid business decision making. CI helps business leaders predict and respond quickly to what’s coming next.

Want more information? A White Paper on the topic, written by Sykes, is available at This research paper is $19.95 for non-SMPS members, but free for SMPS members.

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