Head of Commercial Competitive Intelligence at UCB Answers The Questions

This article is the second in a series. We talk to the Head of Commercial Competitive Intelligence at UCB, John McDonald-Dick. We have introduced a new series where we ask people we admire within Competitive Intelligence eight pertinent questions. At the end of this series of questions, we will analyse the answers and create an interesting report.

1. In your view, what’s Competitive Intelligence?

CI is a future-focused process of gaining insights into the probable actions, developments, dynamics of competitors (direct and indirect) and micro or macro changes in a market. CI utilises primary human data, secondary published data, combined with methodologies to analyse and picture the competitors and environments. This can range from short term messaging moves to long term future trends or megatrends, which could impact all players in a market.

2. In your view, what’s the true benefit of CI?

To understand the future dynamics of your market, how it is going to be shaped, how you may shape it, how to develop a strategy to maximise the opportunities and minimise the threats – CI can give this action-orientated benefit to an organisation.

3. How would you advise a company with no experience in Competitive Intelligence to get started? 

1 – get a resource who understands the methodologies needed to deliver actionable insights

2 – gain a small number of agencies who can help in areas such as primary, secondary and strategic intelligence

3 – for a company to be willing to utilise the findings – turning competitive insights into tactical and strategic actions

4 – start small – one or two issues, don’t try to boil the ocean

5 – for any company to remember, the news is just news. Intelligence is really what it means and what you and others are going to do with it

4. What analytical tools do you recommend?

Five forces, four corners, SWOT, active SWOT, War Games, Messaging war games, PESTEL, Condensing Scenario analysis, Futures-Trends-SwingFactor analysis, radar analysis, counter-intelligence analysis. Teaching sessions, analysis workshops, Blue Ocean.

5. Competitive Intelligence is becoming too much about risk mitigation, copying the competitor and the last dataset. And not enough about growth, exploration and creation. It can stop people from being original, risky and creative enough. Do you agree?

I agree, and to mitigate this, the use of CI early in an organisations’ development or BD is key. There is a role for CI in risk mitigation, but it is only one area in which CI can provide a valuable service.

6. Without giving away anything confidential, what’s the best result you have achieved with CI?

Being asked (after a few years) by an old competitor, how did we always seem to know what they were going to do and blunt it. To predict the likely or only possible actions of competitors and have an organisation ready to act proactively on that will give (generally) great results.

7. Artificial Intelligence and platforms will transform CI, and there will be no need for human input in the future. The longevity of the job of a Competitive Intelligence analyst is limited? Do you agree?

No. AI does have a role in CI, can give a great deal of insight from complex analysis, can automate a great deal of “heavy lifting”, but the analytical mind will still be needed and probably even more so as AI could provide greater volume and complexity of analysis which needs to be understood, evaluated and actioned.

8. Finally, what’s the one piece of advice you would give a CI analyst?

You will never have the full picture, so don’t try to get all of the data; get enough to be able to see where the future is likely to go with some certainty. CI is a team game, and some of the insight you need is likely to be within the company already and use the team to analyse as well.

Thank you for your time, John.

In this article, the Head of Commercial Competitive Intelligence at UCB, John McDonald-Dick, answered our questions. This article is the second in the series where we ask great people who really understand Competitive Intelligence their thoughts on the subject.

Who is UCB?

UCB is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on creating value for people living with severe diseases in immunology and neurology now and into the future.

We work with stakeholders to address the unmet needs of patients and caregivers, helping them to achieve their goals and to live the lives they want. UCB is on a journey to become the patient-preferred biopharma leader by delivering medicines and solutions that improve lives, while creating value for society. Our commitment to value is a promise to bring together the talent, expertise, tools and scientific know-how required to serve patients in need.


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