Why Hiring a Competitive Intelligence Manager Isn’t Enough

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Why Hiring a Competitive Intelligence Manager Isn’t Enough: The Unseen Intelligence Gap

Many companies are realising that competitive intelligence is crucial to success. And those who don’t realise this have plenty of competitors who do. But it’s still jaw-dropping how some Strategic Growth Directors don’t see the value of competitive intelligence. Worse still, those who ask, what’s competitive intelligence? Presumably, they must be more busy looking for AI and data analytics to solve their everything.

After all, knowing your market and understanding competitors’ movements can make the difference between strategic dominance and playing perpetual catch-up. And useful competitive intelligence helps you reduce your anxiety about competitors and new technologies. Many companies have recruited a competitive intelligence manager, believing that their CI box is neatly checked off and budget allocated. Give them access to Thomson Reuters and a competitive intelligence collection portal. 

The Real Challenges of Modern Competitive Intelligence

However, recent conversations with CI professionals reveal that simply appointing a manager and thinking that the job is done is like putting a soldier on the battlefield with no communications or weapon—ill-equipped and isolated. Not everyone is Rambo. The reality is that competitive intelligence demands more than just a dedicated manager. Here’s why that’s not enough and what’s truly needed for effective CI:

Tradeshow are for more than just networking and selling.

Trade shows are:

  • Treasure troves of competitive information.
  • Allowing us to gain firsthand insights into competitor products.
  • Market positioning.
  • Emerging trends.

However, extracting insight requires a plan, personnel, and budget. Sending one person, often not the CI manager, without a systematic approach is like hunting blindfolded. Worse, it’s a complete missed opportunity. We must provide resources for their CI teams to properly plan and execute tradeshow intelligence-gathering with clearly defined objectives, data collection strategies, and post-event analyses. External partners can ask questions you can’t. Or at least can’t be seen to ask.

External Support for Primary Intelligence

Gathering actionable insights usually means asking uncomfortable questions and examining areas where internal biases and industry norms usually inhibit real discoveries. 

External support, like Octopus, skilled in primary intelligence, can provide an unbiased perspective. They can dig deep, asking questions that internal teams would avoid, like probing for weaknesses in a competitor’s supply chain or exploring customer dissatisfaction. 

And we don’t suffer from the nagging doubts that will inhibit some internal teams. “They are not going to tell us that, surely?”

It’s important to allocate a budget for these services to complement their internal competitive intelligence capabilities.

Overcoming Bias and Tunnel Vision

Competitive intelligence managers often have a background in the industry they monitor, which can shape their perspectives and interpretations. While this experience is valuable, it can also lead to biases that skew the analysis. This is why primary research must be conducted by teams or partners not influenced by industry preconceptions. 

Fresh eyes can reveal blind spots even the best internal competitive intelligence professionals might miss.

Side thought: Job advertising.

We often see competitive intelligence job adverts that insist the successful applicant must have five years of experience in this and that industry. Or two years of knowledge of this tech or that system. This completely misses the point. The skill of competitive intelligence is asking the right questions, finding the answers, and isolating the insight. The insight that tells you what’s going on, what’s going to happen, and what’s and why’s that? 

Someone with considerable experience in a certain industry can be too blinded by what’s happened before. They will pull the strings of information like last time, as it worked last time. And they may claim that they won’t, but they will. They are human. They will look at your situation like you do. No, it would help if you had others look at things differently and approach the problem from another direction. That’s why bringing external support helps remove industry bias.

Budget Constraints

One of the usual issues reported by CI managers is inadequate funding. Competitive intelligence isn’t a static, one-time activity. It requires continuous monitoring, adapting, and investment in new tools and expertise. Without a proper budget for trade show attendance, primary research, and external consultancy, companies are left with an under-resourced function incapable of delivering strategic insights that drive competitive advantage.

Why Hiring a Competitive Intelligence Manager From Ticking the Box to Building an Edge

Appointing a competitive intelligence manager should be the starting point of a comprehensive intelligence strategy, not its endpoint. Companies must recognise that effective competitive intelligence requires continuous specialised support and research investment. This ensures their teams can collect, analyse, and act on intelligence without bias or blind spots. Otherwise, they’re just ticking a box while their competitors run circles around them. The path to a genuine strategic edge begins when firms commit to equipping their competitive intelligence teams with the resources necessary to ask the tough questions, discover hidden insights, and outmanoeuvre the competition.

What is competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence is the finding & critical analysis of information to make sense of what’s happening & why. Predict what’s going to happen & give the options to control the outcome. The insight to create more certainty & competitive advantage.

This is a drawing of the Octopus Intelligence Logo By Octopus Competitive Intelligence, Due Diligence, Competitor Analysls, Market Analysis, Competitor Research and Strategic Business Development to beat your competitors, increase sales and reduce risk

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