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Competitive Intelligence: Anglo-Saxon model vs. Spanish model

Throughout the many years that we have been working in the field of Competitive Intelligence we have noticed the great differences that exist between the ways of doing CI in the Anglo-Saxon world (especially the United States) and Spain. Every time we attend an international congress or event - like SCIP - we realize the great differences (structural, organizational, operative) that exist between both worlds. In this article we will try to clarify what these differences are and why both options are valid.

Competitive Intelligence: Anglo-Saxon model vs. Spanish model

When we travel around the world to Competitive Intelligence related events, it is very common to meet people who present themselves as “Competitive Intelligence Analyst”, “Market Intelligence Analyst” and similar names. This makes us realize that, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, it is usual for Competitive Intelligence to be articulated around autonomous departments or units, as opposed to the usual in our environment, which is a distributed CI among different people and departments. In other words, in the USA, it is common for the CI to be carried out by people dedicated exclusively to it, while in Spain and other Latin American countries the task is divided between different profiles that are dedicated simultaneously to other tasks.

Therefore, this article could also have been titled “Centralized intelligence vs. distributed intelligence”.

As an anecdotal example where we see this, we show you an image of the movie "Duplicity" (2009), where you can see that the character of Julia Roberts works in a department called "Competitive Intelligence Lab":


As said before, both models are perfectly valid according to the needs, capacity and structure of the organization, and both have their advantages that are listed below.

Advantages of centralized intelligence:

  • The team is professionalized: Being focused solely on the scope of the Competitive Intelligence, the team specializes much more in the CI tasks and is also more efficient.
  • It is easier to calculate the personnel costs of CI: By having all the people in a single department, it is easier to calculate the personnel costs related to the activity.
  • There are more synergies between analysts: By having all analysts working together, it is easier to have synergies, share good practices and explore new ways of exploiting information.
  • The dissemination of information is easier: If you find information of interest, different analysts working together can analyse it better and even spread it to different recipients.

However, distributed intelligence also has its advantages:

  • Key Intelligence Topics (KIT) are better known by the analyst: The analyst is a specialist in the areas he or she monitors, so his knowledge of the issues to be monitored will be greater.
  • The value contribution of the analyst is greater: As a consequence of the above, the analyst will have more discretion when analysing the received information and his contributions will also be greater.
  • No structural costs are generated: When personnel that has also other functions dedicates to CI, in case of giving up the CI activity these people can continue their normal activity, without having to reassign functions.
  • It is not necessary to search for and recruit profiles with CI experience: People taking part in the CI process do not need previous experience in this area and is not necessary to seek people exclusively for CI.
  • Knowledge is generated in the department: When an analyst works in CI, there is a lot of information that for many reasons is not considered relevant to transmit to decision makers, but that in a given moment could become important (for example, if KITs change). The distributed CI model allows this knowledge to remain in the corresponding department, so that in the medium and long term can be positive.

As you can see, there are different ways to approach CI activity and all of them can be valid depending on the characteristics of the organization. The important thing is to assess the advantages and disadvantages of each model and choose the most appropriate.

If you are thinking on launching CI activity on your organization and need help to design your system, you can contact us. Also, you can try a professional software like INNGUMA for free requesting a demo.