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Competitive Intelligence
Job Primer

By Debbie Christofferson, CISSP, CISM

Not to be confused with spying, industrial espionage, or illegal electronic surveillance, competitive intelligence (CI) involves research and analysis to increase competitive advantage.

Benefits of a Competitive Advantage Role

CI offers a variety of lucrative career fields, with pay running from $40K-$500K depending on the position and responsibility. Many fit close to the $100K range.

CI improves an organization's market knowledge and performance through better decision-making and strategic planning. It's applied to business development, to create and enhance intellectual property, and to examine the competition.

Research supports these business processes, as cited by the SCIP (Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals), in a recent survey of members:

  • Corporate and business strategy
  • Joint ventures
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Market entry
  • Product, research or technology development
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Sales and business development
Most organizations use business intelligence whether they call it that or not, and whether or not it's staffed formally.

Definition of Competitive Intelligence

Competitive intelligence consists of collecting and analyzing relevant data and trends on an environment from internal and external sources. Results support the organization's decision-making and primary business objectives.

Public collection sources are used to garner data on competitors. The function often relates to marketing, and planned or offered products and services.

Market research is gathered about a process, person, organization, technology, or product, through public or online searches, and subscription databases and reports. Collective data is analyzed and strategy created based on the outcome.

Research identifies competitive threats, and the strengths and weaknesses of your organization, market and competition. It surfaces new opportunities, and shifts you to a more proactive mode for organizational planning and execution.

Although the research data may be public, it's collection and sharing is kept private within an organization, as part of confidential strategic planning.

How to Position Your Career Options

Positions that utilize BI or CI part or full time include:

  • Marketing Analyst
  • Research Analyst
  • Business Analyst
  • Business Development Manager
  • Account Manager
  • Sales Manager
  • Consulting Analyst
  • Competitive Intelligence Manager
  • Market Research Manager
  • Knowledge Manager
  • Information Scientist
Librarian positions are disappearing, but offer a great transition point at higher pay.

Core responsibilities of a CI role:

  • Research data from multiple sources
  • Analyze results from aggregate
  • Assess accuracy, validity, and reliability of data
  • Write and speak on research results and recommendations
  • Conduct interviews
  • Develop and execute surveys
  • Create graphics, spreadsheets and reports
  • Detail oriented
  • Manage diverse clients and requests, with competing priorities and deadlines
Hard skills typical for landing a CI position:
  • Undergraduate degree (journalism, business, economics, mathematics,..)
  • MLA (Master of Library Science) or MBA (Master of Business Administration)
  • Business experience matters most
Engaging upper management is key to success. CI falls under the "cost center", since there's no direct return on investment to the bottom line.

The Grass is Green

Industries fit far and wide: Law firms, consulting agencies, biotechnology, technology companies, pharmaceutical and health organizations, consumer manufacturing, etc.

Major research and advisory firms that deal with the trends and future of technology include Gartner, Inc., IDC (International Data Corporation), and Forrester Research. Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve focuses on consumer trends and needs.

This industry is still gaining ground lost in the 2000's downturn and merger mania. But market research is still a critical commodity in many fields and organizations.


The Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, at www.scip.org serves the CI field. Chapters aren't active everywhere. The Special Library Association (SLA) at www.sla.org offers another resource with overlap.


These visionary individuals and organizations help shape the future. You mine your own diamond field.

Seek opportunities in research or marketing, part or full-time. Expand your role in technology with mapping to long range planning and strategy. Break into the field as a Marketing Intern.

Visit research firm web sites and look for job openings. Talk to the people in your marketing and sales teams, or in the strategy group for technology. Search on Google using "Competitive Intelligence Jobs".

Coming Next! Everything you wanted to know about H1B Visas and how they really impact technology and jobs.

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Debbie Christofferson
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