On December 23rd,  Arun
Jethmalani, Founder & Managing Director at ValueNotes Database Pvt. Ltd. in India, published an article to LinkedIn
Debates about Competitive Intelligence that will never be resolved
.  The article essentially lays out five of the
canonical questions that are a constant dialogue in the CI community. I won’t
share his insights, you’ll have to read the article for that, but the five
questions he puts forward are:
Should CI be strategic or tactical?
Where should CI reside?
Insight versus information?
How to calculate RoI on competitive intelligence?
What exactly is competitive intelligence?

I would add two questions, that may be a bit more controversial:
Is CI a profession or a set of competencies? 
 And does it even matter? 

There are several comments on the article, including one from
me where I suggest that the answers to all the questions are blowing in the corporate
culture.  For law firms especially, I
think the existential question of what CI is or should be – a library function,
a marketing role, a KM/BD hybrid is fun to think about in your spare time, but
analysis paralysis (hat tip to Fleisher
and Bensoussan
) gets you nowhere.  As
we usher in 2015, I think the article and its underlying questions is a great reminder
to know your clients, know your audience and anticipate their needs – be they
intel – or otherwise.  The ability to
deliver answers, insights, and whatever else is needed on time, just in time,
and in advance, is the ultimate factor for CI success and happiness.  However you define it. 

  • One thing to note is that Arun is addressing "true" CI in his post, and a lot (though definitely not all) of what we talk about in the Legal CI community is actually Market Research/Account Enablement — not CI!

    This can be seen in the job descriptions and current roles of Legal CI professionals – much of whose time is spent on researching clients, potential clients, or finding specific knowledge about the practice areas our attorneys are operating in.

    Look for further differentiation in the Legal CI function into functions such Strategic/"True" CI, client & market Intelligence, rate specialists, practice domain experts, etc. We are definitely seeing this happen already in larger firms, and many consulting firms and the Big 4 have well-established knowledge organizations with these subdivisions.

  • J Chen

    I think it is strategic. CI is essential now for the legal industry, given the sum of legal services is not growing. Thus the growth prospects of any one firm comes at the expense of others. Think of the personal care industry, which is also static. Companies like P&G have a fully developed CI department since any growth in personal care market share means (usually) that others have to lose out.