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Articles: Business intelligence

Business intelligence and the Intranet

What do Boeing, General Electric, Motorola, Ericsson, Microsoft, Cisco, Teleglobe, Amoco, Shell, Merck, France Telecom, the Canadian Government... have in common? They all use an Intranet to manage their business intelligence.

As management increasingly looks at shareholder-value creation to measure its company's success, intelligence has become a crucial capability in most organisations. To make the right decisions, you need an excellent understanding of your competitors' strategies.

These are the typical questions Competitive Intelligence professionals struggle with:

  • How do I create a flow of information where users can access the information they need?
  • How can I encourage them to feed back into the system what they have learned in the field?
  • How do I combine all the different existing databases without antagonizing anybody?
  • How do I gather this intelligence without tying up crucial resources?

Let us introduce you to how the Intranet can help you manage your business intelligence information.

This article focuses on the following:

  • What is an Intranet?
  • Why use the Intranet for business/competitive intelligence?
  • How to best structure intelligence on an Intranet?
  • What form can information on an Intranet take?
  • What type of competitive/business intelligence information should be included on an Intranet?

What is an Intranet?

An Intranet is any site based on Internet technology that is placed on private servers within an organization--a site designed not to allow outsiders in. Because these sites are typically run on internal networks rather than the Internet, bandwidth isn't as much of a problem, so sound and video can be added without hurting performance.

Often, the sites offer hooks into corporate databases with forms and queries serving as a front-end for relational databases. The individual users access all this data through the standard Web browsers they use to access Web pages on the Internet.

The potential is endless. There are a large number of corporate information resources and transactions that are potential candidates for an Intranet:

  • Policy and procedure manuals and quality manuals
  • ISO 9000 work instructions
  • Employee resources
  • Benefits programs
  • Orientation materials
  • Software user guides and hardware manuals
  • Quick reference guides and
  • Online help, etc...

Why use an Intranet for Business/Competitive Intelligence ?

  • You just got the mandate from your boss
  • It's a New Year's resolution
  • You have decided to deal with the sixteen boxes full of brochures sitting in the corner of your office... or under your desk
  • There has been a great deal of publicity done by your competitor about the great way it uses Intranet to be more competitive

How is Intelligence best structured on an Intranet?

The principle is to establish a network of "Champions" who are legitimate owners of the content. They will make sure each piece of content they are responsible for is updated.

Those champions are responsible for:

  • the quality of the information: they directly edit the content under their responsibility and decide what should appear on the Intranet and what should be excluded.

Users access the information from their computer after logging in their username and password. Once they have accessed the content they are looking for, they can either view it, print it, download it into a spreadsheet if they need to analyse the data further, or even update the content if this option is open. They can find the documents they are looking for by using a search engine (as on the Internet) or by "surfing" through given categories available to them.

What form can information on an Intranet take?

Type of information Format

Raw information

A list of information observed in the market by product category

Synthesized format

A more elaborated form where the raw information has been analysed and is displayed in a synthesized fashion

Searchable database

Users can request a competitor's information depending on the components of the competitor's products; the database searches the components, adds them up, and displays the anticipated action of the competitor

Links to sources of information

Users can view a list of providers of this type of information and access their Internet site or e-mail address directly to request information. You might also negotiate specific rates with those providers: having the final invoice for unlimited users access forwarded to you

What type of competitive or business intelligence information should be included on an Intranet?

The following is a list of categories that are usually found on an Intranet:

  • Organization: organizational structure and profile of key executives
  • Financial: latest annual reports, quarterly reports, analysts reports, press releases of earnings, comparison with other companies in the industry, projected results
  • Products: description of products and comparisons with your company's own products, pictures, technical content, new products, patents, description of capabilities
  • Pricing: competitor pricing expectations, prices by regions or customer segments, rumours
  • Alliances: alliance partners and date of alliance, implications for your company
  • Customers: your competitors' customer lists
  • Technology: product description, comparisons
  • Customers: profile, key contacts, action list, strategy to approach, customer service fields, financial status
  • Regulation: key regulatory texts and interpretation, future bills pending
  • Market: size of actual and future market, main market trends affecting the industry, key economic reports, prospective
  • Customer surveys: key results of customer surveys, analysis and action plan for the company
  • Marketing toolkit: latest company presentations, travel schedule, visitors schedule, database of images and pictures, argumentation
  • Jungle phone: rumors, unchecked facts...
  • Suppliers: profile and offerings, strategy

Competia,  is a North American consultancy and training organization for senior executives and analysts in Strategic Planning and Competitive Intelligence. provides resources, professional news, practical and hands-on tools and analysis techniques.
Article reproduced with permission.