Articles: Business intelligence
Profiling a Potential Partnership
By Tim Nault
Issue 33 - December 2002 - January 2003
As competitive intelligence practitioners, we are called upon to gather information to perform profiles. Most often, analysts ask for industry and competitor profiles that sometimes lack the details needed to make the right decisions. After the countless amount of profiles that are pumped out by competitive intelligence units, it is always difficult to produce a profile that is not usually requested by analysts and senior management.
When there is hint of a rumour that is a potential deal of a partnership between two competitors, analysts will be knocking on the competitive intelligence unit to execute a partnership profile. Of course, collecting the firms' annual report is a great place to start; however, with the rapid development in the business world, the information contained in the report can be outdated. With the assistance of the Web, professionals can produce the ideal partnership profile to fit the needs of analysts.
This article will furnish readers with a structured outline for a partner profile report. There should be six elements contained in the report, specifically:
- Financial status
- Management teams
- Core competencies
- R&D capabilities
- Past alliances
Although this element is fundamental to any type of profile, gathering enough information on the history of the companies can be a tough call. Too much information could bore the readers and providing too little might leave readers with a lack of information. To overcome this challenge, it is best to supply the facts regarding:
- The origins of products / services
- Funding history
- Developments in management
- Growth history
- Financial history
The majority of the information can be captured from the companies' Websites in the "About Us" and "Press" sections. For units which are fortunate to be subscribers to Factiva, past releases are excellent sources.
If there is a case where the information is quite lengthy, embed hyperlinks to the full text of any document related to the key facts that should be in the profile.
Providing detailed information regarding the financial status of the partners is vital. The information will be used to conduct due diligence to investigate which partner will be the financial leader in the partnership. Some of the elements that should be placed in the profile for all of the partners are:
- Capital structure
- Cash flow
- Debt coverage
It is important to flesh out any trends for readers to help show where each partner is going financially and what role they are going to play over the duration of the agreement.
The best outlet to glean data to gauge the financial status of participating partners is annual reports (financial statements). In addition, for companies in the United States, EDGAR is a great online source.
This portion of the report will tell the story of who will be the decision-makers in the partnership. By providing the biographies of the senior executives of the participating firms, analysts will be in a better position to see who will give the green light in terms of:
- Strategic plans
- Utilizing of Human Resources
In addition, information on the management teams could reveal a few barriers that may arise in the partnership due to the different management philosophies which each of the companies adhere to. If there are clear discrepancies among the management styles of the firms, indicate them in this part of the section with supporting information below.
Companies with a presence on the Web have an "About Us" section where there are biographies of the top managers. Hoover's Online supplies biographies of the top executives of the leading companies in a variety of industries. Tracking press releases on a regular basis to keep informed on past appointments to the management team is a process that should be used.
Discovering what each of the firms' core competencies ultimately answers the question, "What does each of the firms do well to contribute to the potential success of the partnership?" Some of the core competencies which partnerships are based on are:
- Consumer Service
- Research & Development
Putting together a core competency profile for each company will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the partnership. The results can be used to plan a strategy to overcome any potential threats that the alliance will pose in the industry.
Corporate Websites are a great starting point to collect details on the strengths of a company. Look for in-depth product or service literature to seek out what companies profess their abilities to be within the industries. The claims might be hidden within the site or posted in many press releases. Articles profiling companies in the local press is another source to begin investigating core competencies.
Although research and development is discussed in the previous section, it deserves its own section due to the amount of details which arise from a literature search. Information which can be provided in the section could include:
- Investment in R&D·
- Size of R&D team and facilities·
- Past and present projects·
- Partnerships in R&D projects
What is provided using the above list is a snapshot of the partners' abilities to plan for future products or services. The information will show which partner will play a strong role in placing a new product or service on the market.
Referring to national trademarks and patents databases is the first starting point for researchers. The ownership of various trademarks and patents can indicate a company's dedication to research and development. Monitoring articles from the local and national press is another effective process to gather intelligence for this section of the profile.
To see where a potential partnership is going, an opportunity to assess the history of past alliances of the partners should be given to analysts. The relevant facts which should be included in the report are:
- Number of alliances
- Reasons for the alliance (Include quotes from senior management)
- List of partners and their respective industries
- Duration of the alliances
- Outcomes of the alliances
The background information on past alliances can be pulled together to spot any tendencies which a partner might be prone to have. Assessing the tendencies will allow analysts and strategists to foresee future partnerships and determine if the alliances are leading to a bigger strategic move in the industry.
To track the fine details of a past alliance, consult previous press releases. The press releases can be available on company's Website or through services such Factiva.com or Dialog.
Partnerships are formed and announced on a daily basis. For companies which are prone to be proactive in terms of reacting to any partnerships, a structure profile of the companies involved is necessary. To furnish analysts with the right information, competitive intelligence professionals must have a structure approach to find the most relevant facts which will be read quickly and refer to at a later date. This article has discussed the main elements which should be a part of any partnership profile and should be adapted to fit the needs of the users of this important competitive intelligence deliverable.
Tim Nault is a former information officer for a medium-sized advertising agency. He was responsible for feeding technical information on and offline to the creative and media buying departments. Tim is now an information specialist at Sales Information Systems, a consulting firm that trains individuals in the art of personal selling.