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The digital age has changed almost every facet of conducting business. Advances in information technology and data transmission paved the way for paperless offices, electronic commerce, and cashless transactions. Businesses have to continually adapt to innovations in the ever-expanding digital frontier to remain at the forefront of their industry.

Digital technology also changed the nature and manner of gathering competitive intelligence. Information technology has simultaneously made this an important facet of strategic business planning easier and harder. Cunning strategists should familiarize themselves with modern methods of collecting intelligence, such as analyzing archived websites and utilizing specialized search engines.

The Core of Competitive Intelligence

Although the term “competitive intelligence” can mean different things to different people, even within the same company, its purpose remains the same. It’s supposed to provide vital information and data about competitors that will help an organization make informed decisions and strategies.

Information sources vary and fall into two groups: primary research and secondary research. Primary research is data collected by a company itself. Organizations acquire this data by interviewing members of the public, distributing questionnaires, and conducting surveys. Secondary research refers to studies written by other organizations, articles published by industry experts, and other materials collected or created by other institutions.

Modern Methods of Primary Research

social media

A company can expedite primary research methods, thanks to digital technology and the internet. Video and audio communication software, such as Skype, make conducting interviews with distant individuals possible. Interviewers can use these programs to record even multiple participants who could be miles and miles apart.

Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, are excellent for reaching a vast number of people in very little time. A business can post their surveys or questionnaires on their pages, or send them out to customers who follow their accounts. Analysts can expect results within hours, if not days.

Modern Methods of Secondary Research

Search engines and databases are among the most important data gathering tools for competitive intelligence. Regular search engines are sometimes ill-equipped to winnowing down the right data a company needs to give them vital insight. Analytical search methods can only go so far to ease this process.

This is where specialized search engines and databases come into play. Programmers calibrate these programs to look for and sort out specific pages on the internet. Some search engines specialize in legal documentation, or online newspapers. Databases are virtual gold mines, with each database either dedicated to an aspect of information, such as history or business, or having subcollections that cater specifically to these things. Some databases even contain web pages and can provide a look at defunct designs and past data.

The digital age is still burgeoning, still expanding its horizons. Businesses cannot afford to lag behind when it comes to exploring and utilizing these innovations. Companies have to consider carefully if their operations and processes, such as gathering competitive intelligence, require upgrading and an overhaul into digital methods. This is particularly true when it comes to competitive intelligence, for in today’s cyber-centric business world, the right information in the right hands is an invaluable asset.

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