Which deliverables should you plan for when selecting and implementing a competitive intelligence, strategic insights system?
It might start as a simple wish
Like any other software implementation project, digitalizing market research and competitive intelligence is a huge investment. If the investment fails to pay off, the entire competitive intelligence function might be under scrutiny.
The decision to invest in a competitive intelligence software might derive from a thorough audit of and improvement plan for the competitive intelligence function or department.
Or it might express the eagerness by a manager to start gathering and disseminating market signals and competitive insights where there were only manual activities in place thus far.
In order to get a handle on the complexity of such a project, let’s focus on the deliverables and their purpose. This will present a scope and framework one has to entertain when a competitive intelligence software is being invested in.
It goes without saying that you can absolutely positively use this framework on your own.
Evaluating 20-30 vendors and their solutions to meet your company’s exact requirements however, might proof very complex, time consuming and you also might want to concentrate on your core responsibilities while the selection process and possibly even the entire implementation process is being managed by someone who has done this many times successfully.
Broad brush planning
For a first timeline, general resource and budget planning several phases should be considered. Collaboration and engagement with internal and external stakeholders and experts will vary in those phases:
- Strategy & Planning
- Specifications & Design
- Evaluation & Analysis
- Project Setup & Alignments
- Vendor Selection & Contracting
- Deployment & Implementation
- Operation & Improvements
Owner or sponsor input should be first here and it should be the baseline for the value proposition that will evolve the more the system needs take shape.
As long as anyone has questions about the purpose and objectives of the competitive intelligence software and it’s value for the business, the strategy is either not defined or not communicated well enough.
Planning should also start early-on with a helicopter view and become more detailed over time. A basic folder structure on a SharePoint and month-by-month Gantt chart that shows the project phases that are outlined in this article will do initially.
Some principles can also be defined at this point: communication plan, user-on-boarding through train-the-trainer or super user structures for example. These might be driven by the company’s communication culture and experience with comparable projects and solutions. They will also greatly influence the training planning later in the project.
This is the key for future user’s satisfaction, overall buy-in and the success perspective of the system. Also, since solution providers are able today to satisfy a multitude of specific needs across the entire spectrum of content and industries, those needs have to be clear to the company.
Obviously, the more solutions are included in the evaluation the broader the options. So, specifications have to be rock solid and well defined. A small sample of solutions would limit complexity but also the wish-list and it would dictate specifications and design from those few examples.
Digitalization solution providers and software developers take full advantage of the evolving possibilities today. There are scores of solutions out there and they evolve all the time. This is where the scope and specifications from before are crucial.
A set of easy to use and easy to compare visualizations like spider web graphics and rating schemes should be designed and agreed upon at this stage. They should compare satisfaction ratings for key specification and usability.
From company to industry and depending on their setup and activities, setting up such a project according to resources and complexity differs greatly. And this can hardly be managed by the software solution provider as they don’t know the internals and specifics of the business well enough.
If there is no dedicated project leader assigned, perhaps a well versed Program Management Office or Operational Excellence manager could handle the project. Or, you hire an experienced expert that is unbiased and well connected within the solutions providers’ scene. Like us with our vastly experienced CI professionals network and our founder and managing director Jens Thieme, the Insightologist®.
From a long list of several dozens of solutions to a final contractual agreement with one solution provider is a long way. But the time investment pays off through an optimal system to monitor the competitive arena and take much better informed decisions across the entire organization.
Also, don’t underestimate the learning effect throughout such a project. If the company is given the opportunity to not limit their choices by only looking at the 2-3 most obvious solutions, it will be rewarded with a much deeper understanding of the current opportunities and potential future evolution of the solutions landscape.
Speaking of which: sustainability and innovation potential should be on top of the selection list for a provider. History shows how fast and complete the systems landscape has changed and you don’t want to be stuck with a solutions from yesterday in a year.
An end-user driven innovation process, financial stability and vivid networking among actual and potential clients groups like associations and networking societies is a good indicator for the winners of tomorrow.
All the planning will pay off here. Very likely the solution provider is in the boat at that point. It is also an important time to revisit the strategic vision and objectives and to activate management to become vocal role model users.
The communication plan will unfold its magic and the familiarization and training regime should kick into full gear.
The proof of the pudding… and a chance to excite users when their needs and feedbacks lead to real continuous improvements.
This is the moment of highest engagement energy of the user base with the planning team and support structure. 24/7 engagement and transparency are paramount. Exchanging success stories and announcing immediate bug fixes build trust.
Part 2 → What gets measured gets managed →→