Successful competitive intelligence hinges on many factors and can be a complex undertaking, depending on your organizational structure, the number of markets you compete in, and the maturity of your organization. Shortly after coauthor Jesse Harriott joined Monster Worldwide in 2002, he formed Monster’s first competitive intelligence initiative. He was the executive sponsor for that initiative for almost 10 years; following are his five key principles for CI success, some of which were learned the hard way. We will explain each one in detail.

1. Executive sponsorship
2. Alignment with business objectives
3. Strong communication systems
4. Relationships matter
5. Bias to action

The first key to an effective CI program is executive sponsorship. You must have at least one senior leader who believes in the importance of competitive intelligence and understands that CI is a must, not a luxury. This support must be ongoing and revisited on a regular basis in order to maintain it. To identify the leaders most likely to support your efforts, think about the people in your company who would benefit the most from CI. For example, if you have a direct sales force, its leadership frequently will be big supporters of CI because the sales reps come in direct contact with the competition on a regular basis as they try to win and retain business. If you don’t have a direct sales model, then marketing can often be the next place to look. Because the marketing organization ...

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