Definition - What does Competitive Intelligence (CI) mean?
Competitive intelligence (CI) is the coordinated and purposeful monitoring of competitors, products and customers in a specific marketplace or industry. This data is used by managers and executives to make better strategic decisions for an organization. Competitive intelligence includes the action of gathering data, and defining the subsequent distribution of intelligence about services, products, customers and even competitors.
Competitive intelligence involves the selection, collection, understanding and distribution of strategic information that is publicly held, as opposed to industrial espionage, which involves stealing confidential information. The purpose of CI is the early identification of opportunities in industries before they can be apparent to everybody else, and the ability to find risks before they can hurt the organization.
Competitive intelligence has three defining characteristics:
It focuses on the external business environment rather than internal matters.
It involves gathering information and converting it into intelligence that can be used by the organization. If the intelligence is not usable or actionable, then it is not considered real intelligence.
As opposed to illegal industrial espionage, CI is considered an important and ethical business practice.
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