What does Competitive Intelligence (CI) really mean?

Def: Competitive Intelligence (CI) – the act of observing, understanding and forecasting the most likely effects and influences of external forces in a business environment, in order to guide and adjust one’s own course of action.


  • Competitive Intelligence does not need to be “rocket science” but it does require structure and discipline, otherwise it’s no better than raw intuition. Many people believe they are performing CI when, in fact, they are merely collecting data.
  • The bigger the company, the more complicated CI becomes – not because the business environment is more complex, but because of the exponential increase in personalities, politics and priorities. These challenges are not unique to CI – they affect efforts of all types in big corporations.
  • Common references to “spy tactics,” snooping and other underhanded behavior that appear in most newspaper and magazine articles about CI are incorrect. There is no need to use unethical techniques or engage in any illegal activity. No true CI professional ever uses, teaches, or promotes such techniques.