All true intelligence is decision-based, meaning it must inform decision-making.
If it is not useful for informing decision-making, it’s not intelligence—it’s simply raw data.
Contrary to popular misconception, intelligence is not the same as knowledge, information, or data. Unless knowledge itself is the ultimate end goal, it does not necessarily provide useful value or significance. Intelligence, on the other hand, provides significant value to the holder as it can inform significant decisions. Knowledge comes first, and it can be said to be the body of information or data on a given topic. Intelligence, on the other hand, is what comes from that knowledge. It is the deeper meaning, significance, or implications derived from the information given. In simplest terms, knowledge answers the “What?” question. Intelligence answers the “So What?” question.
Intelligence is both the process and the result of analyzing information to derive meaning to support decision-making. The central and most crucial element of the entire process is decision-making. In fact, practitioners often use the term “actionable intelligence” or “decision-based intelligence,” to put additional emphasis on the goal of empowering decision-makers to take appropriate action based on intelligence. It also underscores the importance of keeping those decisions or actions in focus during the analytical process.
Decision-based (or actionable) intelligence is often utilized in warfare. In combat, both sides have certain objectives. Commanding officers depend on reliable and accurate intelligence concerning the opposing force to help them make strategic and tactical decisions offering the best chance of victory. Commanders may obtain data on troop readiness and placement, equipment conditions, and geography and weather. They even rely on intelligence to understand more subtle and intangible details about their opponent such as common tactics, culture, modus operandi, etc. However, this knowledge must be carefully analyzed to develop relevant and actionable implications in order to answer the “So what?” question. This intelligence may then reveal the opposing force’s advantages which must be neutralized or circumvented. Alternatively, it may instead highlight an opponent’s weaknesses that might be exploited.
In the context of business, questions must be carefully and thoughtfully selected based on the intelligence needs of the decision-maker. So, a fundamental question is, “Who is the decision-maker?”
In the military example, the decision-maker is the commanding officer. Using business as an example, the capture manager or another company executive is typically the one making the critical decisions. Therefore, they are the ones most in need of competitive intelligence.
When making an important decision, it’s critical to have the intelligence and to know:
- Who are my top competitors?
- What are their relevant capabilities, and how do they compare with mine/ours?
- What is their price structure, and how does it compare with mine/ours?
- How aggressively are they likely to pursue this opportunity?
- How are they likely to score in the customer’s evaluation system?
If they are built on carefully researched and vetted data, the answers to these questions will provide valuable intelligence that will inform the leader’s decisions, and increase the chances of victory. This is what decision-makers need, and what competitive intelligence practitioners strive to provide.
Richter & Company provides decision-based competitive intelligence and price-to-win analysis to clients across the federal contracting space. For more information on how we can help you improve your probability of winning, get in touch with us. Let’s start a conversation and work towards a business win!