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Doing CI Right in the Law Firm: Hiring the Right People

Posted by Dr. Ben Gilad on Aug 15, 2018 1:10:04 PM

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Discover who is actually doing CI work today compared to past groups.

If done right, competitive intelligence (CI) is a powerful competency. In this three-part series, we discuss the three pillars of a successful CI strategy. Last month, we shared the first pillar on defining the right scope. In part two, we tackle hiring the right people.

As the corporate world moved from tactical information to strategic analysis for the core CI’s role, it moved away from hiring people versed in library functions or data gathering into recruiting analyst-level candidates. Over the years, we have seen this change in our Competitive Intelligence Professionals (CIP™) program at the Academy of Competitive Intelligence.

In the 90s, our trainees were busy collecting information. Then, slowly but surely, demand for analytical techniques to put the information to use started to surface. Finally, in recent years, trainees flocked to strategic application courses to be able to actually reduce (filter) the amount of noise and become more relevant to executives and other decision makers.

Experience also moved with the more strategic demands. The average years in the industry are a log-normal distribution (skewed to the right toward more experience) with median at five to six years. Level of education has risen, with over 70 percent holding graduate degrees. Today, CIPs are more seasoned, are better educated and serve as consultants to leadership, marketing, strategy, business development and any other forward-looking, market-facing functions. Less than a quarter are still heavily involved in collection or data gathering. The skills in highest demand are analytical techniques, understanding strategy and designing the whole CI process in a firm.

With higher qualification came more responsibility. The advanced CIPs are involved in strategic initiatives, entering new markets, product/service design and launch, market strategy and business development. Some also command a sign-off responsibility for major decisions. In other words, if an initiative hasn’t been reviewed by the CIP, it can’t go forward. That saves a lot of money.

CI teams are getting smaller because technology replaces significant chunks of the “busy work.” This is the reason for the paradox: As CI professionals become analysts, as opposed to information vacuum cleaners, the company actually spends less on data and gets more value. Simpler, routine reporting (competitor profiles, newsletters, database maintenance and social-network surveillance) is outsourced, automated or reduced significantly. There are numerous software companies replacing old-world information vendors, automating search and tailoring results (data) to internal users.

With the more “mundane” reporting phased out, CI in companies is moving up the reporting chain. More CIPs now report within one to two levels to the top.

Interesting enough, the trainees in our program have less experience with CI than in the past, but more experience in other roles in the company. In other words, companies recruit from inside, identifying managers with real-world experience and sending them to train, which is a smart way to structure their development and this role at their company. Although we like to claim CI is the highest form of intelligence (pun intended), we can turn a strategically minded professional into an intelligence analyst in one to two weeks. We can’t give them industry experience, though. That is earned with blood and tears, just like a trial lawyer “makes her bones” in the courtroom, not in class.

With that in mind, are you the next inside recruit for CI?

Expanding into law firm CI is now easier than ever before, due to the fact that CI has become more of an embedded function within firm marketing departments. CI training is something to add to your toolkit to become an even stronger legal marketer, and the best, most efficient way to train is to attend LMA’s upcoming Competitive Intelligence Certificate on Nov. 7-8, 2018. Now in its fourth year, this two-day program in New York City will deliver templates, tools and real-world applications to help you execute exceptional CI strategy within your firm.


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Ben Gilad, Ph.D., is a cofounder and president of the FGH-Academy of Competitive Intelligence, a former strategy professor at Rutgers University and the author of Business War Games, Early Warning and Business Blindspots.

Topics: Marketing Management and Leadership

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