Competitive Intelligence/Intelligence Process
A systematic CI process is usually considered cyclic. One such cycle may be:
Focus: Determine key business issues that need to be addressed
Collect: Efficiently search and collate information to resolve the issues under investigation
Analyze: Understand the future implications of emerging threats and Opportunities
Action: Disseminate and utilize the knowledge generated to minimize decision risk
Other cycles may include those from both public and private-sector intelligence organizations:
Planning and Direction - Clearly identify the problem and articulate appropriate Key Intelligence Topics (KITs) and Key Intelligence Questions (KIQs) including identification of sources of information internal to the organization (tacit or explicit), syndicated research availability, and knowledge gaps that may require primary research, including the use of third-parties.
Collection - Develop and exploit sources of information that answer the KIQs. Collection should be neither random (expecting the right information to fall into one's lap) nor should it be exhaustive. In the first place, random generation of intelligence may not answer, with any specificity, the KIQs nor address the KITs. It becomes "noise" in the intelligence process. In the second, exhaustive collection is resource-intensive and time-consuming. Not all information should be the subject of analysis to address a KIT or answer KIQs.
Processing and Exploitation: Following collection, the information obtained should be store and sorted to be better analyzed. This is raw intelligence that may require translation, fact-checking, or topical organization.
Synthesis, Analysis and Production: During analysis, the raw data is sorted for relevance (synthesized) and becomes the subject of a potential variety of analytical processes including, but not limited to, Porter's Five Forces, Porter's Four Corners, Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, PEST (and all of its variants), SWOT / TOWS, SPACE, Six Angles, and so on. Once the analysis is complete and an intelligence picture exists, production of the media for distribution can begin. In business, depending on the requirements, the material might be made into battle cards, white papers, patent work-product, strategy decks, or training material.
Dissemination: Distributing the material to the relevant stakeholders or internal constituency via presentation or technology-enabled means.
Regardless, there exists a significant body of work suggesting that the intelligence cycle is, at best, an analog to what actually occurs in the process of intelligence. One of the key problems identified is the fact that the cyclic nature of the process relies on the necessity of feedback between the requester and the collectors, analysts, and producers. In practice, this rarely happens and the process tends to appear more linear than cyclic.