Observations on Competitive Intelligence in Latin America

During my time as a Security Manager in Latin America I encountered many former security practitioners who had morphed into Competitive Intelligence (CI) professionals in diverse industry, mostly in the financial sector.  The phenomenon obviously intrigued me since it could be argued that security practitioners sit on the defense bench and CI or SI practitioners sit on the offense bench; if such a comparison could be drawn. But then again some aspects of security management, particularly investigations, brand and reputation protection lend themselves really well to the art of gathering, collating and analyzing commercial information to gain competitive advantage on the market.

For those of you not familiar with the term Competitive Intelligence, according to SCIP.org CI is the process of monitoring the competitive environment and analyzing the findings in the context of internal issues, for the purpose of decision support. CI enables senior managers in companies of all sizes to make more informed decisions about everything from marketing, R&D, and investing tactics to long-term business strategies. Effective CI is a continuous process involving the legal and ethical collection of information, analysis that does not avoid unwelcome conclusions, and controlled dissemination of actionable intelligence to decision makers. Learning from the military sphere many previously fragmented areas like business intelligence (BI), knowledge management (KM) along with CI have converged into an overarching tool called Strategic Intelligence (SI), which leverages the synergies among these component pieces of the internal and external information jigsaw puzzle toward making better decisions.

In fact many in the Security management community, most notably at the CSO level, believe this is a natural evolution of the Security Suite. A natural transition would likely take effect through leveraging Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) “to deliver actionable business intelligence” to their organizations. In this respect those professionals in Latin America who have made the transition to Competitive Intelligence units appear to be ahead of the overall evolution phase. A trend perhaps borrowed from Europe. The obvious question remains whether a transition from security management to business/competitive intelligence (which for long has being the stronghold of risk/knowledge management practitioners, as well as other traditional business functions like marketing and sales) would be as fluid elsewhere as those in Latin America. My intuition tells me that it’d depend on our own abilities to transcend the security role one organization at a time.