The HUMINT Side of Competitive Intelligence

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One of the oldest documented professions in the world is not only considered a profession but is considered an art as well. The art of espionage has been documented in the Bible, manuscripts of the Byzantine Empire, and the Art of War by Sun Tzu. This profession has developed over centuries, ranging from a myriad of clandestine collection, subtle debriefings through skillful elicitation, and internet based spy-tech. Collection activities focused on both tactical and strategic operations providing the world renowned chess game of cloak and dagger activities pitting one intelligence service against another. Yet as capitalism began to flourish, there was no surprise that intelligence collection had begun to intermingle amongst the corporate world. As corporate espionage became a taboo term, the suggestion of competitive intelligence, competitor intelligence and business intelligence began to find mild acceptance throughout the battlefields of the boardrooms, industrial complexes, and social networking events.

Before exploring the true essence of Human SWOT analysis reports Intelligence (HUMINT) in correlation to Competitive Intelligence (CI), one must gain an understanding of the various forms of business related information collection and how each may be related. The most widely referred explanation of competitive intelligence, is the acquisition of publicly available information of the competitors of an individuals company to gain a distinct advantage in business. The acquisition of a competitors critical information such as strategic decisions, financial performance, and productivity to name a few, is referred to as competitor intelligence. Additional information acquired which is not considered competitive in nature is referred to as business intelligence. The information acquired, no matter the title given, has strategic implications in the business environment and is considered a strategic necessity in the corporate world.

The acquisition of the information in the realm of competitive intelligence is often acquired from publicly available resources. Often, many individuals believe that competitive intelligence is collected solely from journals, articles, employment notices, internet pages, and other written publications which may provide data points for analysis. What many fail to realize, is that although collection from written publications may occur, this collection may only equal 10%-20% of the information which exists. The other 80%-90% is acquired through spoken communication. From interviews, lectures, webinars, and even conversations at the local coffee shop. Yes, the local coffee shop near the company headquarters is a prime collection opportunity for the HUMINT Competitive Intelligence collector. Whether the information is derived from written publication or HUMINT collection, the data points or information acquired is only one piece of the larger puzzle.

The analysis of the information collected and that which is unknown, may often be deduced in an effort to develop an overall picture of the situation. But to understand truly how competitive intelligence works, and how HUMINT may be interwoven, one must recognize the elements of the intelligence cycle. Though controversy may exist in some circles regarding how many steps or elements may exist in the intelligence cycle, for this article we will use the following five as our accepted measure: