It is always a great achievement when we can affirm that something has been done according to one strategic plan, goal or thought. Sound strategic planning capabilities depend on industry/sector specific understanding and full perception of the external competitive environment. In the sixth and last of a series of articles focused on Innovation Culture, the focus is on a process called Market Intelligence (MI). This process can be affirmed as a cyclic, continuous organizational process that deals with dispersed data, information and knowledge in a competitive sector, to produce knowledge to be applied by companies in their strategic marketing planning.
Strategy needs to embrace continuously market change
Market research arises in this context as a discipline that encompass several methods of market projections, which will allow a better understanding of a sector, area or market where the organization intends to act, but also providing knowledge that helps this organization to project its future position in this sector, contributing this way to propose a general strategic plan. Market research has a specific and critical help for the strategic plan: to adequate the overall value, perceived by a customer, for a commercial, competitive offer. And one of the key issues for understanding the external context is the analysis of the competitive environment, usually related to forces coming from sources as competitors, customers, suppliers, regulators and other agents that are independent and not controlled by the organization.
Companies develop market intelligence processes to generate knowledge that can apply in their strategic marketing planning.
But is the organization culture market oriented? Does the culture stimulate openness, collaboration and willingness for change? What kinds of behaviors are promoted? What type of knowledge is collected and treated? What types of capabilities are required to be considered a market oriented organization?
- Mastering in collaboration with external partners – e.g. submitting challenges to external experts and innovators; sharing ideas and receiving feedback from the external community and inviting external experts to the internal ideas evaluation process.
- Performing adequate analysis of the market environment – e.g. anticipating change and trends – by constantly scanning and connecting with the technology, the marketplace, the wider organization and competitive environment; identifying and tracking in effective way developments in new and emergent technologies and market needs and reducing the time to market – bringing innovation sooner to the marketplace.
- Making a correct assessment of product/service positioning and estimates of customer requirements and goals – e.g. enabling the collective intelligence of the organization; understanding the key market facts and data details about the customer’s requirements; involving customers in innovation and gathering feedback and ideas from customers.
Therefore organizational culture must support, on a continuous basis, the analysis of the external environment in order to identify present and future threats and opportunities. This is particular relevant in sectors more exposed to market change and depended on open innovation activities, for instance external partners capabilities that need to be insourced in key innovation processes. Organizations need to be aware of partner requirements as well as changes in their market positioning. Some partner organizations and even some customers may move from allies to direct competitors. It could be a consequence of fast technological advances, changes in customer expectations for service or price, arrival of new players in the marketplace or strategic alliances formed by partners and third parties or eventually the entrance of new products/services or substitutes. Based on the achieved results, organizations need to have a clear understanding of their market environment in order to respond to forces of change proactively according to the strategic plan, goal or thought they established.
Market Intelligence (MI) as method for surveillance
Understood in the way defined above, MI delivers knowledge for a sector, represented by a group of companies, or sector players, allowing them to better develop their strategic marketing plans. The MI method is proposed as a two-step definition.
The first step is composed by three actions:
- Value chain definition – a phase where not only the value aggregate chain of a typical sector firm is precisely defined, but also a distribution of the overall value to be offered to the final customer is quantified for each element of the productive array. Here, so, we understand the value contribution of each organization that deals with the product or service when it is provided to the final customer.
- Verification of knowledge demands for strategic marketing decisions – Through a series of methodological approaches, as focus groups with managers and decision-makers, delphi sessions, specialist forums, etc. typical strategic marketing decisions are mapped and the main knowledge applied for its precise conclusion are evaluated. The sources, availability and safety issues are also discussed, among others, allowing to estimate costs, risks and complexity for its provision.
- Knowledge availability in the value chain array – Intends, primarily, to understand how to locate data, information and knowledge throughout the productive chain, enabling the MI specialists to identify how and where the demanded knowledge can be build to answer the needs for the sector, as classified in the previous phase.
The second step is constituted by a cycle, which is correspondent to a process where the knowledge will be continuously produced in periodical journeys, where the frequency – typically for each semester, annual, etc. – depends on the sector planning and execution times.
The continuous production of knowledge, as a collateral effect, allows a better historical perception about that market, improving its overall comprehension.
- Collection – Data, information and knowledge needed for strategic marketing planning knowledge production are collected in the aggregate value array. Here it is possible to apply several methods as: simple worksheets filling (for instance by companies´ accountants, controllers or other managers who deal with sensitive data), Internet-based transactions which use forms to be filled by specific professionals, data automatic capture from companies systems like ERPs, SCMs, and Big Data approaches (for capturing and treating a large volume of data).
- Validation – Those contents collected in the phase 1 are tested, proofed against previously defined business rules, in order to guarantee their integrity, reliability and coherence. If a organization, for instance, makes a mistake providing invalid data referring to an incoherent amount of sales for a product, for instance, it must be re-collected and / or discharged.
- Analysis – Applying methods as statistical analysis and other scientific methods and tools (some, as in Healthcare systems, are specific for this analysis) to generate the intended knowledge. For instance precise market participation for each player; failures in the supply-chain; customer behavior reaction, among many others, are typical knowledge produced at this phase.
- Sharing – the group of firms or sectorial array can receive this knowledge cyclically using several tools and ways. From a simple system of distribution of .PDF files to specific executive training programs, the produced knowledge is delivered to managers, for detailed, organization-owned marketing plans to be designed. Some organizations, for instance, organize sectorial seminars or congresses, where along with knowledge generated exhibition, some lectures from market experts are also introduced, producing a rich study of the external and internal scenarios for strategic plans.
- Cycle evaluation – Each cycle, which is executed in time periods of six to twelve months, is examined to understand, from an overall Quality of Service approach, if it was correctly executed, if there is anything that can turn into a “best practice” or even be improved in the next cycle execution.
At the end of each cycle, we can merely return to “collect” point and then, repeat the cycle again, in a new period, producing knowledge for new marketing plan preparation for the new period. Clearly, the continuous production of knowledge, as a collateral effect, allows a better historical perception about that market, improving its overall comprehension.
The cycle is detailed in the following figure. Besides its theoretical proposition in a post-doctoral program, it is supporting several consultancy works for Brazilian commercial sectors, as Biotechnology, Steel manufacturing, Retailing, Furniture design and sales and Power supply.
Organizations must embed market intelligence practices into their day-to-day processes and strategic plans.
Among several actions, the study of Market Intelligence (MI) reinforces the contribution of market research for the precise understanding of a market, enabling more accurate plans and decisions. However, this can only be done with the support of the organizational culture. Organizations must embed market intelligence practices into their day-to-day processes and strategic plans.
In the case of MI process, each organization produces and receives, in an interactive sectorial action, knowledge to be applied in more sustainable plans. As a critical contribution for innovation, these plans can also depict or create situations where a product innovation can be offered, or a decision to modify a process, introducing a process innovation can be effectively taken. Approaching the Schumpeterian definition for Innovation, new markets can also be developed and / or attended by companies, with a more detailed perception of its needs and desires, allowing to a more sustainable product or service offers.
To be more effective and productive, organizations who are interested in applying such approaches of MI to their planning capacities should organize a representative group, or association, and then start the cycle as detailed in this article, always analyzing its potential deliveries and knowledge application for decisions such as the intended level of strategic marketing planning.
By Rui Patricio, George Leal Jamil & Antonio Rocha
About the authors
Rui Patricio is the Co-founder and CEO of CONTINUE TO GROW and Managing Director of Digitalflow. He is passionate about helping organizations implement innovation cutting edge programs that enable the deployment of differentiation and value added strategies. With more than 20 years experience in management and technology, Rui is a project coordinator, an active speaker, author, lecture and workshop leader on different topics of innovation and procurement.
George Leal Jamil, the Post-Doctor by University of Porto, Doctor in Information Science (UFMG – Brazil), Master in Computing Science (UFMG – Brazil), Electrical Engineer (UFMG – Brazil). Consultant, Post-graduation Teacher and writer, with papers, chapters and books published in Brazil, Portugal and USA. Expertise Areas: Strategy, Information systems, Knowledge management, Innovation management. Associated consultant of CONTINUE TO GROW.
António Rocha, With more than 20 years of experience in information systems, is currently CTO at CONTINUE TO GROW and Ambidata®. His also professor at Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto. With interests in the areas of innovation, software architectures and databases, was responsible for dozens of development projects and software implementation.
Photo : Businessman pressing by Shutterstock.com