Competitive intelligence failures. An information behaviour lens to key intelligence and information needs

Published date16 July 2018
Pages367-389
Date16 July 2018
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-01-2018-0018
AuthorTumelo Maungwa,Ina Fourie
Competitive intelligence failures
An information behaviour lens to key
intelligence and information needs
Tumelo Maungwa and Ina Fourie
Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria,
Johannesburg, South Africa
Abstract
Purpose Competitive intelligence failures have devastating effects in marketplaces. They are attributed to
various factors but seldom explicitly to information behaviour. This paper addresses causes of competitive
intelligence failures from an information behaviour lens focussing on problems with key intelligence
and information needs. The exploratory study was conducted in 2016/2017. Managers (end-users) identify
key intelligence needs on which information is needed, and often other staff members seek the information
(proxy information seeking). The purpose of this paper is to analyse problems related to key intelligence and
information needs, and make recommendations to address the problems.
Design/methodology/approach The study is placed in a post-positivism research paradigm, using
qualitative and limited quantitative research approaches. In total, 15 participants (competitive intelligence
professionals and educators/trainers originating from South Africa and the USA) contributed rich data
through in-depth individual interviews.
Findings Problems associated with articulation of information needs (key intelligence needs is the
competitive intelligence term with a broader scope) include inadequate communication between the person
in need of information and the proxy information searcher; awareness and recognition of information needs;
difficulty in articulation, incomplete and partial sharing of details of needs.
Research limitations/implications Participant recruitment was difficult, representing mostly from
South Africa. The findings from this exploratory study can, however, direct further studies with a very
understudied group.
Practical implications However, revealed valuable findings that can guide research.
Originality/value Little has been published on competitive intelligence from an information behaviour
perspective. Frameworks guiding the study (a combination of Leckie et al.s 1996 and Wilsons, 1981 models
and a competitive intelligence life cycle), however, revealed valuable findings that can guide research.
Keywords Failure, Information behaviour, Information needs, Competitive intelligence,
Competitive intelligence professionals, Key intelligence needs
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Competitive intelligence refers to the collection, transmission, analysis and dissemination
of publicly available, ethically and legally obtained relevant information as a means of
producing actionable knowledge (Bergeron and Hiller, 2002, p. 355). In addition, Kahaner
(1997, p. 16) states that competitive intelligence is a total process, not just a function in
the company which is made up of four steps: planning and direction, collection of data,
analysis and dissemination. Data or information are required on the environment in
which an organisation or company originates, e.g., threats, opportunities and trends, and
are interpreted in terms of organisational strategy to produce intelligence or intelligence
products (Sewdass, 2012; Du Toit, 2015). Intelligence is used in strategic decision-making.
Despite all the efforts, competitive intelligence professionals make to create successful
intelligence products, failure is often reported (Erdelez and Ware, 2001; Frion and
Yzquierdo-Hombrecher, 2009; Tsitoura and Stephens, 2012; Garcia-Alsina et al., 2013;
Du Toit, 2015). Competitive intelligence failures result when analytical judgments of data
or intelligence turn out to be wrong ( Jensen, 2012). When properly formulated, key
intelligence needs can provide the competitive intelligence process with the ability to
adapt to an organisations information needs (Muller, 2002; Sewdass, 2012). Du Toit (2007)
Aslib Journal of Information
Management
Vol. 70 No. 4, 2018
pp. 367-389
© Emerald PublishingLimited
2050-3806
DOI 10.1108/AJIM-01-2018-0018
Received 27 January 2018
Revised 27 April 2018
8 June 2018
Accepted 19 June 2018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/2050-3806.htm
367
Competitive
intelligence
failures
writes extensively on understanding key intelligence needs. From her work, as well as
from other authors, it seems as if information needs, prominent in information
behaviour, are closely related to key intelligence needs. More about this is discussed in a
later section.
Failures in competitive intelligence have also been attributed to various other factors
such as organisational culture, lack of support from senior management, mistakes caused
by individuals involved in the competitive intelligence process, including the competitive
intelligence professionals and data analysts (Garcia-Alsina et al., 2013; Almeida et al., 2016;
Sandal et al., 2017). Competitive intelligence failures can also be caused by error from
incoming data or mistakes made by senior management, competitive intelligence
professionals and data analysts (Erdelez and Ware, 2001; Tsitoura and Stephens, 2012;
Garcia-Alsina et al., 2013). Such failures can have devastating effects in organisations, which
may result in the loss of opportunities and profits (Nasri, 2011; Tsitoura and Stephens, 2012;
Garcia-Alsina et al., 2013; Gračanin et al., 2015).
Although there is a good body of literature on competitive intelligence and competitive
intelligence failure (Bose, 2008; Dishman and Calof, 2008; Smith et al., 2010; Strauss and
Du Toit, 2010; Almeida et al., 2016; Sandal et al., 2017), there is a limited body of literature on
both competitive intelligence and information behaviour, and very seldom failures in
competitive intelligence are explicitly attributed to information behaviour. The studies by
Tsitoura and Stephens (2012), Garcia-Alsina et al. (2013) and Erdelez and Ware (2001) are
exceptions. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to address the causes of competitive
intelligence failures from the perspec tive of information behaviour, focussing on
the identification, expression, articulation and sharing of information needs as well as
key intelligence needs, where the latter is the term used in the literature on competitive
intelligence (Bose, 2008; Sewdass, 2012; Wright, 2014) that posits key intelligence needs as
specifically related to the information needs of the organisation. Johnson (2006) refers to key
intelligence needs as pre-eminent lists of priorities. This paper will use both the term
key intelligenceassociated with competitive intelligence and the term information needs
as associated with the information behaviour lens from which this paper is written. Various
competitive intelligence authors have acknowledged the relation between key intelligence
needs and information needs ( Jin and Bouthillier, 2006; Salles, 2006; Du Toit, 2015) but
without fully succeeding in exploring the relationship or how information needs follow on
key intelligence needs. Although there are good attempts such as Du Toit (2007),
many uncertainties remain that requires further investigation. The paper will attempt to
make a small contribution by explaining how a term specific to the field of context, that is
competitive intelligence, can be related to the terminology used by the theoretical lens
applied for the study, that is, the domain-specific vocabulary of information behaviour
( Johannisson and Sundin, 2007; Sundin et al., 2008).
The reason for focussing on information needs must, however, be explained first.
This paper developed from an exploratory information behaviour study conducted in
2016/2017 by Maungwa (2017) revealing key intelligence and information needs as core
problems in competitive intelligence failures. Numerous studies and conceptual papers from
information science and information behaviour have also reported on information needs as a
crucial component in information seeking (Belkin et al., 1982; Jiang et al., 2008; Baro et al.,
2010; Mavodza, 2011; Clarke et al., 2013; Savolainen, 2009a, 2017b). Based on such studies
and the results reported by Maungwa (2017), it seemed appropriate to focus this paper solely
on the role information needs play in competitive intelligence failure, and where the focus
may be in problems of key intelligence needsand information needscontribution to
competitive intelligence failure.
According to Yusuf et al. (2013), information needs can be seen as demand (requirement)
and want (desire). There are also many other interpretations and as explained in the next
368
AJIM
70,4

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