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Sep 29 / heathgross

Showing Your Cards

Poker: Showing Your Cards

illustration by Cat Scott

Protect Your Company’s Information

One thing I have noticed in the competitive intelligence industry is that everyone is so focused on trying to see the other guy’s hand that they are forgetting to hide their own.

Knowing your competitor’s intentions has tremendous value; however if you are not taking steps to protect your organization’s information then you may be forfeiting any competitive advantage you might have had. As a former counter intelligence agent for the US government, I have witnessed firsthand how the right information in the wrong hands can wreak havoc on both tactical and strategic initiatives.

Corporate Security isn’t Enough

There is a pervasive belief within the competitive intelligence industry that protecting information falls under the prevue of corporate security and is therefore not the concern of CI managers. While corporate security may be responsible for protecting the company from such things as cyber attacks, document theft, espionage or trade secret protection, these are not practices associated with legitimate competitive intelligence. Competitive intelligence practitioners can gain tremendous insight into an organization’s activities, strategies and future plans without ever breaking legal or ethical rules or coming under the scrutiny of corporate security.

The fact is, there are few people within an organization that are better equipped to understand how to protect against competitive intelligence attacks than the competitive intelligence practitioners themselves. Think about what you want to know about your competitor and how you (or your vendor) might go about getting that information: Who would you talk to that could provide you with useful information? Once you have answered that question you are on your way to understanding how to protect your own company.

Not Just for Senior Staff

One pitfall I see often is when a company decides to establish a counter competitive intelligence program, it is generally only rolled out to a limited number of senior staff. While this method might provide some level of protection, it is rarely effective at deterring the smart and persistent primary researcher. At Sedulo we teach our analysts to start at the bottom of the corporate food chain and work their way up. Sales reps, assistants, interns, contractors, vendors, former employees: These represent the low hanging fruit. They often have access to lots of good intelligence but seldom receive any counter competitive intelligence training. Only after we have exhausted these sources do we begin reaching out to senior staff within an organization. If your company has trained only senior staff, then you have allowed the competitor to gather 90% of what they need to know. While it may not be the whole picture, it is 90% too much.

If you have any thoughts on this topic or would like more information on counter CI strategy, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or reach out to me directly.

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