Disrupting the competitive intelligence industry

As a competitive intelligence analyst it is easy to stand on the sidelines and watch other industries being disrupted, wondering why chief executives don't see disruption coming. Disrupt yourself is the corporate and personal call. Not surprisingly, however, that is easier said than done, and the competitive intelligence industry is not doing much to disrupt itself. Even as neighboring industries like law discuss possibly changing their business models (admittedly a small step), us lot carry on as normal.

We sell a high value, labor intensive, sophisticated product - who's going to disrupt that? 

InfoArmy, for one, as CEO Jim Fowler makes clear in this interview:

Small Business Trends: Do you foresee changing the way that the analyst community works because of the approach you are taking with InfoArmy?

Jim Fowler: You know, I do Brent. At the beginning there is no question we are creating a set of data we think no one really wants to collect. Our researchers update these competitive intelligence reports every quarter so we think it provides a baseline of information everyone can use. It just does not exist right now. Over time, we do believe that we will start offering higher end products that start encroaching into where the analyst lives today. But for now, we just have to build a critical mass of these reports.

And in a world of Wikipedia, Reddit, Quora and Kickstarter (Fowler himself talks of crowdsourcing as the next step), InfoArmy has a good chance of being disruptive. The company is a member of the AIIP, Crowdsortium, SCIP and the SLA - those four groups are clear indicators of InfoArmy's strategy. Of course, one can come up with many reasons why InfoArmy will not grow to be a serious threat to the competitive intelligence industry, or why their product is weak, but that would be to adopt the role of every incumbent in denial.

InfoArmy reports are pretty decent, especially for $99 - in particular they are clear and well laid out. They don't replace 'proper' competitor analysis but:

  • They may be good enough for a potential client to feel they 'get' what the competitor is like and not commission a full competitor analysis.
  • At $99, they may make it more difficult for a client to see value in paying tens/hundreds more for a report from an old-school competitive intelligence vendor.
  • Over time, InfoArmy may keep improving and fleshing out its reports until they are a more serious challenge.

Some competitive intelligence projects depend on information that will come from intensive primary research. But others are aggregations of secondary research - in those cases, a $99 report may well deliver similar information.

The idea behind InfoArmy, of being an easy conduit to AIIP professionals and such like, deserves to succeed. It will be interesting to see what impact that has on traditional competitive intelligence companies, like Aqute.