How long does a competitive intelligence project take?

it would be facile to say that the length of a competitive intelligence project varies. Of course it does. But most competitive intelligence projects fall into a fairly similar range.

The length of a competitive intelligence project is determined mainly by the following factors:

  • Depth and complexity of the research scope

  • Time required to find and contact primary sources

  • Number of competitors

The biggest impact on project length comes from the time required to find and contact primary sources. Typically this might be one or two weeks to find sources and another two, maybe three, weeks to contact them and schedule conversations. This last part is the one that the analyst can least control - it depends largely on the source’s availability.

So that’s around four weeks for the core research. Add to that a week or two at the start for secondary research (some of which is also a way to find contacts for the primary fieldwork) and a week or so at the end for writng up all the analysis. And that’s how long it takes to analyze a competitor - six or seven weeks.

Additional competitors may add some time, but not a signfiicant amount. The largest block of time is spent waiting for sources to be available, and this waiting time means that several competitors can be analyzed in parallalel because no single competitor keeps the analyst team fully occupied. So if one competitor takes six weeks, four competitors might take eight weeks.

A further, minor, consideration is that if a project takes much longer than a few weeks it starts to lose momentum, and the methodology may be affected by interviewing sources too far apart in time from each other. We prefer to be in and out of the field quickly in the interests of discretion.

Occasionally, a project may take longer - it may have multiple phases or significant international activity or require waiting on client actions at key stages. But a good general rule is six to seven weeks to analyze one competitor, and seven to eight weeks to analyze multiple companies.