How to build an organization chart for competitive intelligence

Organization charts are one of the most fun parts of competitive intelligence. The idea is simple and the results are satisfying and easy to visualize. The work involved is not complex - organization charts can involve a lot of work, but it is more a case of processing large amounts of information, rather than complicated and awkward sources. 

We have blogged before about online tools for building organization charts (also here), but that was mostly about the design tools rather than how to collect the raw data. 

Some of the main sources of information for organization charts include:

  1. LinkedIn is an excellent resource, and almost every competitive intelligence project involves some LinkedIn research. For organization charts, LinkedIn Premium is essential. The key benefit is that you get to see more information from people's profiles. Some profiles remain private if the user has chosen that option, but nonetheless there is much more on offer. At about $40 for one month of premium (which is all you need for a single project), this is excellent value. In some industries, such as technology, the majority of a company's employees will be on LinkedIn, with detailed profiles. In others, such as steel manufacturing, LinkedIn will not be so common, so that needs to be taken into account.
  2. Job postings provide good information about the company's structure, the relative sizes of departments and some salary/compensation details. Jobs on the company's own website, and on aggregators such as Indeed and SimplyHired, will reveal interesting nuggets. If the project is significant, it may be worth paying for resume listings on a website like, or using some of Taleo's database tools.
  3. can be hit and miss. It is useful for clues that need followup research, for example about top-heavy structures or recent employee turnover. Everything on Glassdoor should come with the caveat that it leans towards disgruntled employees, riffing on the same themes of favoritism and being unappreciated.
  4. One of the more time-intensive tools is to search for job titles e.g. ford "marketing director" or apple "product manager". Among all the irrelevant results will be resumes, appearances in press stories, case studies and personal blogs. In particular, refining the search queries to chase appearances by employees in press articles can deliver a wealth of information. Job titles to search for are those found through the above sources, but also job titles that the company could reasonably be expected to have - so even if there is no data so far about the company having a VP of Business Development, it makes sense to search for one.
  5. Doing similar research on the company's own competitors can be a good way to triangulate. If Unilever has a packaging supply chain manager, should Procter & Gamble not have one too? Of course not necessarily, but it is good practice to check. 

The above are all secondary sources. Primary research can also be important in building organization charts, but that is a topic for another day. A solid organization chart can usually be extracted out of secondary research alone.