This Week's Herman Trend Alert

HR in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

May 12, 2004

Competitive Intelligence

A central strategy for many companies today is to push productivity higher and higher. They accomplish this objective by creatively applying technology and driving employees to perform at higher levels and work longer hours. These practices are risky, exposing the companies to an over-dependence on technology and high stress, burn-out, and dissatisfaction among employees.

What's next?

Having taken a number of steps to position themselves strongly in the global marketplace for labor, for suppliers, and for customers, employers are now investing more resources in competitive intelligence to discover what others are doing. Having built their indigenous strength, they are looking more closely at other firms in their marketplace to uncover their secrets and their vulnerabilities. These companies now seek to become more powerful at the expense of others.

The targets of this intelligence gathering include knowledge about research and development, emerging markets, alternative distribution channels, and the identity of the most talented employees. Executive recruiters are being asked to test the receptivity of top players-not to recruit them, but to determine the depth of their commitment to their current employers. This insight gives competitive human resource analysts a greater sense of the stability of the workforce of their competitors, a factor that could become increasingly significant.

Using sophisticated intelligence gathering techniques, specialists in this field test the security of competitors' information technology and communications systems. While some targets in more developed countries may be hardened against penetration, researchers finds points of entry for international companies in less secure locations. They probe for access to information continually on a global basis, data mining to find weaknesses to exploit.

One major weakness in this game is the unsuspecting nature of the people who work for a company's competitors. Knowledge is gathered in casual conversations where workers socialize, at conferences and conventions, at trade shows and job fairs, and through e-mail conversations. People at all levels of an organization willingly share facts and data that, alone, has little value. This intelligence is compiled by a growing number of specialists to produce a comprehensive picture of corporate strategies, plans, products, processes, and people.

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