Strategic Intelligence

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by Yvonne Baatz (Editor)
If  I asked to name one technique for gathering intelligence on customer requirements, marketplace needs and competitors, win-loss analysis would be at the top of the list. Effective win-loss analysis can tell you why customers choose you in preference to competitors or vice versa – and so allow you to tailor your product development, pricing and sales strategies to maximise customer purchase. Ellen Naylor is known as the foremost expert on the technique and this book tells you what to do and what to avoid – so that you get it right.

Marc Levinson, author.
In April 1956, a refitted oil tanker carried fifty-eight shipping containers from Newark to Houston. From that modest beginning, container shipping developed into a huge industry that made the boom in global trade possible. The Box tells the dramatic story of the container's creation, the decade of struggle before it was widely adopted, and the sweeping economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about.
Published on the fiftieth anniversary of the first container voyage, this is the first comprehensive history of the shipping container. It recounts how the drive and imagination of an iconoclastic entrepreneur, Malcom McLean, turned containerization from an impractical idea into a massive industry that slashed the cost of transporting goods around the world and made the boom in global trade possible.
But the container didn't just happen. Its adoption required huge sums of money, both from private investors and from ports that aspired to be on the leading edge of a new technology. It required years of high-stakes bargaining with two of the titans of organized labor, Harry Bridges and Teddy Gleason, as well as delicate negotiations on standards that made it possible for almost any container to travel on any truck or train or ship. Ultimately, it took McLean's success in supplying U.S. forces in Vietnam to persuade the world of the container's potential.
Drawing on previously neglected sources, economist Marc Levinson shows how the container transformed economic geography, devastating traditional ports such as New York and London and fueling the growth of previously obscure ones, such as Oakland. By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world's workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the globe.
The book about the history of the shipping container? At first, one has to
wonder why. (An eventuality not lost on the author, who muses "What is
it about the container that is so important? Surely not the thing
itself...the standard container has all the romance of a tin can.") The
catch, though, is that Levinson, an economist, "treats containerization
not as shipping news, but as a development that has sweeping
consequences for workers and consumers all around the globe." That
latter statement drives this book, which is about the economic
ramifications of the shipping container-from the closing of traditional
(and antiquated) ports to the rise of Asia as the world's preeminent
provider of inexpensive consumer goods (distributed, naturally, using
mammoth shipping containers). Levinson maintains his focus on the
economics of shipping vast quantities of merchandise, organizing the
book into snappy, thematic chapters on different facets of shipping
("The Trucker," and "Union Disunion," for instance), an approach that
lends itself well to spot-reading. Throughout, the writing is clean-more
informal than rigidly academic (union boss Teddy Gleason is "a voluble
Irishman born hard by the New York docks")-making the book suitable for
casual readers as well as students looking for a different take on the
evolution of 20th-century world economics.

Kirk W M Tyson
As the title suggests, Kirk Tyson’s book aims to be a comprehensive manual to competitive intelligence techniques. Although there have been, so far, 5 editions of this book, it is expensive although well worth the money as it covers the topic in depth. Although each edition was updated, the older editions are still mostly valid as as an initial primer to competitive intelligence. The SCIP edition was a special update at a lower price.

Written by Deborah C. Sawyer Reviewed by Arthur Weiss The front cover of "Smart Services" includes a quote from Andrew Garvin, the CEO of Find/SVP saying: "Finally a book that nails down what every service business needs to know about competition and competitive intelligence. 'Smart Services' offers competitive information strategies that firms can put to immediate use." I wanted to stop this review here, as I don't think that I could have given a better summary and description of this excellent book. However my brief for doing this review included an approximate word count, and I'm not brave enough to upset the Free Pint management by not adding a few words of my own. Smart Services is divided into three parts, of which the first, "The Competitive Landscape", and the second, "The Competitive Issues", occupy the bulk of the book. The final part, "The Competitive Game", summarises the previous sections with suggestions on ways of implementing the advice and processes described in the first two sections. "The Competitive Landscape" gives a comprehensive description of where competition can come from for a service business. The section describes the challenges facing service businesses and the types of competition faced. Of importance, the book does not just focus on traditional competitors but includes discussion on competition from service businesses that appear to be in completely different sectors, government and internal competition, and other types of indirect competition. This section is also good on how problems facing service businesses differ from those offering tangible products. The second section looks at the issues of collecting information on competitors, with chapters on how to find out who is competing, competitor strategies, sales and marketing, assessing performance and looking at who actually runs the competitor business. As with the first section, the end of each chapter includes a brief summary giving the key points mentioned in the chapter as well as suggestions on how information gathered can be fed back and used in company strategies and action plans. This is key, as there is no point collecting information on competitors that is ignored or filed away "for later"; such information is not competitive intelligence, as it has no impact on company actions. Having said all this, was there anything about this book I disliked? I have to answer yes - reluctantly, as my dislikes are fairly minor, and possibly reflect the fact that I am not new to CI or to service businesses. My first complaint is that the examples in the book are almost entirely from the USA or Canada. All suggested sources for information except one (the European Case Study clearinghouse at Cranfield - a unique global source) are North American. Thus the book cannot be used for specific advice on business sources outside the US and Canada. This is a minor quibble though, as the book does not claim to be a guide to sources. A second complaint is actually addressed in the book's introduction. Sawyer states, "the book is very light on models". I believe that this was a mistake, as there are analysis tools that can and should be used when examining service businesses. Good CI involves knowing how to interpret information just as much as finding and collecting it. I think that several chapters would have benefited from more examination of how to interpret available information and less discussion of the problems involved in doing CI on service businesses. However maybe I'm unfair in expecting this in a book that does cover so much in just over 200 pages.

John Nolan
John Nolan is a master at uncovering competitive intelligence from primary sources. Nolan shows some of his techniques – who to ask, what to ask, when to ask and how to ask. An essential book on how to get intelligence through interviewing and elicitation and also how to protect your organisation’s intelligence secrets. It shows how to legally obtain competitor business secrets without crossing the line into industrial espionage and illegality.

Jerry P Miller
Millennium Intelligence is a "how-to" type book on Competitive Intelligence (CI) written by some of the leading figures in the CI world. Unfortunately, the problem with any book written by a committee (even one that calls itself a Business Intelligence Brainstrust) is that it becomes a hotchpotch of different styles and quality. Some of Millennium Intelligence is excellent ­ and well worth reading; other chapters, however, are too academic for the average business reader while a few sections are too basic except for novices to the subject. This may be intentional as in the Introduction, Jerry Miller the book's editor, states "I don't presume that you'll read the entire book. I've organised the material so you can poke through it, reading the sections that are of most concern to you". Nevertheless, I found the inconsistencies in both style and depth of content irritating. For example, some chapters conclude with a summary of the major points covered ­ others just stop. Then, there are chapters that go into tremendous detail ­ citing several research studies, while others only scratched the surface of their subject or gave, in my view, inadequate explanation of key techniques. Additionally, there is a strong US bias ­ most examples and case studies focus on American companies. The book's subtitle implies that its focus will be on aspects of competitive intelligence that are applicable for a wired world. Indeed, about a third of the book covers such areas in depth ­ with sections on information technology for CI, knowledge management and information resources. These, and related areas, are also mentioned elsewhere in the book as relevant. The remainder, however, correctly covers traditional approaches ­ starting with an analysis of the structural, cultural and educational requirements for successful CI. Other sections look at legal and ethical considerations, analysis techniques, counter intelligence and small business intelligence. As such, Millennium Intelligence provides a comprehensive coverage of the various aspects of competitive intelligence practices and processes today. In this, it is a useful addition to the literature, especially for those who want or need to know more about establishing efficient and effective CI in their organisations. It is just a shame that there was not a greater consistency in the coverage and a more global approach to the subject.

Meet The Team
  1. Jennifer Roberts
    Jennifer Roberts, PhD. She currently serves as the Managing Director for National Strategic Intelligence, where she is primarily responsible for covering global affairs and opportunities. Jennifer started her career as nuclear proliferation and arms control analyst.
  2. Jason Parker
    Jason Parker is the founder and president of Strategic Intelligence and cofounder of the Competitive Intelligence Section. His articles have been published in leading publications.
  3. Jonquil Wu
    Jonquil Wu is one of the world's leading authorities on competitive strategy and international competitiveness. He serves as an advisor to CEOs throughout the world.
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