Friday, December 03, 2010

Embedding Intelligence into a Business Capability

In some recent posts, I have talked about embedding different forms of intelligence in a business process. Intelligence may make the process more powerful, or it may merely make it more internally efficient. But in the examples I've looked at so far, the essential purpose of the process remains the same.



In this post, I'm going to look at something more radical. Prompted by a blog on the Death of Market Research from Tamara Barber of Forrester, I'm going to show how a basic business capability such as market research can be transformed into something else by introducing new forms of intelligence.

Barber's basic premise appears to be that in a complex world, it isn't enough for market research merely to gather information to be fed into business strategy and tactics. Instead, market research needs to be fully engaged in the intelligence loops of business decision-making and innovation. The challenge is not collecting information - there is already more than enough raw data - the key value-adding activity is in interpretation and insight.

In terms of organizational intelligence, this means extending from information gathering into active participation in the intelligence loops - from sense-making and decision-making to experimentation and learning. Barber defines this new role as follows.

"This role will be responsible for collecting and analyzing both internal and external sources of data, analyzing it, and presenting a unified view of the truth on customer/consumer wants and needs, as well as the market conditions and health of the brand within that market. In order to do this, leaders of today’s market research departments will need to consider how they can organize their teams, scope their capabilities, and collaborate with internal teams (customer intelligence, anyone?) and external vendors in order to come to the table with relevant insights and recommendations — all based on business objectives."

There have been many criticisms of intelligence organizations such as the CIA whenever they have apparently failed to "connect the dots", and there are probably some useful lessons here for civilian organizations as well. One of the common problems appears to be a bureaucratic separation between the information gathering, sense-making and policy-making activities, which may cause insight to be fragmented or lost. It is surely better to build business capability around the whole intelligence loop, rather than chop it into separate pieces and hope that it all somehow works.




Places are still available for my Organizational Intelligence Workshop on December 8th.

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