From ‘ad hoc’ to ‘visionary’: How your company’s competitive intelligence can get from here to there

In a poll conducted during a recent presentation on biopharma competitive intelligence (CI), Jamie Munro, global practice leader, portfolio & licensing at Clarivate Analytics, asked participants to rank their companies’ CI efforts on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing “ad hoc,” a scrambling, reactive approach to industry events as they occur, and 5 connoting “visionary,” a rigorous, pro-active, value-added program.

Of the respondents, 23% gave their companies a 1; 21% registered a 2; 30% saw their programs as somewhere in-between, with a 3; 23% said 4; and 4% ranked their company’s efforts as “visionary” in approach, giving themselves a 5.

The need for a positive, efficient CI system is more urgent than ever, said Munro during the presentation, “Pharma Competitive Intelligence: Delivering Actionable Insights for Decision Making,” which was delivered via a webinar on Oct. 10.

Munro pointed to data that shows that while there were 52% fewer preclinical drug starts driven by internal R&D at major pharma companies from 2007 to 2015, licensing of outside assets increased 70% over roughly the same time period.

“The fall in the number coming from the inside is made up by the increase in the numbers coming from the outside,” he said. “And this represents not only an increase in external innovation, but also risk sharing and can be viewed as a success of CI.”

Many companies face an array of challenges in their CI efforts, or fall into identical traps, Munro said:

  • Their intelligence gathering efforts are dispersed across multiple departments within the company, such as R&D, strategy, business development and commercial, making it difficult to create a single vision to drive CI.
  • CI is often still viewed as a corporate information service rather than a strategic imperative for the executive team.
  • The CI effort focuses on speed, cost and frequency rather than on delivering value through actionable insights and improved decision making.
  • While “Big Data” can help with the CI effort, Munro said, many companies are oversold on its usefulness as a CI asset.

Perhaps most alarming at all, Munro cited a recent Harvard Business Review article that found – across all industries – that more than half of CI insights collected are simply not used. While noting that the study resulted from a survey, the methodology for which could be flawed, the findings are still cause for concern, Munro said. “That is a significant percentage when you consider the investment in CI.”

What is CI exactly?

How do we define competitive intelligence?

Karthik Subramanian, senior product manager, Cortellis, a co-presenter with Munro on the webinar, described CI, when functioning at its best, in this way: “It’s about connecting the dots and delivering strategic insights to the organization, to the stakeholders, to the board and to the CEO.”
He noted how in most companies the CI function has evolved from “a pure library function.”

Now, CI is about “understanding your competition, understanding your internal strength, looking at your portfolio and trying to map to the outside world.”

A key imperative, said Subramanian, is to pull together the disparate CI sources – internal research, externally acquired reporting, social media – and to integrate them into a unified vision. Developing what he called “a single version of the truth” helps companies to discover unexpected associations in the data; to see novel industry trends; to predict shifts in the strategic landscape; and to identify strategic opportunities earlier.

Clarivate Analytics has developed an approach to CI, a maturity curve, in an effort to help biopharma companies gauge the progress of their competitive intelligence programs. The poll noted at the start of this article was based on this graphic.

The ratings begin with “Reactive” which, as can be inferred, describes companies that conduct CI on an ad hoc basis in response to events that come up in the business setting. The maturation process progresses through Emerging, Capable, Tactical, Strategic and, finally, Visionary.

Subramanian acknowledged that many companies may not yet have the resources to evolve all the way through the process, but the hope is that they will become more tactical, strategic and visionary.

“How does CI move from one end to the other? You can be reactive to changes or you can be proactive and predict those changes instead,” he said.

If you missed the CI talk, or want to listen again, a recording of the webinar, produced through Xtalks, is available here.

A paper developed by the CI experts at Clarivate Analytics, “Key challenges in Pharma Competitive Intelligence … and how to address them: Moving up the Competitive Intelligence (CI) Maturity Curve,” is also available and can be downloaded here.