The following Insights post is contributed by Victoria Lefevers, Senior Manager, Market and Competitive Intelligence at Carbonite and expert JPK Group Presenter.
A little over a year ago, I joined Carbonite to stand up the first iteration of their market and competitive intelligence function. I spent the first week wondering what the heck I got myself into and trying to frantically remind everyone that I was actually qualified for the job. After the first week, some (read: lots of) wine, and some decompressing with other colleagues in the field, I calmed down and started figuring it out. I am often asked what I know now that I wish I knew then; so here are my top three takeaways from the second week through the remainder of my first year.
First, during the first quarter or two, quick hits, or “quick wins” are the key to both survival and growth. Quick wins have so many great outcomes, particularly when you are not yet well-acquainted with your field. They’re easy dives into the competitive arena that 1) help you learn your competitors and market quickly, 2) scratch your stakeholder’s immediate itches and 3) provide you with a base of intelligence to grow from. So don’t turn your nose up at the request for a one-off slide comparing 3 of your competitors, or a request for an info sheet on a vendor you’re not familiar with. Every quick win increases stakeholder buy-in into you and your program, and each piece of buy-in builds your credibility within the company.
The great thing here is that with credibility comes the ability to say “no” and suggest alternatives. And thus we have my second takeaway; use your newfound credibility and superior primary research skills to dive further into requests, and figure out what will be truly valuable to your organization beyond those quick wins. As an intelligence practitioner, you’re probably innately good at that sort of request redirection. However, during this phase you will ALSO need to learn how to ask for help and direction in shaping your program. This is probably not so comfortable for many of you. Luckily, most people are MUCH more willing to provide input and assistance to someone with a ton of credibility than someone they’re skeptical about. Funny how that works, right? Building that reputation of stakeholder success in the first few weeks makes it easier to seek help – and showing that vulnerability only continues to increase your credibility. It’s really the circle of CI life. Ask your CI network for input about what you should be looking for as metrics of success. Ask your stakeholders for feedback to make sure you are targeting their needs appropriately. Ask a friend to bring you dinner when you’re at the office until 9PM.
Once you’ve established that you 1) know your stakeholder needs and can address them and 2) have built up a ton of organizational confidence in your work, you’ve officially hit on my third takeaway where you have to really own being “the Oracle.” Just like the Oracle in The Matrix, you have to be able to do three things. First, you must tell the same story to various listeners and be understood. Storytelling is an art that you will have to study in order to satisfy stakeholders at all levels of your organization. Second, you have to be able and willing to share your insights to anyone who needs them (even if they don’t know they need them – looking at you, Neo). And finally you have to be able to listen. So much important information – about questions, about needs, about how your stakeholder will react – only comes from actively listening to those around you. Don’t lose yourself in communicating your insights to the point that you forget to attend to the people behind the request.
So there you have it. It’s definitely tough to sum up a year in a blog post, so feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.
Victoria is passionate about building knowledge communities in order to make intelligence work accessible to all practitioners. She joined Carbonite in 2014 to stand up the company’s market and competitive intelligence function and previously ran communications for the CI division at EMC. She recently founded the Boston-area market, business & competitive intelligence meetup community and is also a member of SCIP and SLA CID. Victoria’s formal training is in qualitative research methods; she holds a MBA and certificate in CI from Johns Hopkins University and a MA in Communication from UNC Greensboro.