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Few business practices have had as rapid an uptake as competitive intelligence (CI). Not only the pharma industry but also other industries have witnessed this rapid uptake. Over the years, the applications of CI have grown and matured, and competitive intelligence has gone from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ function in a multitude of organisations. Some organisations have been early adopters of the practice, most are ‘early/late majority’ adopters and some have yet to leverage the practice to their benefit.

From a reductionist perspective, observing the environment, competitors and associated metrics collectively fall under the domain of external analysis. Leveraging CI for external analyses in order to support ensuing decision-making has been an eclectic practice in organizations. Proponents of the context-adaptive and agile decision-making practice seem to be positioning CI as an enterprise-wide initiative applicable in multiple functions. In this thought piece, we summarise the prevalence of CI in different functions in the pharma/biotech sector vis-a-vis other sectors.

Corporate and Franchise Strategy

At the corporate and franchise level, CI is conducted through the framework of PESTLE, Five forces, demand/supply, benchmarking etc. The need is often to have a high level understanding and in several cases, involves converting granular intelligence to distilled macro insights for decision-makers. Some diagnostic questions to ask are: Are we seeing the wood for the trees? Are we reverse engineering the game plan employed by competitors? Are we able to see the alignment of strategy from the top of the organisation to the bottom? The extensive use of standard strategy frameworks has made decoding underlying strategy and game plans easier. However, CI groups need to be cognizant of such frameworks and be able to decipher such themes during intelligence gathering and analysis. CI in this segment is most prevalent in the technology and media sectors, as the barriers to entry are low and fundamentally this sector works on Schumpeterian economics.