Study: most intelligent software falls short

Although most vendors of competitive intelligence software claim that their products can do it all, few actually perform as advertised, and most fall far short of user expectations, according to a study released last week.

Cambridge, Mass.-based consulting firm Fuld & Co. published the study, titled “Intelligence Software Report 2000.”

Fuld reviewed more than 170 software packages for the competitive intelligence market. Of those, only a dozen were found to offer enough functionality to warrant immediate consideration, and none of those provided complete support for a company’s competitive intelligence program, according to Fuld.

Unlike business intelligence, which focuses on customers, suppliers and other strategic issues, the competitive intelligence market is focused on processing information about a company’s external environment, such as a rival’s pricing strategy or the financial impact of political turmoil in a key foreign market.

According to the report, software packages should support the full spectrum of the competitive intelligence cycle, which includes planning and direction, published information, primary source collection, and analysis and reporting.

Not yet satisfactory

In addition to offering support for only a few steps in the intelligence cycle, nearly all of the software products failed completely in supporting data analysis, according to the Fuld report.

Likewise, most products require a great deal of tailoring, and most claim to offer out-of-the-box capabilities when in fact they don’t, the report said.

“The software industry is a long way from delivering a satisfying business or competitive intelligence solution,” the report states.

Melanie Wing, head of competitive intelligence at First USA Bank NA in Wilmington, Del., said she agrees with Fuld’s assessment.

“Most of the packages that I have looked at have really just been fancy libraries and don’t have the platform and functionality to provide a complete solution,” said Wing. “It would be useful to have some sort of software tool that provides some identification of key trends.”

Still, Wing added, competitive intelligence professionals’ ability to analyze data isn’t necessarily a capability “that could or should be replicated by a software package.”

According to Wayne Eckerson, director of education and research at the Data Warehousing Institute in Bethesda, Md., the findings of the Fuld study are also applicable to today’s business intelligence tools.

While most business intelligence tools are more mature than their competitive intelligence counterparts, they still have shortcomings in terms of analytics and their capabilities for marketing-analysis and campaign management, said Eckerson.

Although he hasn’t read the Fuld study, Tim Powell, managing director of TW Powell Co., a Manhattan-based knowledge economy consultant, has conducted reviews of some of the software packages and found that most “do not add enough value to be worth it.”

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