“Everybody does a little bit of monitoring.”
“Yes, we get a lot of information, but we don’t really know what to do with it.”
“Apart from sending us what we already received, I’m not sure what he/she does with his/her days.”
Do these claims sound familiar? Of course, being informed about our competitive environment is vital, but it is not always easy to make sense of the information we collect on a daily basis. This may seem even more complex in the context of technological intelligence due to certain factors such as the distance between basic and applied sciences or the temporality of the information accessible (for example, the 18-month delay between the filing of a patent invention and its publication).
I recently shared my recommendations for improving the communication of scientific intelligence across the borders between R&D. I will now focus on how to capture the attention of your internal customers for monitoring. Whether it is technological, competitive, commercial, etc., monitoring must help your company to act, and to do so, it must be read and integrated by your target audience. In this context, there are two key aspects: content and format. Let’s first talk about content and how to ensure it is adding value.
Identify the needs of your stakeholders
The first and most important step is to identify the standby needs of your stakeholders. It certainly seems obvious to you. Well, it isn’t obvious to everyone! When I support a client with a standby service, I always start by asking questions about the context, objectives, and needs expressed by their internal customers. If everything goes well, I am able to “map” the key intelligence topics to monitor, which serves me as a guide to delivering the right scope of information.
The first observation is that I often have to construct this cartography from scratch, which means that there is no structured written trace of the surveillance plan. Even more disturbing, I can’t count the number of clients who tell me they don’t know what their internal clients need. It’s not for lack of communication. These are more often difficulties for internal clients to express their needs in a sufficiently precise/clear manner or to restrict themselves to a “manageable” surveillance perimeter. Sometimes the information analyst may also lack the background or experience to ask the right questions in the relevant monitoring context.
“However, if we do not clearly identify the needs of our stakeholders, how can we hope to reach our target? How do we ensure that the time spent collecting and analyzing information is useful to the business?
For this critical phase of identifying and understanding the needs of your interlocutors, it is essential to:
1. Take the time to exchange with your internal clients and prepare your meetings.
In addition to helping you understand your customer’s needs, this step is essential for several reasons:
- It allows you to establish your communication channel with your internal client on the subject or subjects concerned
- It allows your internal client to understand what you can bring to him and reassure him on your ability to support him and on the consideration of his need
- It allows you to manage your customers’ expectations by explaining what is feasible, what is not and, above all, to address alternative options (reduction of sleep scope, investment in tools/sources, outsourcing of services, etc.).
“The important thing is not to arrive empty-handed in front of your interlocutors!
If the subject of the monitoring is known either because it is already in place and it is a matter of improving or supplementing it, or because it has been the subject of a study, a state of the art, it’s good practice to prepare a short summary of what is known to date. Ideally, it will be communicated before the meeting and presented in a few minutes as a starting point for exchanges.
If the subject is new and/or not known to you, you can nevertheless inform your internal client about the means at your disposal and the method you intend to use to set up this monitoring and carry out the required information analyses. If it has not already been done, you can offer to dig into a new topic by performing a state-of-the-art study.
2. Systematically reformulate what you understand and have it validated by your internal clients
Reformulation is a rather classic technique and yet often neglected. I recommend that you orally rephrase with your clients what you understood during the meeting, then write and have it validated. This is a starting point, a bit like a contract between you, and it will allow you to revisit the monitoring topics, if necessary, on a clear and validated basis by each.
3. Set up a pilot project
The pilot stage is also quite classic.
“This pilot is an opportunity to make mistakes. Yes, I did say “make mistakes”! Because there will be and the sooner these errors are identified and corrected, the sooner your surveillance will be effective and useful to the company.
Depending on the maturity of your current monitoring system, this may cover the subject of monitoring, its definition, the sources used, and most importantly the exploitation of the information collected. It may also include new tools for monitoring, analyzing, mapping, or even new sources of information such as databases.
4. Exchange with your stakeholders to get critical feedback and adjust the pilot project
Just as it is important to establish communication with your internal client from the outset in order to define the topics of surveillance, we should not hesitate to ask them for critical feedback on the deliverables, their frequency, the relevance of the content, and the level of analysis proposed. Again, good communication with each stakeholder is a key success factor.
5. Validate the pilot project and agree on next steps with a particular focus on the exploitation of deliverables
The validation of the pilot project is the step that concretizes the setting up of your monitoring continuously and regularly. At this stage, it is important to make sure that your interlocutors understand they are in agreement with the process in place and with the level of information they will receive regularly.
6. Plan the review of perimeter and monitoring objectives on a regular basis
Monitoring is a continuous and iterative activity. It must be flexible, agile, to meet the changing needs of the business. In other words, the implementation of the monitoring is never finished! It is, therefore, necessary to plan a regular review of the surveillance, its scope, its objectives, its format, etc. Without this, it will quickly become obsolete, sometimes even to the point of wondering why we monitor this scope. In this context, keeping records on the surveillance you decide to implement with your clients, the why, what, etc. becomes essential.
Identifying the needs of your stakeholders and establishing good communication with them are essential factors in setting up strategic monitoring relevant that serves the company. Next time, we will continue to focus on the content of our strategic monitoring and more specifically on the criteria to be taken into account to meet the needs of your internal clients.
Julie Defoort, Director & Lead Analyst at Defoort Consultant
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Defoort Consultant is a consulting firm based in North East England, founded in 2017 by Julie Defoort, a French national. Our expertise lies within the biotechnology, plant care, and food science industries. We specialize in technology and competitive intelligence, with the goal of giving you an edge over your competition. At Defoort Consultant we are passionate about innovation and have infinite curiosity; we’re always looking to learn more about what’s happening across the industry so that we can help our clients stay one step ahead of their competitors.