Richard is the Sector Manager of Strategic Landscape Assessment for Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. His team is responsible for bridging strategy and competitive analysis. We recently spoke with Richard about where he sees CI evolving, and what he does to ensure he's focused on the right priorities for his business.
"We need to pull in data scientists to help us do better with the big data phenomenon. However, we shouldn't step away from primary intelligence collection; that's the rock solid foundation of good competitive analysis and is often forgotten because of the ease of internet searching."
Looking back, what's one piece of career advice that has been particularly valuable?
Do what is important and valuable first, even if it means missing a deadline on something that is not important but may be urgent. Working priorities always pays off; let someone else waste time on time wasters. This was advice from a three Star Army General when welcoming me to the Joint Staff.
What was the reason that you got into CI/Intelligence?
I am a systems engineer by trade and did that type of work for 22 years in the Air Force. Competitive analysis is remarkably similar to systems thinking and systems analysis. I like to get to the root of why things happen the way they do. I like to investigate things. I use my systems analysis training and education every day. It was not much of a leap to learn business and structured analytical techniques.
Looking into your crystal ball, how do you see CI evolving over the next 5 or so years? What skills will be important?
The information and data explosion in the past five years has provided a plethora of secondary data to plow through and analyze. While the fundamentals of market and business analytics remain the same, we now have a lot more data to feed the tools. Not all data is good, and some is misleading. We need to pull in data scientists to help us do better with the big data phenomenon. However, we shouldn't step away from primary intelligence collection; that's the rock solid foundation of good competitive analysis and is often forgotten because of the ease of internet searching. That's a trap.
In some companies, CI is thought of as “the espionage group.” What can CI leaders do to raise their influence and impact?
Presentation of competitive intelligence is the final ten yards, but the most important. Doing dissemination of intelligence right is where we can earn credibility as business and market analysts, not spies. We hold to our ethics tightly and will not use information that is not publicly available (that includes excluding sources that obtain information illegally like WikiLeaks). Once leadership sees the results of good competitive analysis and resulting win rates, the “espionage” label goes away.
What's a business buzzword you loathe?
Lets get inside their OODA loop (observe-orient-decide-act). People try to apply Col. John Boyd’s “Patterns of Conflict” concept to business using a diagram that has been reduced to being called an OODA Loop. First: it’s not a loop. It's many loops. Second: business is not war. Third: business competitiveness is not summed up by moving faster than your competitor.
"I definitely recommend the book 'The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing' by Nagle, Hogan and Zale. It's a very in-depth and densely packed text on pricing strategies that every competitive analyst should know top to bottom."
What's a productivity tip or lifehack that you use often?
I use multiple computers (both Mac and MS OS) to conduct serious secondary research. On each I use different feed readers, dash-boards, automated search tools and alerting to scour the internet (including the deep web) while I sleep. I look at the results one or two times a day. This saves me a lot of time.
How has SCIP helped your career?
I have been a SCIP member since 2010 and have found that the connections I make with other professionals are the most important part of the membership. There are great resources, but meeting someone that is walking in the same shoes as you, has made the same mistakes, and is willing to share experiences is invaluable. The network is the most important thing. I ran a local Chapter for a few years and really got a lot of out hearing everyone else’s stories. Those connections and lessons last a lifetime.
One of greatest values of SCIP is the power of our member community. The experience, knowledge, and intellect of our members are unparalleled. To build off these strengths, SCIP is launching a program to highlight our members and the great work that they do. Are you interested in sharing your story? Please contact us to nominate yourself or a colleague.