The number one challenge for CI professionals remains unchanged from last year, although attitudes towards CI have clearly shifted over the last 12 months

Dr. Mark Little

Senior Vice President, Prescient Intelligence & Insight

Last year, Prescient embarked upon the ambitious exercise of interviewing competitive intelligence (CI) practitioners across the pharmaceutical industry to provide insights regarding how intelligence was being prioritized by companies. With a focus on two open questions – “What challenges, threats and opportunities do you see?” and “What objectives, strategies and actions are imperative to ensure success?” – we were able to get a good picture of the developing landscape for CI.

Now in our second year, we have expanded our pool of respondents, doubling the number of participants chosen based on their expertise, experience and seniority, from both promising new starters and established players. New respondents and a new operating landscape have resulted in some shifts in what concerned the CI community in 2020, but for the second year running, the number one concern among CI practitioners in pharma has been “explaining ourselves”.

Why is explaining what CI can do still so important within the industry? Based on the interviews we carried out, I have concluded that it comes down to this: CI often fails to make the case for itself as a value-add, too often appearing instead to be an extra box to check.

According to the conversations held with CI practitioners, the discipline suffers from assumptions being made and more focus and attention going to the home team brand. In much the same way that a good waiter becomes invisible, CI risks dropping off the agenda when everything is working as it should be. The alternative is that CI is only noticed when it highlights problems, which may make it difficult to change its perception.

It has been very difficult for CI practitioners to justify their place at the table in 2020, particularly because there is no physical table this year. Nevertheless, pharmaceutical companies do appreciate CI for what it can bring to the strategy and decision-making process. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many strategies up in the air, leaving companies to figure out what the next move might be, what can be salvaged and what must be abandoned. Visibility for the future is low, and CI is usually called upon when that occurs. In real terms, this means that new opportunities are opening up unexpectedly, at a time when some of our research methods are harder to carry out. The rapidly changing landscape in 2020 has forced us all to be more agile, and CI is an essential part of ensuring that if a company is forced to make a quick decision, it is the right decision to make.

There are many more insights from the distinguished group of CI practitioners I was able to speak with when compiling the 2020 Strategic Imperatives in Competitive Intelligence report. To find out what the other top concerns of the industry are, how these have changed since last year and the strategies that Prescient recommends, please download your free copy of the report here:

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