In our last blog article on this subject we saw that there are different types of application – in terms of its legal aspect – of business intelligence, and that white – in other words lawfully available – sources of information are free to use. These sources take up 70-90% of all business information even in the cases of industrial espionage. This has several important implications for companies.
Be aware of information leakage
In many cases companies do not recognize the importance of filtering information flow. Small pieces of information, which seem not to be worth worrying about, could add up with other chunks of relevant data and turn into a valuable and tangible source for professionals to track activities of your company. Not recognizing the importance of harmonizing the different sources of communication results in a careless spread of pieces of information. When these are put together as a puzzle, they end up to be a threateningly informative material on the organization, on its past, present and future in the hands of the competition. You most probably would not believe the accuracy of a package of white-information (legally accessible for anyone) gathered on your company by a professional working in the field of industrial espionage within only a week. By harmonizing information flow, and setting up a central stream of external communication, you can improve the situation tremendously.
Plan for the unexpected
Companies, especially SMEs in many cases, may lack an awareness regarding the importance of confidentiality, or if they do, they lack the means to apply it. Starting to think about confidentiality right before sitting down with a possible investor is too late. Why? First of all, information that has already found its way cannot be recalled. Secondly, if you do not have a protocol for such situations that is carried out continuously, you will end up having severe instances of information leakage.
Just imagine, you are going to organize a BB. No, this time it does not mean bed and breakfast, but business breakfast instead. So you invite your key clients or suppliers to a formal/informal Tuesday morning meeting. Most probably, the team person organizing the event has something like a checklist, and a habitual protocol for that. Your professional colleagues, even if they are new to the organization, will have to developed these. If such a checklist did not get created for the first time of hosting, it would certainly exist after two or three events. Maybe the checklist worked for the first couple of times, but would it get you prepared for unusual situations? Does it contain alternatives, or a plan B, for emergencies? There could be a power outage and the projector might not be operating. What if the catering company doesn’t make it in time?
And this is just a simple instance of event management. What consequences would you face if something went wrong? The sandwich not arriving in time, or the projector not functioning. Nothing really to be anxious about. Handling sensitive information that could have an effect on the future of your company, on the competitive edge, the market penetration, and the revenue generation of your company, is quite serious.
In order to be able to run a harmonized communication network together with operating an effective confidentiality framework, one has to think ahead to be prepared and routinely trained for unexpected situations.
Protect your innovations
It is not just the marketing guys airing valuable secrets of the company. The R+D department also has the potential of destroying much of the information value of the company. A young enthusiastic researcher, for example, might be prone to being charmed by caressing his/her ego, expertise or specialty, thereby leaking important information. If HR is not on top of handling and following-up employees and ex-employees, you could very well end up in unexpected troubles.
So setting up an interdepartmental, cross-company framework of secrecy management (confidentiality) is of high importance for any company, and especially so for creative, innovative ones.
Use legally available information
And last but not least, if there is a bunch of information available on the market, on the competitors, why not to use them? Why not to make use of the white information on others?
The application of ethical and legal business intelligence system in a company, especially in an innovative firm, is crucial.
On the one hand, going for and mishandling illegal information is a sin. On the other hand, not collecting, analyzing and making use of available sources of information – where the source (the information holder) had the right to decide whether to hold back or communicate, and decided to air – is a sin as well. After all, as was pointed out in the first instalment of articles on this topic, information is key!
In the last part of our blog serie on Industrial Espionage versus Business Intelligence, we will try to define some consequences worth of consideration for market actors.