Integrating Competitive Intelligence into a Firm: The Case of the U.S. Healthcare Industry

Big data and analytics offer enumerable opportunities for organizations. However, collecting vast amounts of data is but one aspect of the complex process of turning information[1] into strategy. Competitive Intelligence (CI) offers both a process and philosophy to create intelligence for successful decision-making. Ghannay and Mamlouk (2012) stressed that CI is a strategic management tool and foremost technique for acquiring competitive advantage. CI can be paramount in achieving a valuable resource for a firm; however, there is limited research of how to effectively integrate CI into an organization.


This session will first present valuable insights of a survey distributed to a global CI association as it relates to the CI process and creating an effective environment for CI. A conceptual model will be presented using these findings applied to the U.S. healthcare industry. This transitional industry faces significant pressure to respond to a value-based payment system with no overall strategy of reducing costs. Ironically, IT systems are in place along with government incentives for information sharing. Yet, like many industries, healthcare organizations operate in functional silos. Miller & Tucker (2014) indicated information synergy in healthcare actually contributed to improving quality of care, while reducing costs. This model proposes how CI can break down informational silos and create a culture of market awareness with managerial support. In addition, this conceptual model offers a blueprint of how CI can be incorpoated into most any organization.


Uniqueness and relevancy

There are many studies regarding CI and its value; however, very little literature offers a clear picture of how to establish an effective CI function within an organization. While attending SCIP and working with CI managers over the last decade, I discovered the discipline was often misunderstood, underutilized and at times, understaffed. According to dissertation results, CI is frequently used from a tactical perspective as opposed to strategic; resulting in many firms inefficiently using CI and/or not truly understanding all that CI can offer.


With the exponential growth of technology, there has been an explosion of data. CI is becoming even more relevant to address this overabundance. Many firms lack the knowledge that CI can be fundamental in filtering through data and information to provide a holistic perspective for more effective strategy. This conceptual model is unique in that it offers a “real world” blue print of how to integrate CI into an organization, while also addressing some of the issues CI managers and analysts face. This includes how to make a firm “aware” of its function, how to achieve managerial support, and how to collect valuable internal information to compliment external competitor and macro data. This model is unique in its holistic approach of information sharing and encouraging market awareness throughout the firm. 

Key Take Aways

  • Identify the key factors necessary to build an effective CI process and culture based on CI professionals’ feedback.
  • Learn how the discipline of CI can provide a valuable solution for the exponential growth of data and information.
  • Acquire a “blue print” of how to successfully integrate CI into a firm with information silos and other organizational barriers

Speaker profile

Shelly L. Freyn is assistant professor of marketing at Alfred University. She received her D.B.A. from Anderson University in strategic marketing with doctoral work analyzing organizational factors that impact CI’s effectiveness. She has 10+ years teaching CI at the undergraduate/graduate level and 20 years in industry in R&D, technical sales and management. She co-created one of the first undergraduate programs in the U.S. in business and competitive intelligence. This 10 year program now boasts numerous alumni working in CI at some of the top firms. She was a SCIP advisor for Mercyhurst University’s student chapter for 10+ years and advised over 20 masters’ theses in CI. Shelly received SCIP’s Distinguished Member award in academia and in 2019, was appointed a CI Fellow. She recently published on the topic of CI and AI. Her research interests focus on integrating CI with analytics to improve strategy in the boardroom and the classroom.