Competitive Intelligence Analyst: Career Path & FAQs - Fahrenheit Advisors
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Competitive Intelligence Analyst: Career Path & FAQs

Competitive Intel | Advisory | Fahrenheit Advisors

The field of market and competitive intelligence (M/CI) is growing fast, and there’s more demand than ever for Competitive Intelligence Analysts across all kinds of industries and company sizes: from Fortune 50 corporations to tiny startups.

Competitive intelligence analysts can have a major impact on their organizations, helping to inform strategic decisions by developing and sharing insights about the organization’s competitors and the wider market.

But for many, the path to becoming a competitive intelligence analyst isn’t all that clear. There are only a handful of undergraduate or graduate programs available and career paths and progression opportunities often lack a demonstrable ladder to climb. Then there’s the question of what competitive intelligence analysts actually do on a daily basis.

At Fahrenheit, we’re passionate about enabling competitive intelligence analysts around the world to change the way intelligence is mobilized across their organizations. In this article, we’re breaking down what the career path of a competitive intelligence analyst might look like, while also addressing some of the most frequently asked questions we hear.

Whether you’ve got the ambition of becoming a competitive intelligence analyst or think you’re ready to hire one for your organization, we’re confident that the following information will help you build a more complete understanding of the role.

 

Competitive Intelligence Analyst: Career Path

The role––and career path––of competitive intelligence analysts can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including their industry, organization, and the maturity of a company’s competitive intelligence function. But many elements of the career path remain relatively constant across different industries and organizations.

Let’s take a brief look at each stage of the career path of a competitive intelligence analyst.

Qualifications

While there are few college degrees focused on competitive intelligence, many competitive intelligence analysts do share a somewhat similar background.

A study by the College of Integrated Science and Engineering at James Madison University researched the makeup of competitive intelligence teams in leading life sciences organizations around the world.

The study revealed that 78% of CI professionals hold a Bachelor’s degree, while 21% hold a Master’s degree. The focus of the degree varied: business, marketing, and economics were the most prevalent, but there was a wide range of answers to this question.

The importance of gaining a four-year degree is clear. In addition, many competitive intelligence analysts hold professional certifications from bodies like the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), or from other bodies specific to the industry their organization operates in.

Interested in pursuing a four year degree that will help you develop specialist knowledge in competitive intelligence? Consider the Bachelor of Arts in Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University.

It’s an internationally recognized program, and graduates students into entry-level analyst positions across various government agencies and the private sector. Recent graduates have gone on to work for agencies including the CIA and the FBI, as well as industry leaders like Accenture and Procter & Gamble.

The degree program enables students to jointly study a diverse range of topics including foreign languages, cybersecurity, and intelligence. Students also benefit from real-world internship experience and access to a world-class faculty of intelligence experts.

If you’re interested in developing a career as a competitive intelligence analyst, the Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University is a fantastic starting point.

Career Tracks

There’s a huge variety of ways to enter the competitive intelligence team at an organization. Here are three of the most common career tracks:

  • Sales & Marketing: as sales and marketing technologies have evolved, the line between sales, marketing, and competitive intelligence has blurred. Many of the skills developed in sales representative or marketing specialist roles transfer well to competitive intelligence, including competitor analysis, forecasting, and relationship building.
  • Strategy & Operations: it’s always beneficial to have competitive intelligence analysts that understand the strategy and operations of the wider organization they serve. Many competitive intelligence analysts come from a corporate strategy or operations background and are able to interpret competitive intelligence in greater context.
  • Data Analytics: a great deal of the foundational skills in M/CI are grounded in analytics, and it’s crucial that all competitive intelligence analysts have a comprehensive understanding of how to source, organize, analyze, and interpret large datasets.

Career Progression Pathways

As competitive intelligence becomes ever more central to the way organizations around the world conduct business, there are ample opportunities for career development and progression into senior management positions.

The responsibilities of an entry-level competitive intelligence analyst include tasks such as data collection, various types of analysis, competitor benchmarking, and more.

As analysts progress to more middle-management level positions, the role evolves. Mid-level competitive intelligence professionals will still work on a significant amount of analysis projects, but will also be responsible for tasks including project management, reporting, forecasting, and working with third-party vendors.

There are also leadership positions available within competitive intelligence departments. Typical responsibilities for these types of positions include people management, communications with executives, and project oversight.

For many years, the career path of the CI professional ended there. But recently, developments in the field of CI, and changes to the way that organizations operate, have meant that the CI function now represents a training ground for future C-level executives.

“Markets are more interconnected, and suppliers can also be customers and competitors. Organizations need senior leaders who are utility players – with the technical chops to digest complex analyses, the leadership skills to work across diverse stakeholders, the strategic discipline to focus on the highest-value work, and the courage to challenge the status quo when necessary. These skills are just as important in CI as they are in the boardroom.”

Cam MacKey, CEO, SCIP

High-performing competitive intelligence analysts have a 360° view of the markets in which their organizations operate, a mastery of the soft skills required to build relationships across the organization, and a solid technical background. Together, this blend of skills characterizes top competitive intelligence analysts as tailor-made for senior leadership positions.

 

FAQs: Competitive Intelligence Analyst

Now that we’ve shared the career path of a competitive intelligence analyst, let’s explore some frequently asked questions we hear about competitive intelligence analysts:

What Does a Competitive Intelligence Analyst Do?

In the past, M/CI was viewed as a bookish function, with a librarian-style approach to efficiently managing taxonomies. But since the advent and expansion of competitive intelligence software platforms, the role of a competitive intelligence analyst has evolved significantly.

Daily activities can be split into two distinct groups: low-value activities and high-value activities. Low-value activities include manually collecting, tagging, and organizing data, whereas high-value activities include discovering insights, sharing information, and building relationships.

The technology now exists to automate the vast majority of the low-value activities, and it’s important for organizations to embrace this. In doing so, organizations can unlock as much as 45% more time for their competitive intelligence analysts to spend on actual analysis – the activity that drives the most value for the organization.

What Skills Does a Competitive Intelligence Analyst Need?

First and foremost, the role requires a high level of curiosity and dogged determination to understand. It’s the role of a competitive intelligence analyst to identify  the signal from the noise, analyzing sources of data and developing salient insights. In addition to this, competitive intelligence analysts are also responsible for sharing this information broadly with decision-makers in their organization. This requires the soft skills to build relationships that create an enduring culture of competitive intelligence that’s far bigger than any one analyst.

How Much Does a Competitive Intelligence Analyst Make?

Per Glassdoor, the average salary for a Competitive Intelligence Analyst in the U.S. is nearly $80,000 per year.

The competitive intelligence experts at Fahrenheit Advisors can give your organization a strategic edge. Schedule a call today.

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MEET THE EXPERTS

Peter Grimm leverages his background in national security and experience as a strategy consultant and PE-backed CEO to help clients navigate rapidly changing environments. He is skilled in corporate strategy, market analysis, competitive intelligence, disruption planning, disruption preparedness, and organizational leadership.

Following service in the US Navy and as a counterterrorism analyst at a US government agency, Peter spent 8 years in the Strategy Practice of Deloitte Consulting.  Peter then served as CEO of a PE-backed consulting and technology firm, leading the company through two successful exits.  He’s helped middle market companies, Fortune 500 firms, and Federal agencies “see around the corner” and turn threats into opportunities.

 

Jennifer Buchwald has been helping companies make better decisions through strategic insights and competitive intelligence for more than 15 years. With a formal education in philosophy and experience working in a broad set of industries, Jennifer brings a holistic understanding of business challenges and forward-looking observations to a diverse set of clients.

Jennifer began her career fielding market research studies for clients in the Consumer Packaged Goods space before joining one of the largest grocery chains in the United States performing location intelligence and site analysis for their real estate division. After a period providing competitive intelligence services for a Fortune 100 infrastructure technology company, she joined a boutique firm offering strategic advice for clients in a variety of industries.