Industrial Intelligence and Espionage by P. I. Slee Smith

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Joined: Wed 08 Sep 2010 1:38 pm
Location: Westminster - London

Thu 17 Mar 2011 10:20 pm

Hi, This is a fantastic little book that is not at all what the title implies. This book takes a very pragmatic view of business today, it considers that the popularly held belief of ethical businesses where everyone is friendly and accommodating is or should be a myth. In fact, businesses today are operating in a war zone where the prize is survival and the hope of prospering in the future and failure leads to defeat loss of profitability and ultimately bankruptcy.

The author believes that most large businesses have some form of ad-hoc business intelligence facility that is usually attached as an add-on function to some department like marketing, IT or strategic planning. He believes that the activities of these departments are usually restricted to scanning newspapers, watching marketing trends, receiving titbits of gossip from their sales force and a few other uncoordinated safe or legitimate methods of information gathering.

The author expounds that this approach to industrial intelligence gathering is at best inadequate and at worst very dangerous because the level of wrong or intended disinformation could be highly destructive to the company’s competitive edge.

The time value of information dictates that the information must be relevant, must be provided in a timely manner in order to be actionable and the cost of gathering that information must not exceed the benefits to be gained from its use. To satisfy these requirements the author suggest that companies should set up a separate and very independent and secure department whose members report directly to the CEO or other very high ranking executive and that is dedicated to the gathering of highly pertinent and or sensitive information on their competitors. He goes on to say that to all intents and purposes in the mind of the rest of the company this department does not exist.

The objectives of this department is similar to the objectives of say the CIA or MI6 in that it is charged with whatever methods is necessary to infiltrate a competitors business and gain valuable information that can be used by the company to gain a distinct and profitable competitive advantage. Other responsibilities would entail keeping secure the organisations own secrets and covertly investigating any breach of security.

To justify this book, imagine that your company has or is about to have a breakthrough in a new drug that completely cures heart disease of cancer and the potential benefit to your company is beyond belief but then it hears a whisper that a major competitor has been working along the same lines and is at, or around the same stage of development as you are. Wouldn’t your company want to know how good this product is, how far they have got in its production, when will they be ready to go to market, how much does their base compound cost to manufacture, have they already patented it or is a patent pending, have they already got government approval and if not why, have they run into any problems, if they have were they the same ones that your company are facing and if they got over them, how did they do it. Yes a lot of this information may be readily available but is it relevant and timely to your company’s situation and needs.

This is the sort of information problem that the companies Intelligence Department is set up to find out.

How does this affect projects? Well, a lot of projects are of themselves innovative, or sensitive to the company’s profitability and as such can pose a security risk. It is therefore imperative that the project manager has some knowledge of the issues surrounding Industrial Intelligence and Espionage in order to fulfil his obligations to the project and his company as a whole.

Kind regards

Stephan Toth
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