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On The Merits Of Tracking Bread Crumbs, And Other Strategies For Garnering Strategic Business Intelligence

Using bread crumbs to mark an obscure trail has a storied history in, well, stories. You’ll recall Hansel and Gretel tried it – to little avail, as it turned out, because birds ate the bread crumbs. (Happily, the brave siblings made it out of the woods safely… but we digress.)

In business today, the figurative bread crumbs that researchers, analysts and marketers are interested in following are nuggets of information that competitors drop at conferences, in journal articles, or in government filings, that may provide a glimpse into a company’s strategy or product direction.

A major pharmaceutical company we spoke with recently described their bread crumbs challenge.  For starters, competitive intelligence gathering, interpretation and reporting to their internal clients – professionals and executives in the company’s various lines of business – currently is a manual process.  There is an avalanche of incoming information that gets deposited in an array of places and systems, making it difficult to find and synthesize. Then, once the information is compiled and analyzed, distributing it to business decision makers throughout the organization who might find value in it can be a hit-of-miss affair.

This is not an unusual story. Many large organizations face a similar dilemma.  In our exploratory conversations, companies often say they want to:

  • Be more efficient;
  • More effectively “connect the dots” (aka “follow the bread crumbs”);
  • Raise the visibility of critical information; and
  • Interact better the key stakeholders.

The key to addressing these goals is deploying the right technology – because in business, bread crumbs are devoured not by birds, but by modern knowledge management (KM) systems.  We’re talking about intelligent systems capable of storing, indexing, and recalling morsels of textual information (aka “unstructured data”) – and, perhaps most impressively, placing them into context, transforming them into actionable business insights.

This last step increasingly is the province of artificial intelligence (AI)-based machine learning.  For example, in Northern Light’s SinglePoint strategic research portals, AI is used to create automated document summaries, which deeply analyze documents, identify the key ideas, and write summaries of the documents that reveal the insights contained in the document for the user.  Extending that concept, the platform also can examine a group of documents on a search result, distill the most important ideas, and then automatically summarize the key points in an easy to read report that encompasses the entire search result. Each key point includes links to the underlying documents so users can drill in to read the original if they want to learn more.

It is precisely because information exists in so many forms in so many places that a brute force manual approach to collecting, organizing, and interpreting it has become so impractical.  And when it is scattered across the “infoverse” in small bits and pieces, the process becomes even more difficult.

A KM system wouldn’t have been much use to Hansel and Gretel, but it certainly can help your company navigate through your competitive landscape.

To learn more about how a modern knowledge management system can help your organization track competitive bread crumbs, contact Northern Light.

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