Industry intelligence is the collection and distribution of data about an industry, using a variety of means. Companies rely on this information to make business decisions. The legality of tactics people use to collect industry intelligence can vary. In some cases, the means may be less than legal, and could involve activities like paying people for confidential information or using electronic snooping to uncover data of interest. Other means are entirely legal; researching competitors by reading trade publications, for example, is a common intelligence gathering tactic.
Some companies use internal personnel to gather industry intelligence, while others may hire specialty companies, depending on their needs. The people in charge of collecting this information are usually good at evaluating and analyzing data. They can sift through large volumes of information to find the material of the most interest and are capable of generating reports to highlight the key information for the benefit of a reader.
Companies use industry intelligence to see what kinds of projects other companies are working on and to evaluate the success of product releases, marketing strategies, and so forth. They usually want information on topics like sales data, incoming orders, and expenditures on marketing and outreach. There may also be an interest in the wages and benefits employees receive, as this information can be useful for recruiting.
The analyst preparing a report will usually provide information about the reliability and source of the data so the reader can keep this in mind when reviewing the information. Something like data from an annual report can be highly reliable, because companies cannot lie in annual reports and other legal disclosures, but it also might not show the whole picture. Information from disaffected employees could be of great interest, but analysts also need to consider whether they are being fed information, and what kind of agenda the employee may have.
Industry intelligence is critical for developing branding and marketing strategies. Companies need to know what is changing in the market so they can prepare appropriately and must also be aware of planned releases from the competition. The ability to quickly adapt to changing market conditions is important for companies that want to stay competitive and retain their market share. This information can be advantageous for people in a position to use it well; for example, a company aware of a shortage in particular components can plan its own manufacturing ahead to make sure it will have finished products available when a competitor might be struggling to meet the need.