Like New Year's resolutions, business intelligence strategies are based on some kind of self-appraisal, which leads to a personal promise to change for the better. As it goes with resolutions, many or most business intelligence commitments are never kept because of unrealistic expectations, or hurdles that might be technical or cultural. But, even where resolutions or BI initiatives do succeed, the result is self-improvement that may or may not be noticed outside our own world. We may have improved ourselves, but losing weight or quitting smoking doesn't bring the social benefits we hoped for.In business intelligence, there is a counterpart to the inward-focused self-help program, and it is called competitive intelligence, "CI" for short. Melanie Wing is an expert in competitive intelligence, having just left a seven-year stint at Chase Card Services to head up the financial services practice at consultancy Proactive Worldwide. (Melanie will share her CI expertise at the upcoming BI Forum 2006, June 4-6 in San Francisco.)

Companies do keep an eye on the competition of course, but systemic and focused CI is a maturing and mostly unfulfilled pursuit. "In financial services in particular, the message should be that CI has become imperative," says Wing. Credit card companies do the best job of this, as evidenced by the aligned efforts at Capital One and Chase, but many others are still looking for leaders to follow.

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