Competitive intelligence is not so much an automated function as it is an art. We've covered the topic in Business Intelligence Review less in the service of technology than appreciation of the discipline that it is. Structurally, we're learning a thing or two about the competitive intelligence function. In her column in the July issue of Business Intelligence Review, Melanie Wing of Chase Card Services pointed out, among other things, the difference between the unknown and the unknowable, the CI focus on human networks, and offensive and defensive uses of CI.

Given its growing importance, a newer trend is to centralize the CI function into a consolidated unit and the first mover appears to be the pharmaceutical industry. While most industries tend to bury the CI function in market research, 75 percent of pharmaceutical companies maintain centralized CI groups, according to a recent report from Cutting Edge Information. There are good reasons for this. Unlike more decentralized industries, CI in pharma holds great sway in developing overall corporate strategy. "People start to see that the decisions CI can end up influencing are not on the order of 100K or even million dollar decisions, these can even be billion-dollar decisions that end up making or breaking the company in some cases," says Elio Evangelista, senior analyst at Cutting Edge. "That's when it starts to get more dedicated support and naturally gets pulled out of that market research arena."

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