Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.


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RivalMap : Competitive Intelligence Knowledge Management

I ran across a interesting web service recently named RivalMap.  It is a service that provides the following functionality (according to their website).

RivalMap is web-based collaboration software that gives companies a central place to share and address information about competitors and their industry. If your company spends any time watching competitors and their activities, RivalMap will make the management and communication of competitive information much easier and more effective.

After signing up for the free service that allows 3 users access with the ability to create unlimited workspaces, I set up a workspace for my own company.  The cost of the service jumps to $49 for 5 users, $99 for 10 users and $199 for 25 users.  Besides giving access to more users, the fee-based service provides storage for file sharing and SSL Security.  Enterprise licensing is available as well.

Upon entering the workspace, which I titled Competitors for lack of imagination, I was presented with a Dashboard that would later provide me a chart of competitors by threat level and the latest activity.  Other tabs on the menu which, stretched across the top of the screen, included:

Competitors: This tab allows you to create entries for your company and for any competitors you specify.  A sub-menu provides tabs for Competitors, Products, and Concerns.

  • Competitors – Create a posting for each competitor that includes name, website address, profile, concerns, clippings, notes, customers, and a SWOT analysis. 
    • Concerns are comments about specific threats the competitor may present. 
    • Clippings are articles or web posts worth noting. 
    • Notes are just that – free form notes about the competitor. 
    • Customers provides detailed records on the competitor’s customers including customer name, location, market segment, sales amount, date of sale, description of sale and website. 
    • SWOT provides the ability to list strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats faced by the competitor.
  • Products – Create postings for competing products including profile, product name, competitor name, product website, concerns, clippings, and notes. 
  • Concerns – Provides a listing of all concerns for all competitors and products providing the ability to list general comments and comments on how the concern will be addressed

Clippings: Described above under Competitors.

Notes: Described above under Competitors.

Customers:  Slightly different from the use of customers above, here you post information about your own customers.  After setting up market segments, you are able to create a post about each segment including notes, clippings, needs, and customers. 

  • Needs – Track segment needs designating them as:
    • Must-Have – a benefit/function that must be present, or the customer will be very dissatisfied
    • One Dimensional: a benefit/function that increases customer satisfaction as it improves
    • Attractive – a benefit/function that is not expected but highly satisfies the customer.
  • Customers – create a posting about each customer including the same information listed above.

Comparisons: This tab allows you to create a matrix that compares competitors by category and attributes.  For example, I could create a category of the services I offer and the attributes each service has.  I could then add competitors.  Following that, I would rate how my company compares to my competitors by category/attribute.  The following screen-shots demonstrate how the matrix would look. 

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In addition to providing great information, each tab provides the ability to filter results in multiple ways.

This looks like a very useful service is that would be a valuable addition to any CI program.  One concern is that, like any knowledge management system of its kind, it takes team members willing to take the time to enter content.  The success in using the service will only come with commitment.  As for functionality, a reporting function seems to be missing.  This may be because I was using the free service.  You would definitely want to check that out before subscribing to the service.

 ~ Nina Platt


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Competitive Intelligence: Using the Internet to Research Private Companies

The Society of Competitive Intelligence (SCIP)is sponsoring another program on secondary research.  This time a one hour webinar, Using the Internet to Research Private Companies, on Wednesday, December 12th, 12:00pm to 1:00pm EST.  The posting states that you will know how to do the following upon completion of the webinar:

  • Develop a road map for secondary research
  • Dig deep into a company’s web presence
  • Use social networks and other tools to research people

Being a member of SCIP provides a generous discount from the non-member price of the webinar.  It also gives you monthly issues of the Competitive Intelligence (CI) magazine published by the group.  I’ve found it very useful.  Check out the benefits page for more information about membership.

 The more I see these types of programs being offered, the more it seems like this is the time to make a case for librarians as CI professionals.

What do you think?


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“Secondary” Research gets Its Cred with CI Professionals

Traditional competitive intelligence (CI) professionals are finally getting what librarians have known for years – what they call secondary research has its merits.  Evidence of this change of view will be provided to members of the The Iowa Chapter of SCIP at a program presented tomorrow (Nov 30th) titled CURRENT & CREATIVE COLLECTION TECHNIQUES FOR RESEARCH PROFESSIONALS.

In the past, when attending SCIP meetings, I would hear from speakers that primary research was the way to go with secondary research being a fall back when needed.  During a webinar on CI that I attended, Leonard Fuld responded to a question regarding librarians as CI professionals by saying they weren’t suited.  While I think we have some work to do on developing analysis skills (generally speaking, as some librarians do a great job of analysis), I do think there is a huge role for librarians to play in CI.

Given the fact that librarians are expert in what the traditional CI professionals call secondary research,  those professionals would be wise to team up with librarians in their larger organizations or look to librarians as potential hires as part of a CI team.  Our skills can’t be learned in a one day session, no matter how good it is.

Any thoughts from the librarians working in the competitive intelligence arena?  Any thoughts from traditional CI professionals?


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The Firm Law Library as a Business

The past 10 years has seen law firm librarians reinventing themselves as technology introduced new ways to support their firms, using skills they developed as information professionals complimented with new technology skills.  Many law librarians rose to the challenged and excelled as their roles changed.  Today law firm library directors are finding their roles changing yet again as they, like the other administers in law firms, begin operating their departments as a business.

Any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you that a business will not be as successful if they don’t do the proper planning for the future and measuring results.  As law firms have grown larger, the structures they need to operate profitable businesses have grown as well.  One of those structures is operating based on strategic planning, creation of action plans based on budget, and measuring for success.  In response, some law firm libraries are developing strategies/objectives, fleshing out plans, and measuring success with metrics.

The successful law firm library strategic plan follows the firm’s overall strategy.  Each section of the plan addresses a firm strategy and states goals and objectives for supporting that strategy.  For example, a firm may decide that they will use targeted marketing as a means to grow business.  The libraries plan would list “Increase support for targeted marketing” as a strategy and then list the types of objectives they will meet to support the firm’s goals. They could be:

  • Improve access to external information about prospects and existing clients
  • Develop the research support for a competitive intelligence initiative done in concert with Marketing
  • Create improved access to comprehensive background materials used to support pitches to clients and prospects

Whatever objectives are included, the library would work with their library committee, or whatever reporting structure the firm has, to define them and obtain approval.

Once the firm approves the library’s strategic plan, the next step is to develop actions to use in meeting the objectives.  This is where the library works with their clients to determine the best course of action.  For example, actions for the competitive intelligence initiative might include:

  • Work with Marketing and firm lawyers to develop a list of the type of tasks the firm needs to market and sell their services (e.g., respond to RFPs, prepare for lunch with prospect)
  • Obtain access to research products that are available to learn more about the prospect and the firm’s competitors in relation to the prospect
  • Develop best practices for doing the research they need to do to support the their task

Having put a strategic plan in place, the final step in planning is to evaluate the outcomes, determining if what has been done is working, and make changes as necessary.  This is done more efficiently if metrics that measure success have been laid out in advance.  For example, initiatives like competitive intelligence could have the following metrics:

  • The number of times lawyers ask for this type of research service
  • Anecdotal evidence or quantitative feedback on the impact this type of research made to the success of the task and improvement of the process

Many law firms today do not look to their librarians for this type of planning.  Often the librarian is involved at the last minute to provide research support.  This is unfortunate as engaging librarians in planning, even if the need for research hasn’t been identified, will improve outcome.  It’s been said, information is power.  A firm that expects the library to operate as a business entity, will realize the value it can provide.


ILTA – Doug Cornelius Keeps Us Updated

If you want to keep up with the programs at ILTA, check out Doug Cornelius’ blog, KM Space.  His summaries of the KM programs and more, provide insightful commentary.