Web Intelligence Is Too Important to Leave to Chance

Posted: 16th October 2013
Web Intelligence Is Too Important to Leave to Chance

Editor’s Note

The following interview is with Tom Davenport and is from our Web Intelligence Perspectives Series. Tom is a professor at Harvard Business School and Babson College.

What is it about Web intelligence that is such an important opportunity to you?

It’s important because every organization needs to know more about its external environment—customers, suppliers, partners, business opportunities, and threats.

There is simply a massive amount of information about these entities available on the Web, but you can’t be sure you will come across it unless you have a systematic approach.

What drives the interest in Web intelligence in your community? What hole in your world does it fill?

Some of the most sophisticated private sector organizations I work with have decided Web intelligence is too important to leave to chance. They are working with Recorded Future and other organizations to systematically assess Web content in key areas of their business. Their previous information management approaches have been largely restricted to internal information, and they know how limiting that can be.

What does a critical insight from Web intelligence look like?

There are many possible examples: a new product development initiative by a competitor, a port strike near a key supplier, or the departure of a key executive at a customer. If your focus is more on corporate security, it may be the rise of protests in a particular city or country that affects your business or your personnel.

What is your vision for how Web intelligence could be used?

Web intelligence needs should be driven by an organization’s key decisions. Those decisions should be listed and prioritized, and then the types of information that might support them should be assessed.

A decision-based approach ensures an organization knows where to focus its attention, and that it doesn’t waste a lot of time “browsing” Web intelligence data and sources that aren’t relevant.

Looking ahead, will Web intelligence become a standard piece of tradecraft in your community? Will it “go viral”?

I hope so, although the idea of “tradecraft” in corporations is not well developed.

I think one of the limiting factors is there are relatively few private sector firms that have established organizations to monitor Web and other forms of intelligence. The “intelligence” groups like competitive intelligence define their content domain too narrowly, and most IT groups are only focused on structured internal information. I think the “Big Data” movement may help in this regard.

Tom Davenport

Tom Davenport is the President’s Distinguished Professor in Management and Information Technology at Babson College and a visiting professor at Harvard Business School (2012-2013). An author or co-author of 14 books and more than 100 articles, Tom helps organizations to revitalize their management practices in areas such as analytics, information and knowledge management, process management, and enterprise systems. Tom’s “Competing on Analytics” idea was recently named by Harvard Business Review as one of the 12 most important management ideas of the past decade and the related article was named one of the ten “must-read” articles in HBR’s 75 year history.