A business uses competitive intelligence software to monitor information about the business itself and to mine data about competitors in an ethical and legal way. Considering the amount of information pouring into such a program, the best competitive intelligence software will likely come with several security features. A competitive intelligence program creates an output file to allow analysts to interpret gathered information, and this file should be presented in a useful graph or text file, depending on the analysts’ needs. Different competitive intelligence programs capture different information, and a person should look for a program that captures information that is useful to the specific business. Another thing to consider in finding the best competitive intelligence program is whether it should allow outside users to come into the system, increasing both the flow of information and the risk of a malicious attack.
Large chunks of information are added to competitive intelligence software on a constant basis, making it easier for a hacker to attack an unguarded system. A program with security features may stave off a hacker. Some common security features for competitive intelligence programs are encryption, which will make the information abstract unless it is properly decrypted; authentication, which makes users verify their identity; and hosting the program on an internal server, which may keep unauthorized users from entering and attacking the program.
Competitive intelligence software can gather huge amounts of information but, if it cannot output that information, then the program is useless. An output is a file that represents the collected information. For example, a graph file can show how the owner’s business compares with another business. To make work easier on analysts, the program should come with output formats that the business commonly uses; a broad range of output files is generally considered useful, because this allows analysts to make different outputs for different reasons.
When competitive intelligence software is used, it sprawls out and collects a wide range of information. While having lots of information is useful, having lots of unneeded information is useless and costly. This can increase operating costs, because new servers will be needed to host useless information, and analysts will be unable to use the information to benefit the business. The program should be made to collect useful information, such as consumers’ opinions or trademark infringement, or it should be configurable so analysts can control what information the program obtains.
Some businesses allow outside users to enter the competitive intelligence software’s domain, while others are shut off to the public. If outside users are allowed in, they can take surveys that will increase the information flow. At the same time, hosting outside users may cost money for bandwidth and authentication — if this is used — and may increase the risk of malicious attack.