Dynamic Approach to Competitive Intelligence: Case Studies of Large-Scale Swiss Telecom Firms




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


The research aim is to understand how the competitive intelligence (CI) process in large-scale Swiss telecom companies contributes to management decision-making. Studying CI activities of the Swiss large-scale telecom firms (Swisscom, Sunrise, Orange/Salt, Cablecom) in a dynamic European context offers useful insight into the critical challenges that service firms now face when developing intelligence in disruptive market contexts where aggressive competitive behaviour is evident. In considering CI theory, this study has reviewed perspectives drawn from research on the CI process, studies on knowledge management and work on systems thinking. In extending the predominant modular view of CI to include elements of systems thinking, this study has added to our academic understanding of CI at firm level. An Integrative CI Activities framework was developed that enables a more holistic perspective of CI to be adopted, taking account of operational, organisational and strategic perspectives. A diagram representing the range of CI analysis methodologies has also been generated, that differentiates between internal/external orientation and static/dynamic forms of CI analysis. Such frameworks can be used by CI researchers in other market contexts. The methodology for this study drew on a pragmatist philosophy, using a case study strategy that adopted mixed methods in data collection, including semi-structured depth interviews with top CI Analysts in each firm. Findings have shown differences in the scope of CI Activities that link to stages of CI development (developing, developed) and variation between headquarters-centred and firm-centred approaches to CI planning and implementation. The adoption of query based, flexible analysis approaches in firm-centred settings differ from more structured CI analysis techniques in headquarters-based firms. Evidence from this study suggests that networked communication, strong feedback mechanisms and the adoption of more flexible CI analyst roles link to more effective CI processes and to greater potential for direct CI contribution to decision-making. Key contributions emerge through the three lenses of analysis adopted (operational, organisational and strategic); in terms of operational CI processes, the study identifies a complex integrated system at work in firms that implement CI effectively. In studying the link between organisational structure and CI analysis, the study has mapped organisational support patterns and how they shape the CI process at firm level. With respect to the strategic lens, following a detailed worked study of predictive analysis in one case firm, findings have identified adaptiveness in CI design as essential to address disruptive market change. Managerial consideration include a need for a) greater flexibility in CI implementation at firm level to adapt to turbulent markets, b) acknowledgement of the importance of the CI analyst role further and c) more dynamic CI content to be generated by CI analysts.



Competitive Intelligence, CI analysis, disruptive market change, Swiss telecom firms



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