Singapore firms use Internet for intelligence

Singapore firms have a greater degree of dependence on the Internet for market research, external collaboration and dissemination than their peers elsewhere in Asia, according to a survey on the use of the 'Net for competitive intelligence. The survey, conducted by the National University of Singapore (NUS), also revealed that local firms tend to enjoy a higher level of competitive intelligence.

Thompson Teo, IS area coordinator, Decision Sciences Department, Business Administration Faculty, NUS, who headed the survey, noted that by incorporating the Internet into their competitive intelligence and overall business strategies, these enterprises are in a better position to generate higher revenues, reduce business costs and improve managerial effectiveness.

"In other words, when they use the Internet for competitive intelligence, they are likely to refine their intelligence activities, hence improving the strategic decisions that keep them competitive," he explained.

Service and product specifications, new product plans and price lists, are among the information most sought after from the Internet, the survey learned.

"Thus, it is not surprising that competitors no longer have to physically obtain a product for evaluation but find the relevant information from the Web," according to the survey report," he said.

"Firms must realise that competitive intelligence professionals and competitors are continually monitoring, collecting and analysing them (through their Web sites). Consequently, it is critical that the content of a company's Web site should not just (be seen) from a public relations or marketing communications standpoint, but firms must also take into account the competitive intelligence position," Teo advised.

The ability to overcome geographical restrictions was cited as the main reason for using the Internet for competitive intelligence. This was followed by the organisational practice of these organisations to incorporate the Internet into their business strategies. Next, companies wanted to compare their own organisation's position with competitors.

The survey had 129 respondents making a response rate of 21 percent out of 600 companies with revenues of over $S100 million ($US58 million) that were selected. Up to 28.7 percent of respondents did not have formal competitive intelligence personnel and 70.5 percent had their competitive intelligence functions located in middle management.

The majority of the competitive intelligence functions were located in business planning, marketing and information systems departments. Eighty-six percent of the respondents reported that management was interested or enthusiastic about the Internet.

"Although the survey has indicated that many companies believe in exploiting the potential of the Internet as the most important information resource, trade journals and business magazines still remain as important sources of public information," Teo said.

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